Word Origin & History
O.E. purpul, dissimilation (first recorded in Northumbrian, in Lindisfarne gospel) from purpure "purple garment," purpuren "purple," from L. purpura "purple-dyed cloak, purple dye," also "shellfish from which purple was made," from Gk. porphyra (see porphyry
), of Semitic
origin, originally the name for the shellfish (murex) from which it was obtained. Tyrian purple, produced around Tyre, was prized as dye for royal garments. As a color name, attested from late 14c. Also the color of mourning or penitence (especially in royalty or clergy). Rhetorical for "splendid, gaudy" (of prose) from 1590s. Purpur continued as a parallel form until 15c., and through 19c. in heraldry. Purple Heart, U.S. decoration for service members wounded in combat, instituted 1932; originally a cloth decoration begun by George Washington in 1782. Hendrix' Purple Haze (1967) is slang for "LSD."