My friend Nick Jainschigg has sent me a link to a Finnish site,, that appears to contain investigations of all sorts of color-related phenomena. I say “appears” because my Finnish is, sadly, nil; of course I have dictionaries (though poor ones), and when I get the chance I’ll play with them a little, but basically it’s going to remain a closed book to me… with the important exception of the color pages themselves. If you click on the color boxes under the heading VÄRIT on the left, you are taken to pages featuring the color you clicked, and each one has a section labeled etymologiaa… that begins (for reasons that escape me) with an etymology of the English word, black for example:

Englannin black (tullut käyttöön ennen 1100-lukua) juontuu vanhan englannin sanoista blac, blæc, blak – ja on sukua esim. vanhan yläsaksan blah, blach; ehkä peräisin latinan polttamista tarkoittavasta sanasta flagrare (kreikk. phlegein). Sana tarkoittaa kirjaimellisesti ‘kaiken valon imevä’.

It continues with an amazing collection of words for that color in as many languages as they could find:

engl. black; keskienglanti blak; vanha englanti blæc ·
ranska noir ·
italia nero · espanja negro · lombardia negher · portugali negro, preto · romania negru ·
esperanto nigra, nigro; nigreco (mustuus); nigrega (sysimusta) · papiamento preto, pretu · sranan blaka ·
saksa schwarz; vanha saksa blach, blah; baijerin murre schwoarz · hollanti zwart · friisi swart · afrikaans swart ·
gootit swarts ·
ruotsi svart; bläck (‘muste’) · islanti svartur, blakkr (tumma, mustahko) · tanska blæk, sort · norja svart ·
gaeli dubh · vanha iiri dub · iiri dub, dubh · anglosaksit blæc · bretoni du · walesin kieli du ·
baski beltz ·
kreikka kelainós; melas, melan (tumma) ·
heprea shahor ·
latina ater, niger (tarkoitti myös pahaa) ·
sanskriitti krsna (musta, tumma), niilotpalashyaama (sinertävänmusta) ·
malta iswed ·
unkari fekete ·
eesti must · karjala musta · vepsä must · vatja mussa ·
venäjä tsornyi, (chërnyy) · bulgaria (cerno) · puola czarny ·
tsekki cverny´, èerná · slovakki cierny ·
egypti semeti, km ·
turkki kara, siyah ·
sorani (kurdimurre) resh, siya · gorani (kurdimurre) siyaw ·
albania zi
japani kuro, makkuro (sysimusta) ; kunne (ainut) ·
kiina hey suh; mandariinikiina hêisè, (hei) ; kantonikiina hak, haak ·
korea kamansayk, kemceng, kkamahta, kkamang, huksayk (‘lainasana’ kiinasta), pullyak (‘lainasana’ englannista) ·
thai (dam) · vietnam en ·
tiibet nagpo ·

(Uusi-Guinea) dugum dani mili; mui; hitigima muli; golegole (Murrayn saarella) ·
pukapuka uli · tonga uliuli ·
maori mangu, pango ·
aboriginaalit? arunta urapulla · guru (Queensland), unma (Queensland), manara (Queensland) ·
(Filippiinit) hanunóo biru · samal ?etom · tagalog itím, maitím · bisayan maitum ·
malaiji itam · jaava (irang) · batak birong, (agong)
· hawaiji `ele`ele, uliuli ·
tonga, samoa uliuli ·
indonesia hitam ·
malayalam (Intia) (kadúpe) · tamili (Intia) karuppu ·
urdu (Intia) kálá · tada (Intia) (kârthiti) ·
kanadan eskimot krernertok ·
(cheyennet) émo’ôhtávo (‘se on musta’) · chinook li?el · (navajot) lizhin · (shoshonit) duhubite · (komanssit) tuhani · lakota sapa (likainen) · maidu (P-A intiaanit) sísiw omaha-ponca (sioux) s^a’be (musta, tumma); sa’be (‘olla musta’) · chiricahua (athapaskan) dilxil · meskalero (athapaskan) liz^i ·
arawak o-ri ·
tarascan turí- (Meksiko) · mazatee hma (Meksiko) · ixcatec tiye (Meksiko) · yik (Sierra Popoluca) · mayat (Jukatan) box · (mayat) tzeltal ?ihk, ?ik’ · aymara (inkat) cchaara, chara, chaara, ch’iara, llanco, saani, sanni · ketsua (inkat) yana (myös sininen) · uru-chipaya tsoq ·
yibiri humáksan (Tsad) · somali mado · tiv (ii) (Nigeria) · ibo oji (Nigeria) · hausa baki (Nigeria) · urhobo obyibi (Nigeria) · nupe zìkò (Nigeria) · ibibio ebúbít (etelä-Nigeria) · daza (yasko) (itä-Nigeria) · shona nema, (citema) (Rhodesia) · ila shia · masait (erok) · bagirmi ili (Tsad) · suahili -eusi (Tansania) · nandi tui (Etiopia) · bullom (Sierra Leone) · songhai bibi, bi (Mali) · dinka macar, car (Sudan) · mende teli (Länsi-Afrikka) · ndempu wuyila (Kongo) · dahomey (wiwi) (Benin)

The principles of arrangement are sometimes unclear (what are Ancient Egyptian, Turkish, two varieties of Kurdish, and Albanian doing on the same line?), but the total effect is irresistible.
By the way, many of the Finnish names for languages are odd-looking but decipherable if you squint (ranska, tanska, norja, and iiri are French, Danish, Norwegian, and Irish respectively); a couple of the weirder ones are ruotsi ‘Swedish’ and venäjä ‘Russian.’

