Crimson is a strong, red color, inclining to purple. It originally meant the color of the kermes dye produced from a scale insect, Kermes vermilio, but the name is now sometimes also used as a generic term for slightly bluish-red colors that are between red and rose.


Crimson (NR4) is produced using the dried bodies of the kermes insect, which were gathered commercially in Mediterranean countries, where they live on the kermes oak, and sold throughout Europe.[3] Kermes dyes have been found in burial wrappings in Anglo-Scandinavian York. They fell out of use with the introduction of cochineal, because although the dyes were comparable in quality and color intensity it needed ten to twelve times as much kermes to produce the same effect as cochineal.

Carmine is the name given to the dye made from the dried bodies of the female cochineal, although the name crimson is sometimes applied to these dyes too. Cochineal appears to have been brought to Europe during the conquest of Mexico by the Spaniard Hernán Cortés, and the name 'carmine' is derived from the French carmin. It was first described by Mathioli in 1549. The pigment is also called cochineal after the insect from which it is made.

Alizarin (PR83) is a pigment that was first synthesized in 1868 by the German chemists Carl Gräbe and Carl Liebermann and replaced the natural pigment madder lake. Alizarin crimson is a dye bonded onto alum which is then used as a pigment and mixed with ochre, sienna and umber. It is not totally colorfast.


The word crimson has been recorded in English since 1400, and its earlier forms include cremesin, crymysyn and cramoysin (cf. cramoisy, a crimson cloth). These were adapted via Old Spanish from the Medieval Latin cremesinus (also kermesinus or carmesinus), the dye produced from Kermes scale insects, and can be traced back to Arabic qermez ("red"), also borrowed in Turkish kırmızı and many other languages, e.g. German Karmesin, Italian Cremisi, French cramoisi, Portuguese "carmesim", etc. (via Latin). The ultimate source may be Sanskrit कृमिज kṛmi-jā meaning "worm-made".

A shortened form of carmesinus also gave the Latin carminus, from which comes carmine.

Other cognates include the Old Church Slavic čruminu, archaic Russian чермный (čermnyj), and Serbo-Croatian crven "red". Cf. also vermilion.


Carmine dyes, which give crimson and related red and purple colors, are based on an aluminium and calcium salt of carminic acid. Carmine lake is an aluminium or aluminium-tin lake of cochineal extract, and crimson lake is prepared by striking down an infusion of cochineal with a 5 percent solution of alum and cream of tartar. Purple lake is prepared like carmine lake with the addition of lime to produce the deep purple tone. Carmine dyes tend to fade quickly.

Carmine dyes were once widely prized in both the Americas and in Europe. They were used in paints by Michelangelo and for the crimson fabrics of the Hussars, the Turks, the British Redcoats, and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

Nowadays carmine dyes are used for coloring foodstuffs, medicines and cosmetics. As a food additive in the European Union, carmine dyes are designated E120, and are also called cochineal and Natural Red 4. Carmine dyes are also used in some oil paints and watercolors used by artists.

Variations of crimson


At right is displayed the color pink.

The color pink has a hue code of 350, placing it directly within the range of crimson colors. Thus, the color "pink" is actually a pale tint of crimson.

Baker-Miller pink

The color Baker-Miller Pink is displayed at right.

Baker-Miller Pink was formulated in 1979.

With a hue code of 344, "Baker-Miller Pink" is within the range of crimson colors and may be considered a light tone of crimson.

Fandango pink

Displayed at right is the color fandango pink.

The color fandango pink, with a hue code of 342, is within the range of crimson colors and is a bright tone of crimson.

The source of this color is the "Pantone Textile Paper eXtended (TPX)" color list, color #17-2033 TPX—Fandango Pink.[8]

Radical red

The Crayola crayon color radical red is displayed at right.

The color radical red was formulated by Crayola in 1990.

This color is supposed to be fluorescent, but there is no mechanism for displaying fluorescence on a computer screen.

With a hue code of 348, this color is within the range of crimson colors and may be regarded as a vivid tone of crimson.

Electric crimson

Displayed at right is the color electric crimson.

Electric crimson is that tone of crimson which is precisely halfway between red and rose on the color wheel. In the 1930 book A Dictionary of Color, the color crimson is shown as lying halfway between red and rose.


Displayed at right is the color folly.

Folly is a color one-fourth of the way between crimson and rose, closer to crimson than to rose. The first recorded use of folly as a color name in English was in 1920.

Alizarin crimson

Alizarin crimson is an artificially created color, used to replace the harder to obtain rose madder.

