Origin of the Word: Magenta

Magenta squaresA Roman emperor. A bloody battle. While most color words have their origins in long lists of dusty etymological explanations, the origin of the word magenta, a purplish-pink hue, is worthy of a summer blockbuster.

Magenta is the name of a town in northwestern Italy. While no one knows for sure, historians speculate the town may have been named for Marcus Maxentius, a Roman general—and later an emperor—who had his headquarters there in the 4th century.

Fast forward about 1500 years. In 1859, during the Second Italian War of Independence, French and Italian forces defeated the Austrians at Magenta. It was a particularly gory clash—so bloody that more than seven thousand men died were buried in one mass grave.

Shortly afterward, a new type of purplish-pink dye, made from coal tar, was discovered. The color, originally called fuchsine (or fuchsia) after the dye used to create it, was soon renamed magenta. While some suspected it was called magenta after the red-colored uniforms worn by the French troops, according to Philip Ball, Bright Earth, Art and the Invention of Colour it was renamed to celebrate the victory of the French army at the Battle of Magenta on June 4, 1859, near the Italian city of that name.

Discover more about the origins of the words for colors

Blue | Black | Brown | Green | Orange | Purple | Red | White | Yellow

If you enjoyed this article, I think you will like my monthly newsletter. Subscribe instantly!

About Kate Smith, Chief Color Maven, Sensational Color
An internationally recognized color expert, Kate Smith is sought out for her unmatched ability to use color to gain recognition and generate revenue for her clients. Smith also teaches other design professionals how to be industry leaders and a go-to resource for their expertise. Let Kate show you how to become a Color Pro

Connect with Kate Blog - Twitter - Facebook - LinkedIn - Pinterest

Image credits: Clicking on any image will take you to its source unless otherwise noted.

Add Your Own Color Commentary