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Comments on my "What is this question about?" posting have drifted off into a separate (and rather confused) thread about orange as referring to a fruit or a color and about orange juice. This is a case where the facts are well known and easily discoverable, but instead people have chosen to speculate and invent. So to set things straight …

Orange juice (as it's been used in this discussion) is entirely parallel to grapefruit juice, lemon juice, etc. It's a noun-noun compound, with primary accent on the first word, meaning 'juice of/from oranges'. There's also an adjective-noun phrase orange juice, with primary accent on the second word, meaning 'juice that is orange in color'. Orange juice (noun + noun) is in fact an orange juice (adjective + noun), though there are orange juices (adjective + noun) besides orange juice (noun + noun).

On to the fruit and the color.

The name of the fruit came into English from earlier French, and before that, according to the OED, the word had a history in (going backwards) Arabic, Persian, Sanskrit, and some Dravidian language. The fruit noun originally began with an [n], which was lost somewhere along the line, possibly by metanalysis (compare Spanish naranja). The fruit — in particular, the bitter, or Seville, orange — came to Europe in the Middle Ages; the sweet orange arrived later, in the 16th century.

The name of the color is a metonymy from the name of the fruit; the color orange is so-called because it's the color of oranges. Compare the color names apricot, charcoal, cinnamon, fuchsia, lemon, lilac, limerose, tangerine, and so on. What sets orange apart from these other color names is that somewhere along the line it became a basic color word of English. Before that, orange was just a kind of red (which is why "carrot-tops", people with orange hair, are called red-haired). It's no longer possible to refer to orange-colored things as being red, though you can refer to lemon-colored things as being yellow and lime-colored things as being green.

[Addendum December 5: This posting is closed to comments because I wanted to post on one specific thing while avoiding being pushed to write on all sorts of things connected somehow with that topic. I have now gotten e-mail about: the basic color term pink; the color of carrots; the House of Orange; fruit/color metonymy for orange words in other languages; and an "orange" quote from Much Ado About Nothing. Let me encourage people who want to pursue one of these topics to do so on their own blogs, linking if they wish to this posting.]

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