Orange – a versatile word, with the honour of representing both a colour and a fruit.
Which came first? The fruit, after which the colour was named. The story of how the fruit got its name is an interesting one. Most likely, the word derives from the Sanskrit नारङ्ग nāraṅga, meaning orange tree. You can still see similarities to this word in many modern languages: naranja in Spanish, for example.
Why don’t we say norange then?
Because of something called juncture loss, which simply means that at some point someone most likely misinterpreted an Old French speaker saying une norenge as une orenge. The English equivalent would be if someone thought a person saying a norange was actually saying an orange, and the original word became replaced by the misheard n-less one (this is also believed to be the origin of the word adder, a native English snake, which came about from people mishearing a naddre [Middle English] as an adder).
You may be wondering though, how the colour came to be named after the fruit, when the colour clearly existed before people had developed language itself.
Well, of course it did, but back then, orange was red.
Which is to say, that orange didn’t use to be considered a separate colour, and was instead defined as a shade of red. You can see still this in effect in the fact that we say people have red hair when it’s clearly
ginger orange. The idea of orange being its own colour only really took off with the popularity of the fruit. It just goes to show that knowledge we take for granted as being objective can really be subjective and culturally-derived. Even today, different cultures interpret colours in different ways. One person’s purple can be another’s blue depending on which country they were born in.
But oranges are green anyway, so who knows what anything really means?