[Lingtyp] colour terms: puce, tosca, firuz

David Gil gil at shh.mpg.de
Sat Mar 2 04:15:16 UTC 2019

Dear all,

I am interested in a rather peculiar recurring lexical connection 
between colour terms referring to two quite different non-focal colours: 
(A) bright blue/green, or turquoise; and (B) dark red/brown.At present I 
am familiar with the following three forms connecting these two colours:

1. "puce" in English:

While some interpret it as (A), most interpret it as (B): see for 
example https://www.grammarphobia.com/blog/2011/05/puce.html 

2. "tosca" (or similar forms) in various languages:

English seems to have both meanings; see




In other languages, one or another of the meanings appears to be 
dominant, thus:
Indonesian has the (A) meaning


while German has the (B) meaning, in "Toskanarot"

3. "firuz" (or similar forms) in various languages:

Originally referring to turquoise (the stone), cognates of this word 
also acquired the associated (A) colour-term meaning in, among others, 
Arabic, Turkish and Indonesian.However, in some dialects of Indonesian, 
the compound expression "terong pirus" ('eggplant pirus') is used to 
refer to the tamarillo fruit, which has a dark red/brown (B) colour.

My questions:

1. Can you provide further examples from other languages of colour terms 
cognate to "puce", "tosca" or "firuz"?And if so, what colour do they 
refer to?

2. Are you familiar with other etymons (beyond the above three) 
connecting these two specific colours through patterns of colexification 
and/or semantic change?

3. Can you offer a possible rationale behind this rather odd recurring 
lexical pattern? (Or is it just a coincidence?)



David Gil

Department of Linguistic and Cultural Evolution
Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History
Kahlaische Strasse 10, 07745 Jena, Germany

Email: gil at shh.mpg.de
Office Phone (Germany): +49-3641686834
Mobile Phone (Indonesia): +62-81281162816

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