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The colour orange occurs between red and yellow in the visible spectrum at a wavelength of about 585–620 nm, and has a hue of 30° in HSV colour space. It is numerically halfway between red and yellow in a gamma-compressed RGB colour space. The complementary colour of orange is azure, a slightly greenish blue. Orange pigments are largely in the ochre or cadmium families, and absorb mostly blue light.

Etymology of orange

The colour is named after the orange fruit, introduced to Europe via the Sanskrit word nāranja. Before this was introduced to the English-speaking world, the colour was referred to (in Old English) as geoluhread, which translates into Modern English as yellow-red.

The first recorded use of orange as a colour name in English was in 1512, in the court of King Henry VIII.

Variations on the colour orange

Orange (web colour)

Web colour orange, defined as FFA500, is the only named colour defined in CSS that is not also defined in HTML 4.01

Dark orange (web colour)

The web colour called dark Orange is displayed at right.

Orange peel

Displayed at right is the actual colour of the outer skin of a typical orange. This colour is called orange peel. It is the same colour as the fruit for which it was named. In contrast to blue or red, this colour is well determined.

A discussion of the difference between the colours orange and orange peel is given in Maerz and Paul.

The first recorded use of orange peel as a colour name in English was in 1839.


At right is the colour tangerine, a shade of orange that is the colour of the tangerine fruit.

The first recorded use of tangerine as a colour name in English was in 1899.

Carrot orange

Carrot orange is a tint of orange that is the colour of the raw carrot vegetable.The first recorded use of carrot orange as a colour name in English was in 1684.

Burnt orange

Burnt orange has been in use as a colour name for this deep shade of orange since 1915.

This colour is one variation that is used as a school colour of the University of Texas at Austinmarker, Clemson Universitymarker, Virginia Techmarker, and Auburn Universitymarker.

This variation of orange is one of the primary colours for the American Football team the Cleveland Browns.

Burnt orange was popular in interior design in the 1970s.

Redhead usually have hair that is actually a burnt orange colour.


Brown is actually derived from the orange part (orange + grey) of the colour spectrum. It can be described as dark orange.

The first recorded use of brown as a colour name in English was in 1000.



Geography and history

  • Orange is the national colour of The Netherlandsmarker, because its royal family of Orange-Nassau used to own the principality of Orangemarker (the title is still used for the Dutch heir apparent). There is no etymological connection between orange (the fruit and colour) and Orange (the name of the principality), and the similarity is fortuitous. (See the page on Orange for more information.) In modern Dutch society however, the Dutch word oranje, 'orange' is often associated with the reigning royal house of the Netherlands. Oranjezonnetje ('Orange Sun') designates good weather on the Queen's birthday, April 30. Orange is the colour of choice for many of the national sports teams and their supporters. The nickname of the Dutch national football team is Oranje, the Dutch word for orange. Oranjegekte ('Orange Craze') signifies the inclination of many Dutchmen to dress up in orange colours during soccer matches. In the modern flag of the Netherlands, red substitutes the original orange, but on birthdays, the flag has an additional orange banner. Most geographical usages of the word orange can be traced back to Dutch maritime power in the 17th century.


  • Orange is often quoted (along with Purple and Silver) as a word that doesn't rhyme with any other word in the English language. This is debatable - see Orange #Rhyme. However, the Oxford Rhyming Dictionary does show both these words as having half-rhymes (such as lozenge with orange and salver with silver).

    In Christina Rossetti's poem What is Pink? there are these lines:
:What is red? a poppy's red, in its barley bed.
:What is orange? Why, an orange--just an orange!