Spanish crimson

Spanish crimson is the color that is called Carmesi (the Spanish word for "crimson") in the Guía de coloraciones (Guide to colorations) by Rosa Gallego and Juan Carlos Sanz, a color dictionary published in 2005 that is widely popular in the Hispanophone realm.


Displayed at right is the color razzmatazz.

This color is a rich tone of crimson-rose.

Razzmatazz was a new Crayola crayon color chosen in 1993 as a part of the Name The New Colors Contest.

IU Crimson

IU Crimson, along with cream, is an official color for Indiana University and its athletic teams, the Indiana Hoosiers. The official IU Crimson is Pantone® 201.[12] However, in the 1970s former basketball coach Bob Knight and football coach Lee Corso started using uniforms that were more scarlet or bright red.[13] During the same time, cream gave way almost universally to white. But those colors reverted mostly to cream and crimson in the early 2000s, after then-athletics director Michael McNeely decided that the team uniforms needed to reflect the school's official colors of cream and crimson. Indiana cheerleaders still chant "Go Big Red".[13] The changes over the years has led to some clashing of colors in some varsity sport uniforms, as is the case with the baseball team's jackets being a different color than their caps and uniforms.[13] Athletic Director Fred Glass said, "My view is that we're an awfully big and diverse place. I think cream and crimson and 'Go Big Red' can survive in one place."[13]

KU Crimson

KU Crimson, along with blue, is an official color for the University of Kansas and its athletic teams, the Kansas Jayhawks. The color is referenced in the school's alma mater.[14] While not an original color of the school, Crimson was suggested to honor a Harvard graduate who donated money for an athletic field at the school.[14]

Utah crimson

Displayed at right is the color Utah crimson, the color which is symbolic of the University of Utah. Of all the universities that list crimson as an official color, the University of Utah is closest to the web color crimson (RGB 204, 0, 0).

The school's athletic booster organization is called the Crimson Club.[3]


The color cardinal is shown at right.

The first recorded use of cardinal as a color name in English was in the year 1698.[3]

With a hue code of 350, the color "cardinal" may be considered a shade of crimson.

Crimson glory

The color crimson glory is displayed at right. It is a medium shade of crimson.

The color is a representation of the color of the flowers of the crimson glory vine.

The first use of crimson glory as a color name in English was in 1948 when the Plochere Color System was inaugurated.

The source of the color name crimson glory is the Plochere Color System, a color system formulated in 1948 that is widely used by interior designers.[3]

Oklahoma Crimson

Oklahoma Crimson and Oklahoma Cream are the official colors for the University of Oklahoma, and its athletic teams, known as the Sooners. In the fall of 1895, Miss May Overstreet was asked to chair a committee to select the colors of the university. The committee decided the colors should be crimson and cream and an elaborate display of the colors was draped above a platform before the student body.[3]

Alabama Crimson

Alabama Crimson, along with white, is an official color for the University of Alabama and its athletic teams, the Alabama Crimson Tide. The specification provided by the office of university relations refers to the Pantone Matching System, color PMS 201.[19][20][21]

There are different versions of the origin of the nickname "Crimson Tide." The football team was originally called the Crimson White. The first nickname newspapers used was The Thin Red Line. Hugh Roberts of the Birmingham Age-Herald is credited with being the first to use the term Crimson Tide in 1907 when Alabama tied a heavily favored Alabama Polytechnic Institute (Auburn) 6-6. The game was played in heavy rain and the field was red mud. The Thin Red Line was equal to the task and became the Crimson Tide.[22]

Harvard crimson

Displayed at left is the color Harvard crimson, the color which is symbolic of Harvard University.

The first recorded use of Harvard crimson as a color name in English was in 1928.

Red devil

At right is displayed the color red devil.

The color name red devil for this dark tone of crimson has been in use since 2001, when it was promulgated as one of the colors on the .

Boston University Red

Boston University Red, a shade of red, is one of the official colors of Boston University.[26][28]

In nature



In culture

Cultural references

  • The King's Royal Hussars still wear crimson trousers as successors to the 11th Hussars (the "Cherrypickers").
  • In Polish, karmazyn (crimson) is a synonym for a Magnate, i.e., a member of the rich, high nobility.
  • In texts of the Bahá'í Faith, crimson stands for tests and sacrifice, among other things.
  • in the series ' A Song Of Ice And Fire' by George R.R. Martin crimson is the family color of House Lannister.



School colors


Crimson is the national color of Nepal and forms the background of the country's flag.