AskDefine | Define purple

Dictionary Definition

purple adj
1 of a color midway between red and blue [syn: violet, purplish]
2 excessively elaborate or showily expressed; "a writer of empurpled literature"; "many purple passages"; "speech embellished with classical quotations"; "an over-embellished story of the fish that got away" [syn: embellished, empurpled, over-embellished]
3 belonging to or befitting a supreme ruler; "golden age of imperial splendor"; "purple tyrant"; "regal attire"; "treated with royal acclaim"; "the royal carriage of a stag's head" [syn: imperial, majestic, regal, royal]


1 a chromatic color between red and blue [syn: purpleness, empurpled]
2 of imperial status; "he was born to the purple"


1 become purple
2 color purple [syn: empurple, purpurate]

User Contributed Dictionary

See also Purple.



From Latin purpura



  1. A colour/color that is a dark blend of red and blue; dark magenta.
    purple colour:   




  1. Having a colour/color that is a dark blend of red and blue.


Democratic/Republican support

Extensive Definition

Purple is a general term for the range of shades of color occurring between red and blue. It is formed (in both subtractive pigment and additive light combinations) by mixing the primary colors red and blue in varying proportions, with possibly a very small quantity of the third primary color (green for light or yellow for pigment). There is disagreement over exactly which shades can be described as purple, some people preferring more precise terms such as magenta or heliotrope for particular shades. A difference in retinal sensitivity to red and blue light between individuals can cause further disagreement.
Purple is sometimes confused with the more narrowly-defined spectral color violet.
In color theory a 'purple' is defined as any non-spectral color between violet and red.
In art, purple is the color on the color wheel between magenta and violet and its tints and shades. This color, electric purple, is shown below.
In human color psychology, purple is associated with royalty, regalness, and nobility (stemming from its use in heraldry to denote gentry).

Etymology and definitions

The word 'purple' comes from the Old English word purpul which originates from the Latin purpura. This in turn is derived from the Koine Greek (porphyra), name of the dye manufactured in Classical antiquity from the mucus-secretion of the hypobranchial gland of a marine snail known as the Murex brandaris or the spiny dye-murex.
The first recorded use of the word 'purple' in English was in the year AD 975.
The color regarded as the standard for purple has changed over the years, from Tyrian Purple in ancient times to Electric Purple today.

Purple versus violet

Violet is a spectral color (approximately 420–380nm), of a shorter wavelength than blue, while purple is a combination of red and blue or violet light. The purples are colors that are not spectral colors – purples are extraspectral colors. In fact, purple was not present on Newton's color wheel (which went directly from violet to red), though it is present on modern ones, between red and violet. There is no such thing as the "wavelength of purple light"; it only exists as a combination.
On the CIE xy chromaticity diagram, violet is on the curved edge in the lower left, while purples are the straight line connecting the extreme colors red and violet.
One interesting psychophysical feature of the two colors that can be used to separate them is their appearance with increase of light intensity. Violet, as light intensity increases, appears to take on a far more blue hue as a result of what is known as the Bezold-Brücke shift. The same increase in blueness is not noted in purples.
Violet cannot be reproduced by a Red-Green-Blue (RGB) color system, and must be simulated by a mixture of red and blue (purple). The shade of violet simulated in the color box above is just over halfway between magenta and blue on the color wheel.


On a chromaticity diagram, the straight line connecting the extreme spectral colors (red and violet) is known as the 'line of purples' (or 'purple boundary'); it represents one limit of human color perception. The color magenta used in the CMYK printing process is on the line of purples, but most people associate the term "purple" with a somewhat bluer shade. Some common confusion exists concerning the color names "purple" and "violet". Purple is a mixture of red and blue light, whereas violet is a spectral color.

Tyrian purple: Classical antiquity

The actual color of Tyrian purple, the original color purple from which the name purple is derived, is the color of a dye made from a mollusk that, because of its incredible expense (many times more expensive than gold), in classical antiquity became a symbol of royalty because only the very wealthy could afford it. Therefore, Tyrian purple is also called imperial purple.
Tyrian purple may have been discovered as early as the time of the Minoan civilization. Alexander the Great (when giving imperial audiences as the emperor of the Macedonian Empire), the emperors of the Seleucid Empire, and the kings of Ptolemaic Egypt wore Tyrian purple. The imperial robes of Roman emperors were Tyrian purple trimmed in metallic gold thread. The badge of office of a Roman Senator was a stripe of Tyrian purple on their white toga. Tyrian purple was continued in use by the emperors of the Eastern Roman Empire until its final collapse in 1453.

Han Purple: Ancient China

Han purple is a type of artificial pigment found in China between 500 B.C. and 220 A.D.. It was used in the decoration of the Xian Terracotta Army.
Han purple is a purple in the sense that the term is used in colloquial English, i.e., it is a color between red and blue; however, it is not a purple in the sense that the term is used in color theory, i.e. a non-spectral color between red and violet on the line of purples on the CIE chromaticity diagram.

