Colors of French Extraction

Colors of French Extraction

When we talk of colors, we're often speaking French. Many of our most exotic color names are of French origin. Let's take a pictorial tour of the colorful French countryside, where we'll encounter drunken monasteries, burrowing insectivorous mammals, jumping blood-sucking insects, earthy shadows, juicy fruits, and edible ornamentals.

img by Funky Coda.

Umber is derived from the French phrase "terre d'ombre," literally "earth of shadow." Raw umber is a dark yellow brown pigment, while burnt umber is roasted to a dark brown.

Raw Umber
burnt umber


img by Oklahoma State University.

Puce is of French origin and literally means "flea" color. Puce is purplish-brown or dark red.

184 puce


img by Wikimedia Commons.

Taupe is from the French word for "mole" or "moleskin." Taupe is gray with a brownish tinge.

classic taupe


img by Nemo's great uncle.

Mauve is of French origin and literally means "mallow," an herb with light purple flowers.



img by TimDan2.

Citrine is from an Old French word meaning "lemon colored," from the Latin "citrus." It's also the name of a glassy yellow quartz.

Medium Citrine


img by Ekai.

Chartreuse is named in honor of the Carthusian monastery in France where the pale yellow/green liqueur chartreuse was first made from brandy and aromatic herbs.

Old Chartreuse
Drunken Chartreuse

The Prieure de Grande Chartreuse Monastery in France. img by Wimbledonian.


Craig ConleyAbout the Author, Craig Conley
Craig is an independent scholar and author of dozens of strange and unusual books, including a unicorn field guide and a dictionary of magic words. He also loves color: Prof. Oddfellow

Related Articles

Showing 1 - 11 of 11 Comments
I saw this documentary a couple of years ago, about life inside the Grande Chartreuse Monastery.
Into Great Silence
The maker had to wait 16 years for the monks to allow nonobtrusive filming. Film links are in the palette. I picked black because the church lights are extinguished for much of the service. There was less than 5 minutes of dialogue in the whole movie, a few minutes of conversation outside, and explanation of his life from a blind monk. The remaining monks were photographed simply looking at the camera. The film follows them around for a year of life there. Running time was 2 hours 45 minutes, and the audience was also silent and enraptured.
Ce qui ? Aucun cerise ?

She Is French, Yes?
All those wonderful colours, and yet a recent holiday in France revealed that that they mostly wore brown or black.

C'est la vie!
The French .... The best colors are only for export.
I've got your French err... Freedom browns right here.
Freedom Breakfast
Great post!
I've always felt puce to more of the purplish-brown definition than the dark red (since dark red has other names). This is how I see it, in a palette:
Puce & Happiness
What's more french than Champagne??
L'Instant Taittinger
Yes, many color names came out in French like the delicious "cerise" (cherry) or the exotic "turquoise" (Turkish).
warmpth in france
french flooring

Post a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.