Word of the Day


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Liz Potter
Written by Liz Potter


rusty red in colour

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.

Origin and usage

The adjective rubigionous comes from the Latin ‘rubigo’ meaning rust, and was first used in English in the late 16th century, when it meant ‘tending to rust or affected by rust’. It was first used with the current meaning in the late 18th century.


Rubiginous, a recent submission to the Open Dictionary by an anonymous user, is almost vanishingly rare. The huge enTenTen15 corpus only contains one genuine citation, from a piece by an artist about his work. A Google search gives around 164,000 results, but the top ten are all dictionary definitions, a good indication that a word isn’t being used much. There are literally thousands of words that describe specific colours, many of them highly descriptive, humorous, mysterious, or even poetic (for example, just from the Bs: Black leather jacket, Blood (Animal), Barbie Pink, Big Foot Feet, and Bulgarian rose). Rubiginous does not describe a specific colour but rather a general shade that is more usually described by more frequent words such as rusty or russet. Macmillan Dictionary contains well over 100 entries for words describing colour, from alabaster to yellowy, which you can find listed here. There are more in the thesaurus entry on the topic linked to below. Many of the entries are illustrated with images of the colour, this being a case in which a picture is worth, if not a thousand, then at least several words.

We are happy to receive all your submissions to the Open Dictionary, provided they are not already in the dictionary, are actually used and are not invented. Common words and expressions are as just as welcome as technical terms or rare words like rubiginous.


“In general the rather unique rubiginous colour that I can call forth with the [iron sulphate] (and that only with great difficulty can be achieved with e.g. a colour pigment of iron oxide) is the main point of my project.”
(enTenTen15 corpus)

Related words

bronze, brownish, coppery, terracotta

Browse related words in the Macmillan Thesaurus.

About the author

Liz Potter

Liz Potter

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