The word is derived from a Dravidian language, and it passed through numerous other languages including Sanskrit and Old French before reaching the English language. The earliest uses of the word in English refer to the fruit, and the color was later named after the fruit. Before the English-speaking world was exposed to the fruit, the color was referred to as "yellow-red" (geoluread in Old English) or "red-yellow".
It is claimed that the word orange has no true rhyme. There are, however, several half rhymes or near-rhymes, as well as some proper nouns and compound words or phrases that rhyme with it. This lack of rhymes has inspired many humorous poems and songs.
The word orange entered Middle English from Old French and Anglo-Norman orenge. The earliest recorded use of the word in English is from the 13th century and referred to the fruit. The earliest attested use of the word in reference to the color is from the 16th century. It is generally thought that Old French borrowed the Italian melarancio ("fruit of the orange tree", with mela "fruit") as pume orenge (with pume "fruit"). Although pume orenge is attested earlier than melarancio in available written sources, lexicographers believe that the Italian word is actually older.
The word ultimately derives from a Dravidian language — possibly Tamil நாரம் nāram or Telugu నారింజ nāriṃja or Malayalam നാരങ്ങ nāraŋŋa — via Sanskrit नारङ्ग nāraṅgaḥ "orange tree". From there the word entered Persian نارنگ nārang and then Arabic نارنج nāranj. The initial n was lost through rebracketing in Italian and French, though some varieties of Arabic lost the n earlier.
The place name Orange has a separate etymology. The Roman-Celtic settlement was founded in 36 or 35 BC and originally named Arausio, after a Celtic water god. The Principality of Orange was named for this place and not for the color. Some time after the sixteenth century, though, the color orange was adopted as a canting symbol of the House of Orange-Nassau. The color eventually came to be associated with Protestantism, as a result of the participation by the House of Orange on the Protestant side in the French Wars of Religion, the Irish campaigns, and the Dutch Eighty Years' War.
It is widely accepted that no single English word is a full rhyme for orange, though there are half rhymes, such as hinge, lozenge, syringe, and porridge. Although this property is not unique to the word—one study of 5,411 one-syllable English words found 80 words with no rhymes—the lack of rhyme for orange has garnered significant attention, and inspired many humorous verses.
There are a number of proper nouns which rhyme or nearly rhyme with orange, including The Blorenge, a mountain in Wales, and Gorringe, a surname. US Naval Commander Henry Honychurch Gorringe, the captain of the USS Gettysburg who discovered Gorringe Ridge in 1875, led Arthur Guiterman to quip in "Local Note":
- In Sparkill buried lies that man of mark
- Who brought the Obelisk to Central Park,
- Redoubtable Commander H.H. Gorringe,
- Whose name supplies the long-sought rhyme for "orange."
Various linguistic or poetic devices provide for rhymes in some accents.
Compound words or phrases may give true or near rhymes. Examples include door-hinge, torn hinge, or inch, and a wrench. William Shepard Walsh attributes this verse featuring two multiple-word rhymes for orange to W.W. Skeat.
- I gave my darling child a lemon,
- That lately grew its fragrant stem on;
- And next, to give her pleasure more range,
- I offered her a juicy orange.
- And nuts, she cracked them in the door-hinge.
- The four eng-
- Wore orange
- Eating an orange
- While making love
- Makes for bizarre enj-
- oyment thereof.
- Set to blow college dorm rooms doors off the hinges,
- Oranges, peach, pears, plums, syringes,
- VROOM VROOM! Yeah, here I come, I'm inches,
Nonce words are sometimes contrived to rhyme with orange. Composers Charles Fox and Norman Gimbel wrote the song "Oranges Poranges" to be sung by the Witchiepoo character on the television programme H.R. Pufnstuf.
- Oranges poranges, who says,
- oranges poranges, who says,
- oranges poranges, who says?
- there ain't no rhyme for oranges!
- Rhymes with Orange, a syndicated comic strip
- Kenner, T.A. (2006). Symbols and their hidden meanings. New York: Thunders Mouth. p. 11. ISBN 1-56025-949-3.
- "orange n.1 and adj.1". Oxford English Dictionary online. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2013. Retrieved 2013-09-30.(subscription required)
- Word Histories and Mysteries: From Abracadabra to Zeus. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. 2004. p. 201. ISBN 0-618-45450-0.
- "orange". The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language. New York: Houghton Mifflin. 2000. ISBN 0-395-82517-2.
- Bunson, Matthew (1995). A Dictionary of the Roman Empire. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press. p. 23. ISBN 0-19-510233-9.
- Brodsky, David (2008). Spanish Vocabulary: An Etymological Approach. Austin: University of Texas Press. p. 257. ISBN 0-292-71668-0.
- Ihalainen, Pasi (2005). Protestant Nations Redefined: Changing Perceptions of National Identity in the Rhetoric of the English, Dutch, and Swedish Public Churches, 1685-1772. Leiden and Boston: BRILL. p. 348. ISBN 90-04-14485-4.
- Gorlée, Dinda L. (2005). Song and Significance: Virtues and Vices of Vocal Translation. Amsterdam: Rodopi. p. 199. ISBN 90-420-1687-6.
- Lawler, John (2006). "The Data Fetishist's Guide to Rime Coherence". Style. 40 (1&2).
- "sporange, n.". Oxford English Dictionary, second edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 1989. ISBN 0-19-861186-2.
- "History of NOAA Ocean Exploration: The Breakthrough Years (1866-1922)". Oceanexplorer.noaa.gov. Retrieved 2009-07-03.
- Guiterman, Arthur (1936). Gaily the Troubadour. Boston: E.P. Dutton. OCLC 1395889.
- Walsh, William Shepard (1892). Handy-book of Literary Curiosities. Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott. OCLC 221721603.
- Lederer, Richard (2003). A Man of my Words: Reflections on the English Language. New York: Macmillan. ISBN 0-312-31785-9.
- Lehrer, Tom (Jan 3, 1982). "Tom Lehrer: Live & Off-color. In His Own Words: On Life, Lyrics and Liberals In His Own Words". Washington Post. p. E1.
- Edwards, Paul (2009). How to Rap: The Art & Science of the Hip-Hop MC. Chicago: Chicago Review Press. ISBN 1-55652-816-7.
- Mathers, Marshall; Young, A.; Feemster, Theron; Elizondo, Mike (2002), "Business", The Eminem Show (song)
- "The World of Sid & Marty Krofft Fact Sheet". Retrieved 2009-07-03.