San Francisco lucky double rainbow
San Francisco lucky double rainbow (Photo credit: davidyuweb)

Color names have always been with us, but they’re more stylish now than ever.  Blame it on baby Blue Ivy, or maybe Hollywood star Scarlett Johansson.

They’re not really new, though.  Pink was in the US Top 1000 back in the nineteenth century – for boys!  Botanical names have been around for ages.  Lots of possibilities aren’t exactly color names, but conjure up specific hues – Leo makes us think of the shade of yellow-brown that characterizes a lion’s fur.  Water and sky-related names often read blue.

Some do seem like a challenge.  Cerulean is a mouthfulYou might wear a sweater in shades of Claret or Merlot, but odds are you wouldn’t consider them for a child’s name.  Cordovan seems like a great name for a boy, but does it really scream color name?  Crayola has called crayons asparagus and canary, but even in our permissive naming moment, these are not viable options for children.

Here’s a list of some of the most appealing choices, both those widely used and those not so familiar – but wearable nonetheless.  This is the first part in a series – because there really are too many great color names to cram them all into one post!

Color Names for Kids: Pink and Red

Carnelian – A dark, rich red, and an unexpected way to get to Carrie.

Cerise – A vivid shade of pink and the French word for cherry.  A 30 Rock character answers to a possible nickname form: Cerie.

Cinnabar – An unusual ends with r option for a girl, one associated with China and the color of blood.  Crayola often calls it red-orange instead.

Crimson  – A vibrant color with ties to the University of Alabama, one that works well for either gender.

Fuchsia – Another pink pick, one that’s both colorful and botanical.

Garnet – A gemstone and a very dark red.

Henna – A flowering plant used to make the traditional dye used to color hair and create elaborate body art.  Henna might seem like a stretch, but the reddish-brown hue is used as a given name in Finland, a feminine form of Henry.

Poppy – One of the most promising fresh floral names, poppies come in many colors.  But it is the red poppy used for symbolizing war remembrance that gives its name to the deep red color.

Rose – Like many a plant, roses come in plenty of shades.  But the color rose is definitely pink, and has been for centuries.

Ruby – Among the most popular of the jewel names for girls, Ruby red.

Rufus Is he too subtle to count as a color name?  Directly from the Latin word for reddish, Rufus was worn by several early saints.  William II of England is better known as William Rufus thanks to his ruddy complexion.

Scarlett  – One of the most popular color names today, worn by a feisty Southern belle and a Hollywood starlet.

Vermilion – Another alternative name for cinnabar.

Color Names for Kids: Orange and Brown

Coral – A pinky orange shade with a long history of use as a given name, Coral boasts appealing ties to the sea.

Sienna – A warm reddish-brown color, Sienna is also boosted by the Italian city of Siena, and hobbled by the Toyota mini-van of the same name.

Color Names for Kids: Yellow

Goldie – A shining name borrowed from the Yiddish word for gold.  Golda is another form, as in form Israeli prime minister Gold Meir.

Jonquil – A type of yellow flower, Jonquil has lent its name to that particular hue.

Marigold – Another borrowing from the plant world, sometimes said to be a reference to the Virgin Mary.

Saffron – A yellow-orange spice, and the name of Edina’s long-suffering daughter on staple Britcom Absolutely Fabulous.

Tune in soon for the next installment: green and blue! 

Would you ever consider a color name for your child?  Are there any shades of red, orange, or yellow that should be on this list?


About Abby Sandel

Whether you're naming a baby, or just all about names, you've come to the right place! Appellation Mountain is a haven for lovers of obscure gems and enduring classics alike.

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What do you think?


  1. I could see Saffron or Poppy, I understand Rose, Scarlette and Ruby. But Vermillion? Why, why would you do that to a child? Cinnabar makes me think of Cinnabon, delish maybe, but not a great name.

    1. I think Vermilion would be great in the middle spot, but I agree – as a given name, it is a smidge too close to vermin.

  2. Ooh, I love color names.

    I think there are a lot of good “brown” names that you overlooked.

    Bronze, maybe? It has the fashionable Z.
    Copper. If kids can be named Cooper, why not?
    A sneaky one…Isabelline. It’s a pale grayish brown color, used to describe horses, mostly. but, what a beautiful name!

