The world of color is full of beautiful and intriguing hues. But as you might have already noticed, it’s also filled with unique and unusual color names. Many of these names are single words or short phrases — they’re evocative but still brief and straight to the point.
However, every so often, you notice color names that are real standouts. They may not be particularly inventive or unusual phrases, but they catch your eye simply because they’re so long! Below are a few examples of some of the longest color names we could find.
1. International Klein Blue
International Klein Blue (sometimes just abbreviated as “IKB”) is an incredibly vivid ultramarine shade that French artist Yves Klein claimed to have invented in 1960. He collaborated with a paint supplier to develop a special paint formula that preserved the intense color of the pigments used as much as possible.
Klein got plenty of mileage out of his trademark color — many of his pieces used it exclusively. He even branched out into performance art pieces featuring models whose bodies were painted in the color.
As it turns out, Klein wasn’t the only person with a special interest in International Klein Blue. While actor Eddie Redmayne was studying at Trinity College in Cambridge, he wrote his thesis on IKB. Redmayne is colorblind, but he is able to distinguish IKB from other shades.
2. Purple Mountains’ Majesty
If you’re a Crayola enthusiast, you probably recognize this one! Purple Mountains’ Majesty is one of the longest crayon names (if not the longest crayon name) out there, but it marks a special occasion: it was released in 1993 to celebrate the Crayola company’s 90th birthday!
This light shade of purple is similar to a pastel lavender (and to the color of the Crayola crayon called “Lavender” that was produced from 1949-1958). The name was likely inspired by the song “America the Beautiful.” However, the actual song makes a mention of “purple mountain majesties,” not “purple mountains’ majesty.”
3. Amaranth Deep Purple
The amaranth plant has striking spears of intensely colored flowers. Traditionally, these blooms are a reddish shade of purple or a purplish shade of red, but amaranth flowers come in an impressive variety of different colors.
At one point, someone thought Amaranth Deep Purple was the standard color of amaranth flowers. This shade first appeared in A Dictionary of Color, a 1930 book on color theory by A. Maerz and M. Rea Paul. In the book, Deep Amaranth Purple was simply called “Amaranth.”
4. University of Pennsylvania Red
Countless colleges and universities have red as a school color. But in order to simplify branding and help ensure everyone is on the same page, most schools have chosen a specific hex code for each of their particular colors.
This bold shade of red’s long name is mostly thanks to the sheer length of the school name — “University of Pennsylvania” itself is 26 characters! To make it a little more convenient to type or say, the school itself sometimes just refers to its signature warm color as “Penn Red.”
University of Pennsylvania Red hasn’t always been the same color we know today. The university itself has noted that before settling on this exact color, Penn used a few different shades of red at different times.
5. Permanent Geranium Lake
Unless you’re familiar with the world of paint, the name “Permanent Geranium Lake” might seem like a complete and utter mystery. Aren’t all colors permanent? Why does a shade of red have “lake” in the name?
Obviously, any color used on a screen is permanent — web colors don’t exactly fade in the sunlight! In the case of this color, “permanent” was used by paint makers to set this color apart from geranium lake.
Geranium Lake is a red pigment often used by Van Gogh and artists who painted around the same time as he did (1880-1890). It’s a bright, vivid red, but it fades easily. Later, paint makers developed a longer-lasting version and added “permanent” to the name.
But what about “lake”? As it turns out, when it’s used in the context of paint colors, “lake” has nothing to do with bodies of water.
A “lake” is a kind of pigment that is made with an organic dye. But to make sure the dye isn’t water-soluble, it’s first combined with a metallic salt or a similar type of compound.
A little bit of history on this distinctive color: in addition to being similar to a pigment used by Van Gogh, Permanent Geranium Lake was one of Crayola’s original crayon colors. Soon after its release, it was discontinued in favor of shorter color names.
6. Quinacridone Magenta
You might already know that the chemist who created the first magenta-colored dye in 1859 named it after the Battle of Magenta, in which the French-Sardinian forces were victorious against the Austrian Empire.
The “Quinacridone” in the name is a nod to the quinacridone paints first created in 1935. Quinacridone is a kind of organic pigment. Paints made with quinacridone had (and still have) an especially dazzling quality: they manage to be both incredibly vivid and somewhat transparent at the same time.
On your computer screen, you can’t really get the same transparency as you’d get with quinacridone paint, but the color name indicates the sheer vividness of this particular color.
7. Permanent Alizarin Crimson
Permanent Alizarin Crimson is a striking shade of deep red. Though it has all the fire you’d expect from a saturated red, it also has a bluish undertone that makes it reminiscent of red velvet upholstery.
