I am kurious… orang?

How's this for a spooky coincidence? Orang-utans are orange in colour, but the orang bit of their name has absolutely nothing to do with the colour orange.

The word orang-utan derives from the Malay/Indonesian words orang, meaning person, and hutan meaning forest; orang-utans were people of the forest. Years before Darwin, the wise folks of the Malay Archepelago knew a close relative when they saw one.

The word orange, on the other hand, has a very complex derivation, given on Answers.com as follows:

Middle English, from Old French pume orenge, translation and alteration (influenced by Orenge, Orange, a town in France) of Old Italian melarancio: mela, fruit + arancio, orange tree (alteration of Arabic naranj, from Persian narang, from Sanskrit narangah?, possibly of Dravidian origin).

In other words, absolutely nothing to do with orang-utans. Like I said, spooky coincidence.

I worry about this sort of thing a lot.

Richard Carter

A fat, bearded chap with a Charles Darwin fixation.


  1. I was interested to discover that in Thailand, where oranges are evidently green, not orange, the word for the fruit is the same as the word for the colour we call orange (unless I missed a trick with tones, which I don't think is the case here; it's something close to "som" if you're interested). I asked a Thai friend about it and they said, obviously, it's because it's orange inside, you daft foreigner. But still, it seemed curious to me, because we don't generally describe things according the colour of their insides.

    I suppose it would knock the language of racism into touch if we did, of course.

    Also, you say the derivation of the word "orange" has nothing to do with orang-utans, but how do you know that those original orange trees didn't have orang-utans in them?

  2. You should get out more, Richard. You'll wind up looking like an orang utang, ha ha

  3. Also, if we call an orange an orange, why don't wecall a violet a vio- oh, hold on - we do. OK then,well, why don't we call a lilac a...

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