Royal Purple: Medieval Europe

This shade of purple is bluer than the ancient Tyrian purple.
In medieval Europe, blue dyes were rare and expensive, so only the most wealthy or the aristocracy could afford to wear them. (The working class wore mainly green and brown.) Because of this (and also because Tyrian purple had gone out of use in western Europe after the collapse of the Western Roman Empire in AD 476), Europeans' idea of purple shifted towards this more bluish purple known as royal purple because of its similarity to the royal blue worn by the aristocracy. This was the shade of purple worn by kings in medieval Europe.

Artists Pigment Purple (Red-Violet): 1930s

'Royal purple' (shown above) or the dark violet color known as vulgar purple is the common layman's idea of purple, but professional artists, following Munsell color system (introduced in 1905 and widely accepted by 1930), regard purple as being synonymous with the red-violet color shown at right, in order to clearly distinguish purple from violet and thus have access to a larger palette of colors. This red-violet color, called artist's purple by artists, is the pigment color that would be on a pigment color color wheel between pigment violet and pigment (process) magenta. In the Munsell color system, this color at the maximum chroma of 12 is called Red-Purple.
Artists pigments and colored pencils labeled as purple are colored the red-violet color shown at right.

Electric Purple: 2000s

This color, electric purple, is precisely halfway between violet and magenta and thus fits the artistic definition of purple.
Using additive colors such as those on computer screens, it is possible to create a much brighter purple than with pigments where the mixing subracts frequencies from the component primary colors. The equivalent color on a computer to the pigment color red-violet shown above would be this electric purple, i.e. the much brighter purple you can see reproduced on the screen of an electronic computer. This color is pure purple conceived as computer artists conceive it, as the pure chroma on the computer screen color wheel halfway between electric violet and electric magenta. Thus, electric purple is the purest and brightest purple that it is possible to display on a computer screen.

Computer web color purples

Purple (HTML/CSS color)

This purple used in HTML and CSS actually is deeper and has a more reddish hue (#800080) than the X11 color purple shown below as purple (X11 color) (#A020F0), which is bluer and brighter.
This color may be called HTML/CSS purple.

Purple (X11 color)

At right is displayed the color purple, as defined in the X11 color, which is a lot brighter and bluer than the HTML purple shown above.
See the chart Color names that clash between X11 and HTML/CSS in the X11 color names article to see those colors which are different in HTML and X11.
This color can be called X11 purple.

Medium Purple (X11)

Displayed at right is the web color medium purple.
This color is a medium shade of the bright X11 purple shown above.

Additional variations of purple


The color orchid is a light shade of purple. The name 'orchid' originates from the flowers of some species of the vast orchid flower family, such as Laelia furfuracea and Ascocentrum pusillum, which have petals of this color.


The color heliotrope is a brilliant shade of purple.
Heliotrope is a pink-purple tint that is a representation of the color of the heliotrope flower.


The color mulberry is displayed at right. This color is a representation of the color of mulberry jam or pie. This was a Crayola crayon color from 1958 to 2003.
The first recorded use of Mulberry as a color name in English was in 1776.

Pansy Purple

The pansy flower has varieties that exhibit three different colors: pansy (a deep shade of violet), pansy pink, and pansy purple.
The first recorded use of Pansy Purple as a color name in English was in 1814.

Tokyo Purple

Tokyo purple is the color of the flag of the prefecture of Tokyo in the Kantō region of Japan. This shade of dark purple has been associated with Tokyo (formerly called Edo) since ancient times.

