Brown is a color term, denoting a range of composite colors produced by a mixture of orange, red, rose, or yellow with black or gray. The term is from Old English brún, in origin for any dusky or dark shade of color. The Common Germanic adjective *brûnoz, *brûnâ meant both dark colors and a glistening or shining quality, whence burnish. The current meaning developed in Middle English from the 14th century.
The adjective is applied to naturally occurring colors, referring to animal fur, human hair, human skin pigmentation (tans), partially charred or carbonized fiber as in toasted bread and other foods, peat, withered leaves, etc.
In terms of the visible spectrum, "brown" refers to high wavelength (low frequency) hues, yellow, orange, or red, in combination with low luminance or saturation. Since brown may cover a wide range of the visible spectrum, composite adjectives are used such as red brown, yellowish brown, dark brown or light brown.
As a color of low intensity, brown is a tertiary color: a mix of the three subtractive primary colors is brown if the cyan content is low. Brown exists as a color perception only in the presence of a brighter color contrast: yellow, orange, red, or rose objects are still perceived as such if the general illumination level is low, despite reflecting the same amount of red or orange light as a brown object would in normal lighting conditions.
The first recorded use of brown as a color name in English was in 1000.
Variations of brown
Red-brown (web color "brown")
The web color called "brown" is displayed at right.
The historical and traditional name for this color is red-brown.
The color shown above at the top right at the head of this article (color #964B00) is the color normally and traditionally regarded as brown--a medium dark orange. Its h (hue) code is 30, which signifies a shade of orange. The color to the immediate right (color #A52A2A) that was chosen as the web color "brown"--a medium dark red—is the color traditionally called red-brown. That this color is a shade of red and not orange can be easily ascertained by inspecting its h (hue) code, which is 0, signifying a shade of red.
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