blue

{{11}}blue (v.) "to make blue," c.1600, from BLUE (Cf. blue) (1).
{{12}}blue (1) c.1300, bleu, blwe, etc., from O.Fr. blo "pale, pallid, wan, light-colored; blond; discolored; blue, blue-gray," from Frankish *blao or some other Germanic source, from P.Gmc. *blæwaz (Cf. O.E. blaw, O.S., O.H.G. blao, Dan. blaa, Swed. blô, O.Fris. blau, M.Du. bla, Du. blauw, Ger. blau "blue"), from PIE *bhle-was "light-colored, blue, blond, yellow."
The exact color to which the Gmc. term applies varies in the older dialects; M.H.G. bla is also 'yellow,' whereas the Scandinavian words may refer esp. to a deep, swarthy black, e.g. O.N. blamaðr, N.Icel. blamaður 'Negro' [Buck]
Replaced O.E. blaw, from the same PIE root (bhel- (1) "to shine, flash," see BLEACH (Cf. bleach) (v.)), which also yielded L. flavus "yellow," O.Sp. blavo "yellowish-gray," Gk. phalos "white," Welsh blawr "gray," O.N. bla "livid" (the meaning in black and blue), showing the usual slippery definition of color words in I.E. The present spelling is since 16c., from French influence (Mod.Fr. bleu).
Few words enter more largely into the composition of slang, and colloquialisms bordering on slang, than does the word BLUE. Expressive alike of the utmost contempt, as of all that men hold dearest and love best, its manifold combinations, in ever varying shades of meaning, greet the philologist at every turn. [John S. Farmer, "Slang and Its Analogues Past and Present," 1890, p.252]
The color of constancy since Chaucer at least, but apparently for no deeper reason than the rhyme in true blue (c.1500). From early times blue was the distinctive color of the dress of servants, which may be the reason police uniforms are blue, a tradition Farmer dates to Elizabethan times. For blue ribbon see cordon bleu under CORDON (Cf. cordon). Blue whale attested from 1851, so called for its color. The flower name blue bell is recorded by 1570s. Blue streak, of something resembling a blt of lightning (for quickness, intensity, etc.) is from 1830, U.S. Western slang.
Many IE languages seem to have had a word to describe the color of the sea, encompasing blue and green and gray; e.g. Ir. glass (see CHLOE (Cf. Chloe)); O.E. hæwen "blue, gray," related to har (see HOAR (Cf. hoar)); Serbo-Cr. sinji "gray-blue, sea-green;" Lith. ЕЎyvas, Rus. sivyj "gray."
{{12}}blue (2) "lewd, indecent" recorded from 1840 (in form blueness, in an essay of Carlyle's); the sense connection is unclear, and is opposite to that in BLUE LAWS (Cf. blue laws) (q.v.). John Mactaggart's "Scottish Gallovidian Encyclopedia" (1824) containing odd words he had learned while growing up in Galloway and elsewhere in Scotland, has an entry for Thread o'Blue, "any little smutty touch in song-singing, chatting, or piece of writing." Farmer ["Slang and Its Analogues Past and Present," 1890] offers the theory that this meaning derives from the blue dress uniforms issued to harlots in houses of correction, but he writes that the earlier slang authority John Camden Hotten "suggests it as coming from the French Bibliothèque Bleu, a series of books of very questionable character," and adds, from Hotten, that, "Books or conversation of an entirely opposite nature are said to be Brown or Quakerish, i.e., serious, grave, decent."

Etymology dictionary. 2014.

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  • Blue — (bl[=u]), a. [Compar. {Bluer} (bl[=u] [ e]r); superl. {Bluest}.] [OE. bla, blo, blew, blue, livid, black, fr. Icel.bl[=a]r livid; akin to Dan. blaa blue, Sw. bl[*a], D. blauw, OHG. bl[=a]o, G. blau; but influenced in form by F. bleu, from OHG.… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

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  • Blue — (englisch für blau) steht für: Blue (Familienname), Personen mit diesem Namen Blue (Band), britische Popgruppe Blue (Deutsche Band), ist eine deutsche Band Blue (Manga), japanische Mangaserie Blue (Da Ba Dee), ein Lied der italienischen… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

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  • blue — [blo͞o] adj. [ME & OFr bleu < Frank * blao < IE base * bhlē wos, light colored, blue, blond, yellow > L flavus, yellow, Brythonic blawr, gray, OE blæwen, blue, Ger blau] 1. having the color of the clear sky or the deep sea 2. having a… …   English World dictionary

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  • blue — Ⅰ. blue [1] ► ADJECTIVE (bluer, bluest) 1) of a colour intermediate between green and violet, as of the sky on a sunny day. 2) informal melancholy or depressed. 3) informal (of a film, joke, or story) with sexual or pornographic content. 4) (of a …   English terms dictionary

  • Blue — (bl[=u]), n. 1. One of the seven colors into which the rays of light divide themselves, when refracted through a glass prism; the color of the clear sky, or a color resembling that, whether lighter or darker; a pigment having such color.… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

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