Why Are Oranges Called Oranges?

Oranges, a popular citrus fruit known for their vibrant color and refreshing taste, have a unique place in the culinary world. This article delves into the fascinating history behind the naming of oranges, exploring the linguistic journey of the word and how it became synonymous with both the color and the fruit.

The Etymological Origins of ‘Orange’

The term ‘orange’ has roots that stretch back centuries, with a rich history intertwined with various cultures and languages. The word ‘orange’ in English is derived from the Old French word ‘orenge,’ which in turn comes from the Arabic ‘nāranj,’ and before that, the Persian ‘nārang.’ This lineage points to the deep historical connections between different cultures and languages.

The Persian Influence

The journey of the word ‘orange’ began in the Persian region, where the fruit was cultivated and enjoyed. The Persian word ‘nārang’ is believed to have been derived from the Sanskrit word ‘nāraṅga.’ The spread of the fruit through trade routes facilitated the dissemination of the term across different regions.

Arabic and Mediterranean Transference

As oranges were traded across the Mediterranean, the Arabic word ‘nāranj’ was adopted by various European languages. This adoption occurred during the Middle Ages when trade and cultural exchanges between the Arab world and Europe were common.

The Arabic influence is evident in the similarity between the word ‘nāranj’ and its counterparts in European languages.

Evolution in European Languages

In European languages, the term evolved from ‘nāranj’ to ‘orenge’ in Old French, and eventually to ‘orange’ in Middle English. This evolution was part of a broader pattern of linguistic changes as words were adapted to fit the phonetic and structural norms of different languages.

The Fruit Preceded the Color

An interesting aspect of the word ‘orange’ is that it originally referred to the fruit and only later became a term for the color. Before the widespread use of the word ‘orange’ for the color, English speakers referred to the orange color as ‘ġeolurēad,’ which translates to ‘yellow-red.’ The adoption of ‘orange’ for the color likely occurred due to the distinctive, vivid hue of the fruit.


The name ‘orange’ for the citrus fruit is a testament to the rich tapestry of cultural and linguistic interactions throughout history. From its Persian and Sanskrit roots to its evolution through Arabic and into European languages, the word encapsulates a journey of trade, cultural exchange, and linguistic adaptation. Understanding the history behind the word ‘orange’ offers a glimpse into the interconnectedness of our world and the dynamic nature of language.