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Why is red hair red?

April 29, 2014

Has anyone ever wondered why red-haired people are described as being red-haired? Because it’s not really red at all. Not pillar-box red. It’s more like orange. The answer is rather pleasing. Until oranges began to be imported from the southern countries of Europe, around the time of the Crusades, there was no word for the colour orange in English, and so red spoke for a larger part of the spectrum than it does today. Anything orange was described as red, and that included hair. By the time the word orange entered the language, red-haired was established as a usage, and so it remains with us. There you are. Puzzle solved.

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