How the colour pink got its name

how did the colour pink get its name the little book of colour

Have you ever seen a colour called light red?

It even sounds weird doesn’t it.

That’s because light red has its own colour name – pink. And pink is the most recent basic colour term to come into existence in the English language.

How did pink get its name

I love finding out how colour names come about, and I just love the story behind how pink got its name.

It appears pink came into usage as a colour word in the English language in the early 1600s and meant a pale rose colour.

Originally used as a verb ’to pink’ dates back to the 14th century and means ‘to decorate with a perforated or punching pattern’; this is where we got a name for zig-zag scissors we call ‘pinking shears’.

There is a genus of flowers called Dianthus and they have zig-zag petals that look as though they had been cut with pinking shears so that’s apparently how the colour pink got it name.

Isn’t that such a lovely way for a colour to get its name. There’s something quite romantic and whimsical don’t you think?

how did the colour pink get its name the little book of colour
Dianthus’ zig-zag petals that look as though they had been cut with pinking shears.

Pink becomes official

In the 1960’s American anthropologist Brent Berlin and linguist Paul Kay set themselves the task to find out what were the most common colour terms used in different cultures and languages around the world.

The results were published in their 1969 book Basic Colour Terms: Their Universality and Evolution where they had come up with eleven colour terms.

What is surprising from this study, is that pink, even though it’s light red, was such a well know colour term, it became its own colour name.

The many names for pink

As human beings, we need to categorise so calling light red pink wasn’t enough for us.

Even though the study came out in 1969, pink only showed up as a main colour term because it had been used over the centuries and was already a part of everyday colour language around the world.

So over the centuries, we have come up with dozens of ways to describe its many tints, tones and shades.

You may have heard common names for warm pinks such as baby pink, blush and earthy pink; and the cool pinks such as rose and dusty pink, magenta, barbie and bubble gum pink.

And then there are pinks that reach almost superstar fame such as fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli 1950’s ‘Schiaparelli pink’ which soon became known as ‘shocking pink’ and 2016’s Millennial pink, the pink claimed by the Millennial generation.

how the colour pink got its name
Schiaparelli pink and Millennial pink

What’s your favourite pink colour name?

Here’s something fun to do. Think of your favourite pink and what name would you make up for it. Let your imagination run wild.

I would love to see your colourful creative names, so if you post this up on Instagram, don’t forget to mention/tag me in @karen_haller_colour so I can pop over and leave a comment. 

Love the colour pink?

If you’re a lover of the colour pink, then you might like to read these articles:

What’s your colour of love this Valentines Day
Why pink has become a lockdown favourite
5 fun facts about the colour pink

Want to learn more?

Extracts from The Little Book of Colour.

Head over to buy The Little Book of Colour where you can find out How to Use the Psychology of Colour to Transform your Life.

If you would like to stay in touch with what I’m up to in our colourful world then join my mailing list to receive your monthly dose of colourful news.

You can also download the First Chapter of The Little Book of Colour for free.

Want to find new ways to bring colour into all areas of your life? Then The Colour Club might be just what you’re looking for.

You can also find me over on Instagram sharing colourful insights, stories and inspiration.

Wishing you a colourful day!

Image credits

Photo by Rebecca Niver on Unsplash

Schiaparelli pink on Pinterest

Millennial pink on Pinterest

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