The word magenta has surprisingly militaristic origins. In 1859, the Second French Empire (under Louis Napoleon) crushed the Austrian empire in the Battle of Magenta (in Lombardy). At the time, the victory was monumental, and when British dye chemist Edward Chambers Nicholson had the chance to name the color that same year, he did it after the battle. The color was associated because of the hue of the French soldiers' uniforms, and soon became ubiquitously known as it is. But where did the name Magenta come from? It had been around for ages, and before the battle no one bothered to etymologize it, so our knowledge is vague. It seems to be a remnant of Roman times; supposedly Magenta was named after the emperor Marcus Maxentius. The root of the word is not listed anywhere, but I theorize that it derives from the word maximus, or "greatest". Fitting for a Roman emperor. If this is the case, the word is from Proto-Indo-European meghs ("great"), but it might not be. What we can take away from this, really, is that magenta has had armies and rulers alike lay claim to its etymons.
Adam Aleksic is a 221-month-old, 2800-ounce high school senior with disturbing interests in etymology, vexillology, geography, board games, limericks, and law. Adam will be studying linguistics at Harvard University in the fall.
The Etymology Nerd