  • A woman named Susan Hogan was born with an extra set of cone sensitive in the orange range, as well having the red, green, and blue cones that humans with normal colour vision (i.e. trichromats) possess. She is therefore classified as a tetrachromat, but her extra type of cone is an orange cone instead of the ultraviolet cone possessed by animals such as birds who are tetrachromats in nature. It is estimated that while normal humans can see about 1,000,000 different colours, tetrachromats such as Hogan can see 100,000,000 different colours. This is because each additional type of cones interacts with the other types of cones in such a way that an addition of a new type of cone means an organism can see 100 times as many colours. (This means that a pentachromat would be able to see 10,000,000,000 (ten billion) different colours.)


Religious and metaphysical

  • Orange in general represents Hinduism. Hindu swamis traditionally wear orange robes. The significance of orange as the colour for Hindu swamis is commonly thought to be connected to the idea that orange symbolizes fire. Renunciates' fiery ochre robes display outwardly the inner transformation that is happening - the burning of ego, their former selves, and their personal wants. Also, the saffron stripe in the Indian flag signifies courage, sacrifice and the spirit of renunciation. Hindu and Sikh flags atop mandirs and gurdwaras, respectively, are typically a saffron coloured pennant. Orange is also used to denote hinduism in the flag of Sri Lankamarker.
  • Orange is used to symbolically represent the second (Swadhisthana) chakra.
  • Psychics who claim to be able to observe the aura with their third eye report that an orange aura is associated with intellectual ambition or stubbornness.
  • In the metaphysics of the New Age Prophetess, Alice A. Bailey, in her system called the Seven Rays which classifies humans into seven different metaphysical psychological types, the fifth ray of concrete science is represented by the colour orange. People who have this metaphysical psychological type are said to be on the Orange Ray.
  • Orange represents the Noachide Law against blasphemy.


  • In English heraldry, orange is considered synonymous with the tincture tenne. However, its use as a heraldic tincture is relatively rare, as it is considered a "stain" (a deprecated tincture) by some. In continental heraldry, tenne is more often deemed to denote a burnt orange colour.
  • The colours orange and black represent the holiday Halloween (31 October) because orange is the colour of pumpkin and black is the colour of night and is associated with doom, despair and darkness.
  • The colours orange and brown represent the United States holiday Thanksgiving.
  • Orange is the contrasting colour of blue and is highly visible against a clear sky. Therefore, shades of orange such as safety orange are often used in high visibility clothing and other safety equipment and objects.
  • Due to its brightness, orange is used in the construction industry on road signs and safety jackets to warn passers-by of the pending dangers ahead.


Orange is the official colour for British motorsport marshals

See also


  1. Maerz and Paul A Dictionary of Color New York:1930 McGraw-Hill Page 200
  2. Maerz and Paul A Dictionary of Color New York:1930--McGraw-Hill--Discussion of color Orange, Page 170
  3. Maerz and Paul A Dictionary of Color New York:1930 McGraw-Hill Page 200; Color Sample: Orange Peel Page 43 Plate 10 Color Sample L10.
  4. Maerz and Paul A Dictionary of Color New York:1930 McGraw-Hill Page 205; Color Sample: Tangerine Page 27 Plate 2 Color Sample H11
  5. Maerz and Paul A Dictionary of Color New York:1930 McGraw-Hill Page 192; Color Sample: Carrot Orange Page 43 Plate 10 Color Sample C11; see discussion of color "carrot orange" on page 152.
  6. Maerz and Paul A Dictionary of Color New York: 1930--McGraw-Hill Page 191 ; Color sample of Burnt Orange: Page 29 Plate 3 Color Sample E12
  7. Maerz and Paul A Dictionary of Color New York:1930 McGraw-Hill Page 191
  8. Sullivan. The Academic Costume Code, Hoods;Linings
  9. Daily Poetry By Carol Simpson ISBN 0673361721, 9780673361721]
  10. Stevens, Samantha. The Seven Rays: a Universal Guide to the Archangels. City: Insomniac Press, 2004. ISBN 1894663497 pg. 24
  11. Swami Panchadasi The Human Aura: Astral Colors and Thought Forms Des Plaines, Illinois, USA:1912--Yogi Publications Society Page 33

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