Definition of indigo in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈindəˌɡō/

noun (plural indigos or indigoes)

1A tropical plant of the pea family, which was formerly widely cultivated as a source of dark blue dye.
  • Genus Indigofera, family Leguminosae: several species, in particular I. tinctoria.
Example sentences
  • The planting of indigoes was only by a handful of Hakka farmers in mountain towns, because poor transportation prevented them from acquiring imported dyes.
  • In the sixteenth century El Salvador produced cacao, from which chocolate is made; in the eighteenth century it grew indigo, which yields a blue dye used in clothing.
  • From it radiated directly the indigo and rice plantations.
2The dark blue dye obtained from the indigo plant.
Example sentences
  • Tuareg and Fulani women wear dark clothes dyed with indigo.
  • Coffee, sugar, cotton, and indigo (a blue dye) from Haiti accounted for nearly one-half of France's foreign trade.
  • The Tuareg are best known for the men's practice of veiling their faces with a blue cloth dyed with indigo.
2.1A color between blue and violet in the spectrum.
Example sentences
  • It includes the full spectrum of colors: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet.
  • A more accurate map shows a wash of differing hues of indigo and violet, with some smatterings of infrared and ultraviolet at the extremes.
  • Later color theorists generally replaced indigo and violet with just a single hue: purple or violet.


Mid 16th century: from Portuguese índigo, via Latin from Greek indikon, from indikos 'Indian (dye)' (see Indic).

  • Indian from mid 16th century:

    Christopher Columbus set sail from Europe in 1492 with the main object of reaching Asia and proving that the world was round. When his ships reached the New World—in fact some Caribbean islands—he believed that he had reached India, and so it seemed natural to give the name Indian to the indigenous inhabitants of the Americas. The name of the West Indies arose from the same mistake. People felt the need to make clearer this double use of Indian, for the peoples of the Indian subcontinent and of the Americas. At first the latter were often called Red Indians, but this is now considered offensive. American Indian was another solution, but many now prefer to avoid the term Indian altogether, and use Native American. Indian summer, a period of unusually dry, warm weather in late autumn, refers to North America rather than Asia. The phenomenon is first mentioned towards the end of the 18th century in the USA, and was not adopted in Britain until the late Victorian period. India itself is named after the mighty River Indus, which flows from Tibet through Kashmir and Pakistan into the Arabian Sea, and the word is related to Hindi (early 19th century) and Hindu (mid 17th century). India gives its name to indigo (mid 16th century), originally meaning ‘Indian dye’.

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: in·di·go

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