Purple in nature


Purple in human culture

Anti-Apartheid Movement

  • One of the stars in the Pleiades, called Pleione, is sometimes called Purple Pleione because, being a fast spinning star, it has a purple hue caused by its blue-white color being obscured by a spinning ring of electrically excited red hydrogen gas.
  • Purple is the color of the ball in Snooker Plus with a 10-point value.
  • Purple is associated with Saturday on the Thai solar calendar. Anyone may wear purple on Saturdays and anyone born on a Saturday may adopt purple as their color.
  • The Purple Moon Dance Project is a dance group in San Francisco.
  • Porpora, or purpure, was not one of the usual tinctures in European heraldry, being added at a late date to bring the number of tinctures plus metals to seven, so that they could be given planetary associations. The classic early example of purpure is in the coat of arms of the Kingdom of León: argent, a lion purpure, as early as 1245.
  • Byzantine empresses gave birth in the Purple Chamber of the palace of the Byzantine Emperors. Therefore, being named Porphyrogenitus ("born to the purple") marked a dynastic emperor as opposed to a general who won the throne by his effort.
  • In China, the Chinese name of the Forbidden City literally means "purple forbidden city" 紫禁城 with first character 紫 meaning purple (even though the Chinese Emperor himself wore yellow, which was considered in China to be the imperial color).
  • Alice Walker, author of The Color Purple, said, "Womanist is to feminist as purple is to lavender."
  • As a result of its association with royalty and luxury, the term 'purple' is often used to describe pretentious or overly embellished literature. For example, a paragraph containing an excessive number of long and unusual words is called a purple passage (see Purple prose).
  • In April 2007 it was suggested that early archaea may have used retinal, a purple pigment, instead of chlorophyll, to extract energy from the sun. If so, large areas of the ocean and shoreline would have been colored purple; this is called the Purple Earth theory.
  • People with purple auras are said to have a love of ritual and ceremony.
  • Robert Burns rhymes purple with "curple" in his Epistle to Mrs. Scott. Burns is, as far as we can tell, the only writer to have used the word. A curple refers to 1) the small of the waist before the flare of the hips or 2) a derriere, rump or behind.
  • In the song Grace Kelly by Mika the word purple is rhymed with "hurtful".
  • In his hit song "Dang Me," Roger Miller sings these lines:
Roses are red, violets are purple Sugar is sweet and so is maple surple [sic]
In modern times, purple is often associated with homosexuality.
  • At the 24 June 2007 San Francisco Gay Pride Parade, Yahoo passed out 3 7/16" in diameter round plastic stickers with a picture of a gay man or woman imaged as one of the Yahoo Gay Pride avatars against an HTML/CSS Purple background that said Out, Proud, and Purple.
  • The Purple Party is a gay circuit party that has taken place on the third weekend in April in Dallas, Texas since 2001. It is produced by the Purple Foundation to benefit gay charities.
  • In the mid 1970s, there was a gay piano bar at 2223 Market St. between Noe and Castro in San Francisco called the Purple Pickle.
The NBA's Los Angeles Lakers, Phoenix Suns and Sacramento Kings use purple as their primary color, though the former call purple as "Forum Blue", in reference to their old arena The Forum. For a time, the Milwaukee Bucks, Toronto Raptors and Utah Jazz use purple, but have since abandoned. In baseball, purple is one of the primary colors for the Colorado Rockies. In the National Football League, the Minnesota Vikings and Baltimore Ravens use purple as main colors.

See also


sisterlinks purple

Further reading

  • "The perception of color", from Schiffman, H.R. (1990) Sensation and perception: An integrated approach (3rd edition). New York: John Wiley & Sons.
purple in Official Aramaic (700-300 BCE): ܐܪܓܘܢܐ
purple in Catalan: Porpra
purple in German: Purpur (Farbe)
purple in Modern Greek (1453-): Μωβ
purple in Spanish: Púrpura
purple in French: Pourpre
purple in Hindi: पर्पल
purple in Indonesian: Ungu
purple in Italian: Porpora
purple in Hebrew: סגול
purple in Japanese: 紫
purple in Chechen: Лилула-сийна
purple in Portuguese: Púrpura (cor)
purple in Russian: Пурпурный цвет
purple in Finnish: Purppura
purple in Thai: สีม่วง
purple in Vietnamese: Tía
purple in Ukrainian: Пурпурний колір
purple in Chinese: 紫色

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Mars violet, Tyrian purple, adorned, amethyst, amethystine, befrilled, blue, bombastic, broad, cap of dignity, cap of maintenance, clematis, colored, coronet, crown, dahlia, damson, decorated, diadem, dynastic, embellished, embroidered, ermine, fancy, festooned, figurative, figured, florid, flowery, fuchsia, grape, great seal, heliotrope, high-flown, hyacinth, imperatorial, imperatorious, imperial, imperial purple, imperious, kinglike, kingly, lavender, lilac, livid, lividity, lividness, lush, luxuriant, magenta, majestic, mallow, mauve, monarchal, monarchial, monarchic, monsignor, mulberry, off-color, orb, orchid, ornate, overblown, overcharged, overloaded, pansy, pansy violet, pansy-purple, plum, plum-colored, plum-purple, pompous, pontiff purple, princelike, princely, privy seal, purple pall, purpleness, purplescent, purpliness, purplish, purplishness, purply, purpurate, purpure, purpureal, purpurean, purpureous, queenlike, queenly, racy, raisin-colored, regal, regal purple, regalia, robe of state, rod, rod of empire, royal, royal crown, royal purple, salty, scepter, seal, shady, signet, solferino, sovereign, spicy, stilted, suggestive, tiara, triple plume, turgid, uraeus, violaceous, violet, wicked, wine purple
Privacy Policy, About Us, Terms and Conditions, Contact Us
Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2
Material from Wikipedia, Wiktionary, Dict
Valid HTML 4.01 Strict, Valid CSS Level 2.1