Definition of purple in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈpəːp(ə)l/


[mass noun]
1A colour intermediate between red and blue: the painting was mostly in shades of blue and purple
More example sentences
  • The flames ate hungrily, and erupted into strange hues of purples and blues.
  • At the top of the stems there are tightly packed bracts of rich blues and purples surrounding clusters of purple-blue flowers in late spring and summer.
  • The emerging colour scheme in my garden is purples, silvers and blues.
1.1Purple clothing or material.
Example sentences
  • I was, of course, wearing purple, a commemorative shirt from a Washington cultural fair or music festival or something.
  • Only a handful of adventurous souls opt for bubblegum pink, orange and purple.
  • Maroon and purple were starred under wearable fur and leather coats.
2 (also Tyrian purple) A crimson dye obtained from some molluscs, formerly used for fabric worn by an emperor or senior magistrate in ancient Rome or Byzantium.
Example sentences
  • The region around Tyre was well known in the ancient world for its purple dye (Tyrian purple) made from the murex grandaris mollusc.
  • The thing is, you must remember that both imperial purple and indigo are pigments, not dyes, a dye as to be soluble.
2.1 (the purple) (In ancient Rome or Byzantium) clothing made from fabric dyed with Tyrian purple.
Example sentences
  • Still in ancient times, but in Rome, do you remember the imperial purple worn so proudly by the Roman toffs.
  • Garments incorporating the imperial purple were particularly valued, and at all times their sale and export was fiercely supervised.
2.2 (the purple) (In ancient Rome) a position of rank, authority, or privilege: he was too young to assume the purple
More example sentences
  • Britain had long been a bolt-hole for pretenders to the imperial purple, and in times of crisis it had a history of seceding from the empire and looking after its own affairs.
2.3 (the purple) The scarlet official dress of a cardinal.


Of a colour intermediate between red and blue: a faded purple T-shirt
More example sentences
  • Greens and reds are typically caused by oxygen, while purple and blue colours are caused by nitrogen.
  • We pass through pretty forests of birch and pine trees, moss covered rocks and a haze of blue and purple flowers.
  • She went back, and found another skirt, with a blue and purple flower imprint.


Make or become purple in colour: [no object]: Edmund’s cheeks purpled [with object]: the neon was purpling the horizon above the highway
More example sentences
  • Joe has clearly taken a beating, his eyes are purpled and swollen and there is blood running down his neck and back, yet it is he who is astride Colin, pounding his face in with blow after blow.
  • Take their powdery beaks to the lilies, petals pursed, purpled and molded before they opened.
  • The hollyhocks are gone now, and the concrete is purpled by mulberries instead.


born in (or to) the purple

Born into a reigning family or privileged class: the hero, Simba, is born to the purple
More example sentences
  • Somehow, I find that frank ‘I was born to the purple’ sort of elitism easier to stomach than their attitude.
  • It is worth noting that he was clearly not born to the purple.
  • Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna Romanov was the only child ‘born to the purple’, and she was a welcome change from the horror of the previous 18 months.



Example sentences
  • ‘The purpleness is a form of branding,’ Denney says.
  • The purple varieties can be quite beautiful, but they are far less vigorous growers and there has been a noticeable falloff in the purpleness of both the above varieties since their introduction.
  • I thought I needed a break from all the purpleness.


Pronunciation: /ˈpəːp(ə)lɪʃ/
Example sentences
  • At his nether lip begins a dark purplish bruise that spreads to a little lower down almost reaching his chin.
  • This is a really attractive plant with dark purplish, green, crinkled leaves and sweet smelling lilac purple flowers, it is well worth growing.
  • Nori, dark green to purplish black, doesn't only come in sheets for sushi.


Example sentences
  • At the back of this planting, facing south, on either a wall or trellis plant the vine Vitis ‘Purpurea’, which in October is a wonderful rich purply red with bunches of tiny black grapes.
  • It brings me out in a rash of purply, clichéd prose, like part of the sky.
  • Angelou's anger would have greater resonance if more pithily and less purply expressed.


Old English (describing the clothing of an emperor), alteration of purpre, from Latin purpura 'purple', from Greek porphura, denoting molluscs that yielded a crimson dye, also cloth dyed with this.

  • Just as crimson is named after an insect, so purple is named after a shellfish, and at one time these two words described the same colour. The first thing to be described as purple was a crimson dye obtained from some molluscs, called porphyra in Greek, the source also of the name of the purple stone called porphyry (Late Middle English). The dye was rare and expensive and was used for colouring the robes of Roman emperors and magistrates. The actual colour of the dye varied widely, and over time the word came to mean the colour between red and blue that we now call purple. From the late 16th century purple has been used to mean ‘striking’ or ‘ornate’ in phrases such as purple prose or a purple patch. The latter term, describing an over-elaborate passage in a literary composition, is a translation of Latin purpureus pannus and comes from the Roman poet Horace's Ars Poetica: ‘Works of serious purpose and grand promise often have a purple patch or two stitched on, to shine far and wide’.

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: pur¦ple

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