What, exactly, is carmine?

Reading time: Less than 1 minute

Increase your vocabulary and you’ll make your writing much more precise. That’s why I provide a word of the week. Today’s word: carmine.

I’ve known for decades that the word carmine means “red.” But I didn’t know any more than that. So, I decided to investigate when I encountered the following sentence in Nicole Bokat’s novel, Redeeming Eve:

That evening, she watched the sun set, a carmine ball, so beautiful. 

Turns out, “carmine” refers to a very specific type of red: a strong, deep red with a slight purplish hue. (Don’t entirely trust the colour I’m showing you in the picture above. Every computer monitor renders colour differently. What you see is likely entirely different from what I see.)

I’d always imagined it to be more of a scarlet but the colour is definitely deeper and richer than that.

Looking at the etymology, the noun (referring to dyestuff) dates back to 1712, from the French carmin, which in turn comes from Medieval Latin carminium, from Arabic qirmiz  meaning “crimson”. The adjective dates from 1737 and the  color name from 1799.

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