You already know that in the color world, “permanent” usually indicates that a paint has been engineered for colorfastness. But what about alizarin?
Alizarin is the name of one of two dyes found in the madder plant, a plant that has been used by multiple cultures to make red pigments. The first madder pigment was developed around the 7th century BC.
It wasn’t until the year 1826 that two French chemists, Jean-Jacques Colin and Pierre-Jean Robiquet, were able to identify alizarin and purpurin, the two separate dyes found in madder.
8. Sacramento State Green
Like University of Pennsylvania Red, Sacramento State Green landed a spot on the list largely because “Sacramento State” is such a long name. The color is sometimes abbreviated as just “Sac State Green.”
This is a rich color with an interesting character. Sac State Green is a dark forest green color with bluish undertones.
In the school’s logo and other official merchandise, Sacramento State Green appears alongside the school’s other color, Sacramento State Gold. According to the school, the two colors were chosen because they captured the color of Sacramento’s trees and foothills.
It might surprise you to see this shade on the list — at only 10 characters, “Coquelicot” might seem entirely too short. However, all the other color names on the list are made up of multiple words. Coquelicot might be one of the longest single-word color names there is!
But what does it mean? “Coquelicot” is the word the French traditionally used to refer to Papaver rhoeas, better known as the wild corn poppy. The color it describes is the color of the flower itself: very bright red but with a tint of orange.
10. Medium Candy Apple Red
Candy Apple Red is a rich red shade often used as a finish for cars and guitars. At least in these applications, the method of applying the color is designed to create a sense of depth. Usually, there’s a base coat of metallic candy apple red. A translucent red layer of paint comes after, and finally, there’s a clear coat to add more gloss. If you’ve ever seen a candy apple red finish up close, you know it’s intense!
Fortunately, for artists and designers who want something a little calmer, there’s Medium Candy Apple Red, a slightly less saturated version. Candy Apple Red has a saturation of about 100%, while Medium Candy Apple Red’s saturation is about 95%. And if you look at the RGB values, Candy Apple Red contains 100% red. Medium Candy Apple Red is just a little less red — its red value is 88.6%.
11. Light Cornflower Blue
Here’s another color whose name has been made longer by using an extra modifier (in this case, “light”). True to the name, it’s essentially a dilute version of the color of cornflower (Centaurea cyanus) petals.
Even if you’ve never laid eyes on a cornflower before, you might think that Light Cornflower Blue looks familiar. That might be because it’s the exact same shade as Crayola’s “Cornflower” crayon. This delicately-colored crayon was first released in 1958, and it’s still made today.
12. Light Venetian Red
If you’re familiar with the history of Crayola crayons, you might recognize this shade. Along with Venetian Red (#CC553D) and Dark Venetian Red (#B33B24), Light Venetian Red was one of the brand’s original colors released in 1903. Both Dark Venetian Red and Light Venetian Red were discontinued around 1910, but Venetian Red wasn’t discontinued until 1944.
The color name itself might sound exotic, and it’s certainly steeped in history. Venetian Red was the name of a pigment that originally came from ferric oxide, a kind of iron oxide. It was earthy and reddish, and that made it a popular choice among Italian Renaissance painters. The same color was also known as “sinopia” because the highest-quality ferric oxide pigments came from a Turkish port called Sinop.
Crayola might have discontinued its various shades of Venetian Red, but you can still find paints of the same color. They’re just made with synthetic ferric oxide instead of natural ferric oxide.
13. Delphinium Blue
Delphiniums are tall, usually blue flowering plants that can really make a splash in any garden. Blue delphiniums don’t only come in a single shade of blue, but Pantone’s Delphinium Blue captures one of the dusty, vaguely teal-colored shades you sometimes see. You might describe it as being a mix of teal and Air Superiority Blue.
If you need a shade of blue that’s both versatile and uncommon, Delphinium Blue might be the right choice.
14. Pussywillow Gray
This somewhat unremarkable shade of gray comes from Pantone’s extensive library of colors. It was named after the plant (Salix discolor), which produces gray, fuzzy catkins (compact flower clusters) before blooming.
This gray shade is one of Pantone’s seemingly endless grays, although it’s a pretty well-balanced one. It’s a medium-dark color that leans slightly warm, and its brownish undertones mean that it approaches greige but doesn’t quite get there.
15. Maximum Green Yellow
This is one of the many Crayola crayons with the “maximum” prefix in the name. That prefix wasn’t a Crayola invention — it was part of the naming convention of the Munsell line of crayons. Crayola acquired that line of crayons in the 1920s. The purchase was a strategic move on Crayola’s part, as the company was looking to both expand its operations and elevate its reputation.