Oh, and in case you were wondering, the faq begins:

Can I find your Coloria Website in an English version?

Sorry – you can’t and you propably won’t. Unless somebody wants to translate the text for free of charge. I have received several requests about translating the site to English. Actually, I originally planned to publish the site in English too but then I realized that my resources are limited. I had to choose between English and Finnish – and since Finnish is my native language and no such site was online in Finnish… Luckily, there are lots of good sites about colours in English already.


  1. Michael Farris says

    Good luck with the dictionaries, Finnish is one of those languages that you need to know some of its morphology and, even more important, its morphophonemics before a dictionary is any use.

  2. You’re a friend of Nick Jainschigg? Say hi for us.

  3. Isn’t there some theory that ruotsi (Swedish) is the source of the words Rus’, Russia, Russian etc. (because of the Viking involvement in the foundation of Kiev and other cities)?

  4. Michael: I’m pretty good at faking that stuff. I’ve studied Hungarian, so I have some idea of the sort of morphology involved. Besides, I’m not talking about translating entire paragraphs or anything ambitious like that; I just meant looking up a few salient words to see what was being talked about.
    Patrick: Done. Small world!
    XB: Say rather that ruotsi and Rus’ (and therefore Russian &c) are all from the same source, an Old Norse word for ‘oarsman.’ As the AHD says, Russian is from “Medieval Latin Russianus, from Old Russian Rusi, Vikings, Rus, from Old Norse *ródhs(menn), or ródhs(karlar), seafarers from ródhr, rowing.”

  5. Thanks. It’s an interesting site. I’ve just come across a word I didn’t know, rufescent, meaning ‘reddish’. Surely this adjective would be better employed describing the rare medical condition where you turn into King William II of England.

  6. Michael Farris says

    language hat: “I’ve studied Hungarian, so I have some idea of the sort of morphology involved … I just meant looking up a few salient words to see what was being talked about.”
    To find individual words you need to have an idea of the rules of final consonant mutation found in Finnish, more extensive and radical than anything in Hungarian.

  7. Thank you for your interest towards my site – it’s actually funny how many non-Finnish speakers are interested about it because there is absolutely nothing in English. But I think this blog is the reason (thank you) why I suddenly received a couple of emails from people willing to translate parts of Coloria for free – so let’s see what will happen…
    The popularity of Coloria among Finnish speaking people is quite funny too – considering that the site really is my hobby, an escape place when ever my real work starts to bug me. I’m a freelancer web (graphic) designer but I’ve always been attracted to colours. Since I started the high school I’ve collected colour related material from everywhere (about 20 years), so the information has been collected bit by bit from several sources.
    The thing that Coloria is my hobby partly explains why ‘Ancient Egyptian, Turkish, two varieties of Kurdish, and Albanian are doing on the same line?’ 🙂 – I really don’t know anything about linquistics (although these words really fascinate me)! And another thing: ‘etymologiaa…’ part begins with an etymology of the English word, black, because I haven’t came across etymologies of other languages – not even Finnish one 🙂 Not that I’ve been searhing very actively: I don’t want to turn my hobby into work… But if you know something interesting colour+language related things, I’d be happy to receive any help!
    Thank You!

  8. …the site really is my hobby, an escape place when ever my real work starts to bug me… I don’t want to turn my hobby into work
    I know exactly what you mean!
    As for the languages, no need to get too pedantic, but malta iswed should go with the Semitic languages (next to Arabic), and so should heprea shahor and egypti semeti, km; baski beltz should be on its own line (Basque isn’t related to anything else). But don’t worry about it — it’s great just the way it is! And I’m delighted that my link has brought readers, and maybe even translators, your way.

  9. Lars Mathiesen says

    I didn’t notice how old this post was before starting to pick nits. On the current version (alive after 18.5 years*!), under musta, it lists blk for Danish instead of blæk as in Hat’s original cut and paste — clearly some transcoding error — but still doesn’t note that blæk only means “ink” (like Swedish bläck, but that one gets a note).

    (I don’t know how you manage to transcode {ä} correctly and mess up {æ}, but there it is).
    * Copyright date last updated to 2019, though that is not always significant.

  10. David Eddyshaw says

    As the list trespasses on West Africa: Kusaal sabil “black” (and cognates throughout Oti-Volta, natch.)

    The Hausa should be baƙi, but we all knew that really.

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