    How about Fallow? It’s a pale brown color. With the Harlow/Marlow crowd, it sounds wearable to me.

    Love this list, can’t wait for blues and greens. Indigo is at the top of my girl list, so I can’t wait!

  3. Does anyone know the “Saffy’s Angel” books by Hilary McKay? I was absolutely obsessed with them growing up. They’re a family of artists, and each of the children is given a color/paint name. Cadmium is the eldest, called Caddy, and then Saffron (“Siena” was also considered for her), Indigo, and Permanent Rose (who goes by Rose.)

    Anyway, I’ve always loved the name Saffron because of them.

    1. Yes–I agree! They’re wonderful books, and definitely the reason why Saffron sounds warm and memorable to me.

  4. Our first little-one’s middle name is Rose and I’m keen to find suitables for future siblings. I’m a certified nameaholic too. Here’s some more ideas (in no particular order).
    Reds & Pinks:
    Clancy: Surname.From an an ancient Irish name meaning “red warrior”.
    Harkin: “Dark red”
    Gilroy:”Son of the red-head.”
    Leroux: “red hair”
    Magenta(though she may fit better in with the ‘purples’)
    Phoenix:”Dark red.”
    Ross:derived from the Gaelic word for “red”.
    Rowan:”Red-berry tree.”
    Radford:”From the red ford.”
    Radley: red meadow.”
    Radnor: “red shore.”
    Read:”Red.” Probably originated as a nickname for people with red hair.
    Reading:”Son of the red-haired.”
    Redford:”Red ford.”
    Redley:”Red meadow.”
    Reed:”Red.” Variant of Red
    Rohan:”Red-haired, red; ascending.”
    Rory:”Red king.”
    Roslin:”Little red-head.”
    Rousseau:”Little red-haired one.”
    Rowan”Little red-head.” Also the name of a flowering tree with red berries.
    Rudyard:”Red paddock.”
    Ruford:”Red ford”
    Rushkin:”Little red-haired one.”
    Russell:”Little red.”
    Ruston: Place name referring to a red-haired ancestor.
    Yellows & Golds
    Alyssa: yellow flower: alyssum
    Aven: yellow or reddish flower.
    Blaine: ‘Yellow’
    Celandine: a yellow wildflower
    Chloris “Green/greenish-yellow.”
    Caltha … “Golden flower.”
    Christa/Chrysta’s spelling may refer to the Greek word for “gold” or “golden”
    Chrysantha”Golden flower.”
    Chryseis”Golden daughter.” derives from “chrysos” meaning “golden”
    Crisanta”Golden flower.”
    Gilda:”Golden, gilded.”
    Oralia:Variant of Aurelia “golden”.
    Oriel: “Golden.”
    Oriole:”Golden.” Name of a bird with golden plumage.
    Orla:”Golden queen.”
    Flavia:”Yellow hair.”
    Xanthe: “Yellow, blonde.”
    Topaz:Suitable for a November baby or for a baby with topaz (golden) colouring.
    Vanna: “Golden.”
    Brown & Orange:
    Auburn … “Moderate or reddish brown.”
    Bronson:”Son of the brown man.”
    Burnell:”Small brown one.”
    Donnell:”World mighty; brown-haired fighter.”
    Donovan:”Dark; brown-haired chieftain.”
    Duncan:”Dark warrior; brown fighter.”
    Dunham:”Brown town.”
    Dunn: “Brown.”
    Dunstan:”Brown stone; brown hill with stones.”
    Livingston:”brown mountain”
    Armona:”Chestnut brown.”
    Aruna:”Crystalline reddish-brown.”
    Brayndel (Yiddish) “brown”
    Bruna:”Brown-skinned, brown-haired.”
    Morena … “Brown, brown-haired.”

  5. I love Rose to bits. Cerulean could actually make a really cool name, but I think it would take a certain kind of person to pull it off well.

    My mom’s cousin’s son is named Cordovan, after a pair of shoes. (His siblings are Taccara, Tashiana, and August).

    1. I also love Cerulean! A major guilty pleasure name, but with “Rue” in vogue, it could work, right?

      Cordovan is cool too. Love the nickname “Van”.

  6. Xanthe means yellow/gold, I think. We considered it as a middle name for our daughter since my husband’s middle name, Boyd, also means yellow/gold.