The 10 Most Oddly Named Crayon Colors and Why

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Coloring crayons are one of the best and least expensive things invented to keep children of all ages occupied. Generations of kids have spent countless hours with crayons and color books or blank pieces of paper. The wide array of colors at their disposal has inspired youngsters to use their active imaginations to create works of art to be displayed on refrigerators across the country. Once kids are able to read the names of colors on their crayons, they could become bewildered by some of the more obscure words. Here are 10 of the most oddly named crayons and why they are so intriguing.

  1. Magenta – Many people have heard of a magenta colored sky, but where did that brilliant red color get its name? It’s actually the name of a town in Italy where the Battle of Magenta was fought in the Second Italian War of Independence in 1859. The dye of that color was discovered the same year and named after that battle alluding to the profusion of blood that was shed.
  2. Teal blue – Most people can picture the bright teal blue color similar to turquoise, but do they know where it comes from? Unless you a waterfowl expert or hunter, you’ve probably never heard of a Blue Winged Teal. This small dabbling duck has bright blue patches on its wings that inspired the name of this crayon.
  3. Periwinkle – This light purplish blue color actually has two different sources. I’ve always thought it represented the flowers of the periwinkle plant, but it also is the name of small sea snail used for food in Europe. Who knew?
  4. Cornflower – The deep vivid blue of the cornflower crayon was one of my favorites as a child, but I could never figure out what the blue flowers had to do with corn. Otherwise known as Bachelor’s Buttons, these plants grew like weeds among corn and other grain crops in England.
  5. Cerulean – This oddly named crayon can be a bit over the head of small children, literally. The deep blue color of cerulean is similar to azure and gets its origins from the sky. Various artists like to use this obscure name for blue to sound sophisticated and cultured.
  6. Bittersweet – The name of this crayon probably originated from the bittersweet vine which is a climbing plant of the nightshade family. The berries of this plant achieve a wide range of shades from green to red as they ripen and this orange-brown color is in there somewhere. More commonly known as an emotion, the bittersweet color is a bit of an enigma.
  7. Mulberry – The dark purplish red color of mulberries is the inspiration for another oddly named crayon. Children who have never seen an actual mulberry at least know what color it should be. Childhood nursery rhymes also clued us in that mulberries must grow on bushes.
  8. Raw sienna – What an exotic name for a crayon. Raw sienna actually originates from the color of the earth near the town of Siena Italy. The brownish hue of this color represents the earth’s tone in its natural state.
  9. Burnt sienna – On the other hand, burnt sienna refers to the same earth after it has been baked in the sun. As an adult the name of this crayon brings to mind vivid images of the sun baked terrain of Italy, but as a child I had no idea why this reddish brown color was called burnt sienna.
  10. Sepia – In classical times everyone knew that sepia was a dark brown colored ink obtained from the secretions of cuttlefish, but modern children would have no idea where the name of that crayon came from. It’s hard to imagine ink coming from a fish instead of being produced in a factory.

The vast spectrum of colors available to us today is mass produced in factories from a variety of chemicals and dyes. How fascinating that Crayola used the natural sources of these colors to name so many of their crayons. Hopefully children’s curiosity will inspire them to investigate why their crayons have such funny names. It could be a great learning experience for them, their parents and possibly their teachers as well.

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