MUNDANE MYSTERIES: Which “Orange” Came First…The Color, Or The Fruit?

Y’know the old “Which Came First: The Chicken Or The Egg” quandary? You could ask a very similar question about “Orange”: is the fruit named for its color, or is the color named for the fruit?

Well, if you’ve ever pondered this question, you can rest assured that there is a definitive answer (unlike the “Chicken Or The Egg” predicament): it was the fruit that was named first. The earliest recorded English usage of the word “orange”, used as the name for the fruit, is from the 1300s. “Orange” actually came from the Old French “orange”, which, itself, was adapted from the Arabic word “nāranj”. Nāranj was derived from the Persian “nārang”, which descended from the Sanskrit word “nāranga”, or “orange tree”. Now, where the Sanskrit word came from is unclear at this point, but it might’ve been from a Dravidian word that meant “fragrant.”

The word “orange” as a color descriptor wouldn’t appear for some 200 years after the fruit originated, taking hold in the early 1500s. But, think about it: English speakers probably didn’t have a specific name for the color until the fruit was widely available in their markets & inspired one. Before that happened, it’s believed that people just generally referred to orange as “yellow-red,” or “ġeolurēad” in Old English, if you wanna get specific.

But, while we know that the fruit came before the color in name origin, which one you like better is a question that can only be answered by you.

Got a Mundane Mystery you’d like solved? Send me a message via social media (@AndyWebbRadioVoice), or shoot me an email at [email protected].

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