Think you know what the word blue means? While in English it’s a broad word used to describe everything from shimmering waters to depressed feelings, but a look at the origin of the word blue reveals it didn’t mean the color blue at all.

If Blue Didn't Originally Mean Blue What Did It Mean?

To learn the origin of the word blue, word experts looked back through the millennia to the language of the Proto-Indo-Europeans, an ancient culture rooted in Central Asia and Eastern Europe. These people used the word bhle- to describe something that was light-colored. Some scholars suspect bhle- may have even meant “yellow.”

The Origin Of The Word Blue Evolved Into Several Words For Color

As people and their languages became more diverse, so did the words based on bhle-. Here’s a short list of the terms spawned by that simple four-letter word:

belyi – Russian for white
blawr – Welsh for gray
blanc – French for white or blank
blavo – Old Spanish for yellowish-gray
flavus – Latin for yellow
phalos – Greek for white

For modern English speakers, the word blue came from the Old English bleu, which was borrowed from Old French, the language spoken by the people of northern France during the Dark Ages.

Some Languages Uses The Same Word For Blue And Green

An interesting trivia tidbit about the color blue is that many languages don’t use separate words for blue and green. Koreans, for instance, use the word pureu-da to describe both colors. Likewise the Thai word khiaw usually means green but can represent blue when describing the sky or the ocean.

Origin Of The Word Blue Color illustrated by rectangles in different shades of blue

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Feature Image Credit: Kate Smith

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Kate Smith
Kate Smith is an optimistic, expressive, artist, designer, writer and color fanatic. With her warm and witty style, Kate teaches you to clearly see, understand and be inspired by color. Then she guides you step-by-step to develop your own unique color sense-ability and achieve results you never dreamed possible.
  • Rarita says:

    needs more info

  • Kate Wren says:

    thanks, I used this to write an essay about the word Blue, (and I quoted you!) PS Kate is like, the best name, I would know teehee :3

    • Kate Smith says:

      I hope your essay is well received. Thanks for the quote and nice message. Yes, great name. 😉

  • Kathy says:

    My favourite color is blue and glad to know the meaning and origin of blue color

    • Kate Smith says:

      I’m happy you enjoyed learning more about blue, Kathy. Thanks for your comment.

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