[tam-ber, tim-; Fr. tan-bruh]

A mixture of three pure tones (top) yields a complex resultant tone (bottom), such as might be elipsis

Quality of sound that distinguishes one instrument, voice, or other sound source from another. Timbre largely results from a characteristic combination of overtones produced by different instruments. This distinctive combination (which usually varies across the range of pitches) is what principally permits a listener to distinguish a clarinet from a flute, an alto from a tenor, or even a Stradivarius violin from a Guarneri violin, when both are sounding the same pitch. One element of timbre results from the differing methods of producing the sounds (blowing, bowing, striking, etc.), especially audible at the moment a note begins.

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In topology, a long-standing conjecture asserting that no more than four colours are required to shade in any map such that each adjacent region is coloured differently. First posed in 1852 by Francis Guthrie, a British math student, it was solved by Kenneth Appel and Wolfgang Haken using a computer-assisted proof in 1976.

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Specialized printing technique using coloured inks and modified presses. Juxtaposition of colours is achieved by submitting each sheet to successive impressions by typeforms each of which prints only on areas designed to carry a single colour and inked only in that colour. Three colours of ink can reconstitute the visual effect of all the range of colours by combining them appropriately; if all three inks are applied to an area, it almost appears black. Standard colour printing, called four-colour printing, employs magenta, yellow, cyan (blue), and black inks.

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In igneous petrology, the sum of the volume percentages of the coloured, or dark, minerals in the rock. The most common light-coloured minerals are feldspars, feldspathoids, and silica or quartz; abundant dark-coloured minerals include olivine, pyroxene, amphibole, biotite, garnet, tourmaline, iron oxides, sulfides, and metals.

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Inability to distinguish one or more colours. The human retina contains three types of cone cells that absorb light in different parts of the spectrum. Absence of these types causes colour blindness to red, green, and blue. Colour blindness is a sex-linked recessive trait (see recessiveness) 20 times more common in men than in women.

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Aspect of any object that may be described in terms of hue, brightness, and saturation. It is associated with the visible wavelengths of electromagnetic radiation, which stimulate the sensor cells of the eye. Red light has the longest wavelengths, while blue has the shortest, with other colours such as orange, yellow, and green between. Hue refers to dominant wavelengths. Brightness refers to the intensity or degree of shading. Saturation pertains to purity, or the amount of white light mixed with a hue. The colours red, yellow, and blue, known as primary colours, can be combined in varying proportions to produce all other colours. Primary colours combined in equal proportions produce secondary colours. Two colours that combine to form white light are said to be complementary.

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Opaque watercolour. Also known as poster paint, designer's colour, and body colour, it differs from transparent watercolour in that the pigments are bound by liquid glue, which is used as a thinner. The addition of white pigment lightens the tone and lends opacity. Gouache paints dry to a matte finish and, if desired, without visible brush marks. They can be applied thinly or thickly. A wide range of colours are available, including fluorescent and metallic pigments. The suede finish and crisp lines characteristic of many Indian and Islamic miniature paintings is produced by this medium; it is used in Western screen and fan decoration and was used by modern artists such as Georges Rouault and Paul Klee.

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The colour orange occurs between red and yellow in the visible spectrum at a wavelength of about 585 – 620 nm, and has a hue of 30° in HSV colour space. The complementary colour of orange is azure, a slightly greenish blue. With pigments such as paints or inks, a mixture of the subtractive primary colours in the proportion of 75% yellow and 25% magenta produce the secondary colour orange. Orange pigments are largely in the ochre or cadmium families, and absorb mostly blue light.

Orange (colour wheel)

At above right is the colour wheel colour orange. This is the colour orange as defined in HSV colour space; that is, it is the hue midway between red and yellow. It is numerically halfway between red and yellow in a gamma-compressed RGB colour space, and is diametrically opposite azure, on the HSV colour wheel.

Etymology of orange

The colour is named after the orange fruit, introduced to Europe via the Sanskrit word nāranja. Before this was introduced to the English-speaking world, the colour was referred to (in Old English) as geoluhread, which translates into Modern English as yellow-red.

The first recorded use of orange as a colour name in English was in 1512, in the court of King Henry VIII.

Orange web colours

Orange (web colour)

Web colour orange, defined as FFA500, is the only named colour defined in CSS that is not also defined in HTML 4.01

Dark orange (web colour)

The web colour called dark orange is displayed at right.

Additional variations on the colour orange

Orange peel

Displayed at right is the actual colour of the outer skin of a typical orange. This colour is called orange peel. It is the same colour as the fruit for which it was named. In contrast to blue or red, this colour is well determined.

A discussion of the difference between the colours orange and orange peel is given in Maerz and Paul.

The first recorded use of orange peel as a colour name in English was in 1839.


At right is the colour tangerine, a shade of orange that is the colour of the tangerine fruit.

The first recorded use of tangerine as a colour name in English was in 1899.

