When the word crimson was borrowed into the English language in the 1400s, it took a lot of different forms. There was cremesin, cremesyn, and several other variations, and all of that was borrowed from Italian, where there was an even more diverse myriad of forms. Carmesi, cremesi, carmisino, and cremesinus all meant the color throughout time, but could also refer to the cochineal dye used to create crimson. The Italians acquired those terms through trade with the Arabs, who had their own word, qirmiz, to describe kermes, the type of dye made from crushed insects that yields the color red. Eventually, the word traces to Proto-Indo-European (not Proto-Semitic!) krmis, meaning "worm", because at one point the hue was also made through crushing worms. How lovely.
Hello! I'm Adam Aleksic, a sophomore studying government and linguistics at Harvard University, where I co-founded the Harvard Undergraduate Linguistics Society. In addition to etymology, I also really enjoy politics, vexillology, geography, board games, conlanging, and law.