Set Your Words Aflame With 16 Fiery Words For The Color Red

Red is one of nature’s most eye-catching colors. It symbolizes love, heat, danger, and even death. With all of its many shades and meanings, there is no reason to stick with the single word red.

There are dozens of words that describe types of red, from amaranth to vermilion. You might even find that the terms themselves are as beautiful as the shades of red that they describe.


The color crimson is one of the most popular shades of red. Crimson is a “deep purplish-red.” An archaic word for crimson is cramoisy [ kram-oi-zee ], and both terms come from the Arabic qirmizī. This is the Arabic word for the red dye made from small insects known as kermes.


Learn about other familiar and common words that originated from Arabic.


The color scarlet is a particular stand-out. It is “a bright-red color inclining toward orange.” While the origins of the word are disputed, scarlet was first used in English to describe rich, luxurious cloth. Scarlet was often, but not always, red in the Middle Ages. Later, scarlet came to particularly describe clothes of this color and finally came to refer to this luxurious red itself.


Vermilion is “a brilliant scarlet red.” Believe it or not, like crimson, this word can trace its origins back to the kermes beetle that was dried and crushed to make red dye in the ancient world. Vermilion ultimately comes from the Latin vermiculus meaning “kermes (insect and dye).” This is how vermilion shares a root with the zoological term vermicule, meaning “a small, wormlike structure.”


Another shade of red related to dyes made from insects is carmine, “a crimson or purplish-red color.” Carmine pigment or dye was made from the small red cochineal insect. The word carmine itself is thought to ultimately come from the same root as crimson.


Burgundy is a shade of red closely associated with wine. Burgundy is “a grayish red-brown to dark blackish-purple color.” The name ultimately comes from the French wine-growing region of Bourgogne, known for its deep red wines. The dish boeuf bourguignon also comes from this region—the name literally names “Burgundian beef.”


The French also brought us the most coveted snack food of all: French fries. Let’s look at how they are enjoyed across the world.


The word oxblood is one of the most vivid terms for a shade of red. Oxblood is “a deep dull-red color.” Naturally enough, the word is a reference to the color of the blood of an ox. Sometimes, oxblood is mistaken for burgundy, because the two colors are close in hue. Oxblood is particularly suited to describing the colors of leather and porcelain glazes.


Another bloody shade of red is sanguine, “reddish, ruddy.” The word sanguine comes from the Latin sanguineus, meaning “bloody.” Sanguine can also be used figuratively to mean “cheerfully optimistic, hopeful, or confident.” This meaning of sanguine is connected to a belief in the pseudoscience of humorism, where blood was associated with the life force or spirit.


In Ancient Greek mythology, the amaranth was a mythic, “undying flower” that symbolized immortality. The name itself comes from the Greek amáranton, meaning “unfading flower.” These days, amaranth is also known as a reddish-pink color. The name is a reference to the real amaranth plant, also known as pigweed, which has reddish-pink flowers.


Another flower that is a brilliant shade of red is safflower, which has an orangey-red color. (There is also a yellow safflower used to make dye). Red safflower has been used to dye silk or linen for thousands of years. The safflower looks like a thistle, and its seeds are harvested to make safflower oil, which has a wide range of uses.


One of the sweetest shades of red is blush. You are likely familiar with this word as a verb meaning “to redden, as from embarrassment or shame.” But blush can also be used as a noun meaning “rosy or pinkish tinge.” For example:


  • The bride looked stunning in her blush wedding dress and sophisticated updo.

Make someone you know blush by showering them with these positive words.


If you spend too long in the sun, you might end up with a rubicund complexion. The word rubicund means “red or reddish, ruddy.” It is particularly used to describe someone’s face or complexion. Rubicund is one of the jolliest terms for red. Describing someone as rubicund signals that they like to live life to the fullest—particularly eating and drinking well.


Shades of red come not only from crushed up insects, blushing faces, or flowers. Words for red colors also come from precious gemstones like the ruby. Ruby is “a deep red, carmine.” The word ruby ultimately comes from the Latin ruber meaning “red.” (That’s how closely associated it is with the color.)


Another gemstone-inspired shade of red is garnet, “a deep-red color.” Garnets actually come in a wide variety of colors, but there is a deep-red variety that is particularly popular as a gemstone. The word garnet ultimately comes from the Old French grenat, from the expression pome grenate or … pomegranate, a fruit with tiny, tasty red gems inside.


A sophisticated near-synonym for red is roseate, an adjective meaning “tinged with rose, rosy.” For example:


  • Despite the need to make camp, we stopped to admire the roseate sky at sunset.

The term roseate is also used figuratively to mean “bright or promising.”


Our next synonym for red is less commonly used, but it may sound familiar nonetheless. Rufous [ roo-fuhs ] is an adjective meaning “reddish; tinged with red; brownish red.” If rufous seems familiar, that’s probably because it sounds like the male first name Rufus. The name Rufus comes from the Latin for “red-headed” and shares a common root with rufous.


Another shade of red that is closely associated with hair is russet, meaning “yellowish brown, light brown, or reddish brown.” In contrast with the luxurious scarlet clothes we learned about at the top of this slideshow, russet-colored clothes were associated with the rough fabric worn by peasants. The earliest use of the term in English was in the sense of “a coarse reddish-brown or brownish homespun cloth formerly used for clothing.”

We haven’t covered all of the shades of red in this slideshow. You can find even more at our entry for red here. To review the 16 shades we did cover, check out our handy word list here. And, finally, if you feel confident you can distinguish between russet, blush, and vermilion, test your knowledge with our shades of red quiz here.


Did these words heat you up? Put your vocab on ice with our cool words for the color blue.

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