Carrot orange

Carrot orange is a tint of orange that is the colour of the raw carrot vegetable.

The first recorded use of carrot orange as a colour name in English was in 1684.

Burnt orange

Burnt orange has been in use as a colour name for this deep shade of orange since 1915.

This colour is one variation that is used as a school colour of the Clemson University, Virginia Tech, Auburn University, and The University of Texas at Austin.

This variation of orange is one of the primary colours for the American Football team, the Cleveland Browns

Burnt Orange was popular in interior design in the 1970s.

So-called redheads actually have hair that averages a burnt orange colour.


Brown is actually derived from the orange part (orange + grey) of the colour spectrum. It can be described as dark orange.

The first recorded use of brown as a colour name in English was in 1000.

Orange symbology



Geography and history

  • Orange is the national colour of The Netherlands, because its royal family of Orange-Nassau used to own the principality of Orange (the title is still used for the Dutch heir apparent). There is no etymological connection between orange (the fruit and colour) and Orange (the name of the principality), and the similarity is fortuitous. (See the page on Orange (word) for more information.) In modern Dutch society however, the Dutch word oranje, 'orange' is often associated with the reigning royal house of the Netherlands. Oranjezonnetje ('Orange Sun') designates good weather on the Queen's birthday, April 30. Orange is the colour of choice for many of the national sports teams and their supporters. The nickname of the Dutch national football team is Oranje, the Dutch word for orange. Oranjegekte ('Orange Craze') signifies the inclination of many Dutchmen to dress up in orange colours during soccer matches. In the modern flag of the Netherlands, red substitutes the original orange, but on royal birthdays, the flag has an additional orange banner. Most geographical usages of the word orange can be traced back to Dutch maritime power in the 17th century.
  • In Ireland the use of orange dates from the reign of William of Orange, the Protestant English king (1689-1702), a Dutch stadholder and the great-grandson of William the Silent.


  • People whose natural hair colour is metaphorically described in English as being red, i.e. redheads, actually have hair that averages a burnt orange colour.
  • Orange is often quoted (along with Purple and Silver) as a word that doesn't rhyme with any other word in the English language. This is debatable - see Orange (word)#Rhyme. However, the Oxford Rhyming Dictionary does show both these words as having half-rhymes (such as lozenge with orange and salver with silver).
    In a children's book of verse, in a poem titled "Color," there are these lines:

What is red? a poppy's red, in its barley bed.
What is orange? Why, an orange--just an orange!


  • A woman named Susan Hogan was born with an extra set of cones that are sensitive in the orange range, as well having the red, green, and blue cones that humans with normal colour vision (i.e. trichromats) possess. She is therefore classified as a tetrachromat, but her extra type of cone is an orange cone instead of the ultraviolet cone possessed by animals such as birds who are tetrachromats in nature. It is estimated that while normal humans can see about 1,000,000 different colours, tetrachromats such as Ms. Hogan can see 100,000,000 different colours. This is because each additional type of cones reacts with the other types of cones in such a way that an addition of a new type of cone means an organism can see 100 times as many colours. (This means that a pentachromat would be able to see 10,000,000,000 (ten billion) different colours.)


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  • The colour orange is used in a campaign to highlight the violations of the human rights in China on the occasion of the 2008 Summer Olympics.

Religious and metaphysical

  • Orange in general represents Hinduism in the flag of Sri Lanka. Hindu swamis traditionally wear orange robes. The significance of orange as the colour for Hindu swamis is commonly thought to be connected to the idea that orange symbolizes fire. Renunciates' fiery ocher robes display outwardly the inner transformation that is happening - the burning of ego, their former selves, and their personal wants. Also, the saffron stripe in the Indian flag signifies courage, sacrifice and the spirit of renunciation.
  • Orange is used to symbolically represent the second (Swadhisthana) chakra.
  • Psychics who claim to be able to observe the aura with their third eye report that an orange aura is associated with intellectual ambition or stubbornness.
  • In the metaphysics of the New Age Prophetess, Alice A. Bailey, in her system called the Seven Rays which classifies humans into seven different metaphysical psychological types, the fifth ray of concrete science is represented by the colour orange. People who have this metaphysical psychological type are said to be on the Orange Ray.


  • In English heraldry, orange is considered synonymous with the tincture tenne. However, its use as a heraldic tincture is relatively rare, as it is considered a "stain" (a deprecated tincture) by some. In continental heraldry, tenne is more often deemed to denote a burnt orange colour.
  • The colours orange and black represent the holiday Halloween (31 October) because orange is the colour of pumpkins and black is the colour of night and is associated with doom, despair and darkness.
  • The colours orange and brown represent the United States holiday Thanksgiving.
  • Orange is the favourite colour for people to wear to rave dances.
  • Due to its brightness, orange is used in the construction industry on road signs and safety jackets to warn passers-by of the pending dangers ahead.


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See also

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