Fresh oranges in a bowl.

The zesty origins of orange

Which came first: the colour or the fruit?

The fruit, surprisingly enough, actually came before the colour. The citrus fruit that we call an orange arrived in Europe as a ‘narange’ in the 14th century. The word referred only to the fruit, while orange the colour was called ‘geoluread’ or ‘yellow-red’. It wasn’t until 600 years later that the use of ‘orange’ as a name for the colour was first recorded in English.

It gets more interesting still when you discover that the first oranges were only orange inside; the outside was actually bright green. So how did a fruit that wasn’t even orange give its name to the colour orange? Well, in countries with temperate climates, the green skin turns orange when the weather cools. In warmer climates, the skin remains green, which is why Vietnamese oranges and Thai tangerines are still bright green on the outside.