Even though Crayola crayons have a reputation for quality now, they weren’t the highest quality crayons when they first hit the market. Acquiring the Munsell line was a step in the right direction. Over the next several years, Crayola started changing the names of the Munsell shades and discontinuing the ones that overlapped with the colors they already offered. Maximum Green Yellow was discontinued in 1944.
16. Caput Mortuum Brown
This color’s dramatic-sounding name is Latin for “dead head,” but its exact definition varies depending on who you ask. It’s sometimes called “cardinal purple,” and its name is sometimes written as “caput mortum” or “caput mortem.” Some people define it as a purplish red iron oxide pigment. Others maintain that it’s simply another name for mummy brown — a pigment that was actually made from ground-up mummies!
This color (or at least the purplish iron oxide version) is much more complex than it seems at first. In some lights, it looks like a deep, brown-tinged aubergine. In other lights, it’s closer to being a shade of seal brown. Thanks to purple’s association with royalty and status, this pigment was once used when painting portraits of high-profile people.
17. Zinnwaldite Brown
Who says shades of brown can’t be exciting? This one might not look particularly unique, but its long, unusual name alone makes it a standout. The name comes from the mineral Zinnwaldite. Zinnwaldite was discovered on the border between the Czech Republic and Germany. As you can see, its color isn’t a standout, so it’s no surprise Zinnwaldite isn’t used as a gemstone. That doesn’t mean it’s useless, however. It contains lithium, an element that’s essential for making various types of batteries — including phone batteries and batteries for electric cars.
When you first take a look at Zinnwaldite brown, it might seem like just another dark neutral. However, when you look closely, you’ll notice that it’s technically a shade of dark orange-brown. That makes it a great choice for any design requiring a neutral that’s both warm-leaning and very dark.
18. Illuminating Emerald
Illuminating Emerald is another Crayola shade. It’s darker and has more pronounced blue undertones than the brand’s “Emerald” crayon. Notably, this color wasn’t designed as a replacement for the regular Emerald — it was first released as part of Crayola’s Metallic FX line of metallic crayons. The names of the shades in this line were chosen through contests, so many crayons in the line have unusual and entertaining names like Robot Canary, Metallic Seaweed, Big Dip O’ Ruby, and Cheese Grater.
Of course, when you look at this color on the screen, you can’t see the metallic sheen that you get with the crayon. But metallic shimmer or not, its rich depth makes it a versatile, memorable choice for a variety of designs.
19. Hollywood Cerise
If you love hot pink but wish it had more depth, Hollywood Cerise is a great option. It’s bright and intensely saturated, but it doesn’t have the harsh, eye-straining glow that so many neon colors have. And of course, its long yet catchy name only adds to its appeal.
This color was known simply as “Hollywood” for a couple of decades, but in the 1940s, it was expanded to “Hollywood Cerise.” The “cerise” in the name comes from the French word for “cherry.” It’s upbeat and intense, and it can make a striking addition to just about any type of design. That being said, be sure to use it with caution. Both red and hot pink can easily overwhelm an audience, and Hollywood Cerise sits right in the middle of the two!
20. Air Superiority Blue
This color looks a bit like a dusty shade of azure. Based on the name, you might think it was the official color of the US Air Force. It isn’t, but that’s a close guess.
Air Superiority Blue was created by the US Army Air Force during World War II and standardized by the United States government in 1956. It isn’t always imperative that a color matches up to its standard, but in this case, it’s important! Air Superiority Blue is a shade used to paint the undersides of certain military aircraft to camouflage them. If someone standing on the ground looks up, the blue undersides are likely to blend into the rest of the sky.
21. Alabaster Gleam
Like Purple Mountains’ Majesty, Alabaster Gleam was very likely inspired by “America the Beautiful.” It’s a Pantone color that looks a lot like a warmish, peachy beige. It sits approximately between the appetizing-sounding Vanilla Custard (#F3E0BE) and Banana Crepe (#E7D3AD).
It’s easy to think of pale neutrals as being dull and boring. But with a name this evocative, Alabaster Gleam might end up being the right color for your next project. If you like shades of cream but want even more yellow undertones (with some peachy undertones mixed in), it’s worth a look!
Dive Into the Art of Color Names
There’s no real universal repository of all the colors in the world with the names and color codes they correspond to. After all, it would be impractical to try to name every possible color.
Still, having color names at our disposal is useful. Many color names are evocative, and some of them are even historically significant. And as you saw above, some of them have much longer names than average!
Whether you’re making a brand-specific design, trying to capture the color of a particular plant, or paying homage to an ancient dye, getting to know color names can really broaden your experience as an artist, designer, or just someone with a deep appreciation for all things color.