Skip to main content

The origins of words dealing with color can be a bit baffling at times. The deep origins of the English word “blue” seem to lead back to the Indo-European word *bhlēwos which meant “yellow.”

Note: the * indicates that the Indo-European word has been reconstructed by historical linguists.

The modern English word “blue” comes from the Old French “bleu.” This, in turn, seems to have come from the Common Romance *blāvus, which came from the prehistoric Germanic *blæwaz.

True Blue:

True blue, meaning faithful and steadfast, comes from the color of a fabric manufactured in Coventry, England during the Middle Ages. The cloth had a reputation for having a durable blue dye which resisted fading.

Blue Blood:

Blue bloods, the aristocrats, came into English from Spanish. The Spanish nobles of the Kingdom of Castile were stereotyped as having fair skin which revealed the blue veins underneath. The neighboring Moors (who were Muslim) supposedly had darker skins and thus their veins were not visible.

Blue Collar:

The term “blue collar” in reference to trades jobs was in 1924 in a newspaper in Alden Iowa. During the 1950s, blue collar came to refer to the millions of factory and trade workers. The term comes from their blue work shirts, as compared with the white shirts, ties, and jackets of management (the blue bloods).

Blue collar has come to have socioeconomic class meanings that extend outside of the workplace. Thus, we have blue collar bars, blue collar neighborhoods, blue collar food and drink, blue collar recreation, and so on.

As a corollary to blue collar, the concept of pink collar came to be used in reference to the millions of women in secretarial jobs.  

The Blues:

The idea of blue being associated with depression and melancholy seems to emerge in eighteenth-century London. In 1798 George Coman’s one-act farce Blue Devils used “blue devils” meaning melancholy and sadness. Then later, in the U.S., African American musicians developed a style of music known as the Blues which tells tales of misery and hard luck. In 1912, Hart Wand’s “Dallas Blues” was the first copyrighted blues composition. In his lyrics he uses the term blues to describe depression.

Dallas Blues

Blue Ribbon:

Blue ribbon originally referred to the ribbon worn below the left knee of a fourteenth-century British knight who had been admitted into the Most Noble Order of the Garter.


The Most Noble Order of the Garter was founded in 1348. Membership is limited to the Sovereign, the Prince of Wales, and no more than 24 members known as Companions.


The Companions are shown above.

Originally posted to Cranky Grammarians on Sat Aug 04, 2012 at 11:22 AM PDT.

Also republished by History for Kossacks and Progressive Friends of the Library Newsletter.

Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags


More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site