Word of the Day


© Alamy Stock Photo
Liz Potter
Written by Liz Potter


a hard green substance used for making jewellery and art objects

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.

Origin and usage

The noun jade has two completely separate origins. Before it referred to a hard green mineral,  jade was a disparaging term first for a horse and later for a woman. This noun was first used in the late 14th century. While the origin of this earlier word is unclear, the mineral meaning is derived from a French masculine noun ‘le jade’, which was a misunderstanding of the earlier feminine noun ‘l’ejade’. This came from the Italian ‘iada’ and Spanish ‘ijada’, and was first used in English in the 17th century.


The ‘horse’ meaning of jade was used by writers of the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, as in the quotations below, but has now fallen out of use completely. The colour term jade or jade green gets its name from the hard green mineral used to make jewellery or art objects. Jade in fact refers to two different minerals, jadeite and nephrite, which are both silicates. Jade‘s hardness led it to be used to make cutting tools and weapons, and the stone was particularly important in Chinese culture. The adjective jaded, which is related to the earlier noun, means no longer enthusiastic or excited about things. The Macmillan Dictionary definition for this word goes on to say that feeling like this is often the result of many disappointing experiences. Jaded collocates with nouns like ‘cynic’ and ‘cynicism’ and with adjectives like ‘cynical’, ‘world-weary’, ‘pessimistic’ and ‘bored’. Someone who has a jaded palate is no longer excited by food or different tastes; the expression is also used figuratively to refer to weariness of things other than food, such as ideas, experiences or art forms.


This same philosophy is a good horse in the stable, but an errant jade on a journey.
(Oliver Goldsmith, The Good Natur’d Man)

Down, down I come like glist’ring Phaethon/Wanting the manage of unruly jades.
(Shakespeare, Richard II)

Related words

amber, coral, pearl, tortoiseshell

Browse related words in the Macmillan Thesaurus.

About the author

Liz Potter

Liz Potter

Leave a Comment