The colour in between off-white and plain brown, just on the orangey side of light grey. A sandy, fawnish sort of a colour. The colour of the universe, if scientists are to be believed.

Imported into English from the French in the late 19th Century, the word 'beige' originally referred to the unbleached, undyed wool from which the colour takes its name. It appears to have come from the Old French word 'bege', which may be a shortening of Old Italian 'bambagia', cotton wool. Ultimately this can be traced back to the Medieval Latin 'bombax', meaning 'cotton', from which we also derive 'bombast' - which apparently gained its current meaning thanks to the Jacobean practice of stuffing codpieces with cotton waste.

Beige is one of the colours included in Ken Nordine's classic 1966 word jazz album, the sublime Colors. Hopefully one of these days I'll get permission to post the words here.

Etymological background mainly derived from the American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language - see With thanks to Gritchka for pointing out that the New Oxford Dictionary of English didn't tell the full story.

My dad has not seen anything since the mid-70s, when infection robbed him of his always-deficient vision. I always wondered what there was instead of sight. One day, I asked him. "Beige," he said. Part of me would like to think that instead of nothing, he's seeing everything.

Beige (?), n. [F.]



© Webster 1913.

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