Orange (word)

The word orange is both a noun and an adjective in the English language. In both cases, it refers primarily to the orange fruit and the color orange, but has many other derivative meanings.

Ambersweet oranges
The word orange refers to a fruit and a color, and has other related meanings.

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".[1]

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.[2] The earliest recorded use of the word in English is from the 13th century and referred to the fruit. The first recorded use of orange as a colour name in English was in 1502, in a description of clothing purchased for Margaret Tudor.[3][4] Other sources cite the first recorded use as 1512, in a will now filed with the Public Record Office.[5][6] It is generally thought that Old French calqued the Italian melarancio ("fruit of the orange tree", with mela "fruit") as pume orenge (with pume "fruit").[7][8] Although pume orenge is attested earlier than melarancio in available written sources, lexicographers believe that the Italian word is actually older.[2]

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.[2] The initial n was lost through rebracketing in Italian and French, though some varieties of Arabic lost the n earlier.[2]

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.[9] 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.[10] 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.[11]


It is widely believed that no common English word is a full rhyme for orange, though there are half rhymes, such as hinge, lozenge, syringe, and porridge,[12] and slang or otherwise uncommon words exist. Although this property is not unique to the word—one study of 5,411 one-syllable English words found 80 words with no rhymes[13]—the lack of rhyme for orange has garnered significant attention, and inspired many humorous verses.

Although sporange, a variant of sporangium, is an eye rhyme for orange, it is not a true rhyme as its second syllable is pronounced with an unreduced vowel [-ændʒ], and often stressed.[14]

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,[15] 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."[16]

The word blorange, a hair color between blond and orange, is a rhyme. The word is attested from early 2000s slang, and appears in fashion-related media from about 2017.[17]

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.[18]

Enjambment can also provide for rhymes. One example is Willard Espy's poem, "The Unrhymable Word: Orange".

The four eng-
Wore orange

Another example by Tom Lehrer relies on the /ˈɑrəndʒ/ pronunciation commonly used on the East Coast of the United States:

Eating an orange
While making love
Makes for bizarre enj-
oyment thereof.[20]

Rapper Eminem is noted for his ability to bend words so that they rhyme.[21] In his song "Business" from the album The Eminem Show, he makes use of such word-bending to rhyme orange.

Set to blow college dorm rooms doors off the hinges,
Oranges, peach, pears, plums, syringes,
VROOM VROOM! Yeah, here I come, I'm inches,[22]

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?[23]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Kenner, T.A. (2006). Symbols and their hidden meanings. New York: Thunders Mouth. p. 11. ISBN 1-56025-949-3.
  2. ^ a b c d "orange n.1 and adj.1". Oxford English Dictionary online. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2013. Retrieved 2013-09-30.(subscription required)
  3. ^ St. Clair, Kassia (2016). The Secret Lives of Colour. London: John Murray. p. 88. ISBN 9781473630819. OCLC 936144129.
  4. ^ Salisbury, Deb (2009). Elephant's Breath & London Smoke: Historical Colour Names, Definitions & Uses. Five Rivers Chapmanry. p. 148. ISBN 9780973927825.
  5. ^ "orange colour – orange color, n. (and adj.)". Oxford English Dictionary. OED. Retrieved 19 April 2011.
  6. ^ Maerz, Aloys John; Morris Rea Paul (1930). "A Dictionary of Color". New York: McGraw-Hill: 200{{inconsistent citations}} Cite journal requires |journal= (help)CS1 maint: postscript (link)
  7. ^ Word Histories and Mysteries: From Abracadabra to Zeus. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. 2004. p. 201. ISBN 0-618-45450-0.
  8. ^ "orange". The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language. New York: Houghton Mifflin. 2000. ISBN 0-395-82517-2.
  9. ^ Bunson, Matthew (1995). A Dictionary of the Roman Empire. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press. p. 23. ISBN 0-19-510233-9.
  10. ^ Brodsky, David (2008). Spanish Vocabulary: An Etymological Approach. Austin: University of Texas Press. p. 257. ISBN 978-0-292-71668-1.
  11. ^ 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.
  12. ^ Gorlée, Dinda L. (2005). Song and Significance: Virtues and Vices of Vocal Translation. Amsterdam: Rodopi. p. 199. ISBN 90-420-1687-6.
  13. ^ Lawler, John (2006). "The Data Fetishist's Guide to Rime Coherence". Style. 40 (1&2).
  14. ^ "sporange, n.". Oxford English Dictionary, second edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 1989. ISBN 0-19-861186-2.
  15. ^ "History of NOAA Ocean Exploration: The Breakthrough Years (1866–1922)". Retrieved 2009-07-03.
  16. ^ Guiterman, Arthur (1936). Gaily the Troubadour. Boston: E.P. Dutton. OCLC 1395889.
  17. ^ "blorange". Unabridged. Random House. Retrieved 2021-11-19.
  18. ^ Walsh, William Shepard (1892). Handy-book of Literary Curiosities. Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott. OCLC 221721603.
  19. ^ Lederer, Richard (2003). A Man of my Words: Reflections on the English Language. New York: Macmillan. ISBN 0-312-31785-9.
  20. ^ 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.
  21. ^ Edwards, Paul (2009). How to Rap: The Art & Science of the Hip-Hop MC. Chicago: Chicago Review Press. ISBN 978-1-55652-816-3.
  22. ^ Mathers, Marshall; Young, A.; Feemster, Theron; Elizondo, Mike (2002), "Business", The Eminem Show (song)
  23. ^ "The World of Sid & Marty Krofft Fact Sheet". Retrieved 2009-07-03.

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