O.E. geolu, geolwe, from P.Gmc. *gelwaz (cf. O.S., O.H.G. gelo, M.Du. ghele, Du. geel, M.H.G. gel, Ger. gelb, O.N. gulr, Swed. gul "yellow"), from PIE *ghel-/*ghol- "yellow, green" (see Chloe
). The verb meaning "to become yellow" is O.E. geoluwian. Adj. meaning "light-skinned"
(of blacks) first recorded 1808. Applied to Asiatics since 1787, though the first recorded reference is to Turkish words for inhabitants of India. Yellow peril translates Ger. die gelbe gefahr. Sense of "cowardly" is 1856, of unknown origin; the color was traditionally associated rather with treachery. Yellow-bellied "cowardly" is from 1924, probably a rhyming reduplication of yellow; earlier yellow-belly was a sailor's name for a half-caste (1867) and a Texas term for Mexican soldiers (1842, based on the color of their uniforms). Yellow dog "mongrel" is attested from c.1770; slang sense of "contemptible person" first recorded 1881.
"sensational chauvinism in the media," 1898, Amer.Eng. from newspaper agitation for war with Spain; originally "publicity stunt use of colored ink" (1895) in ref. to the popular Yellow Kid"character (his clothes were yellow) in Richard Outcault's comic strip "Shantytown" in the "New York World."