Etymology
Advertisement
pink (v.)

c. 1200, pungde "to pierce, puncture, stab with a pointed weapon," later (early 14c.) "make holes in; spur a horse," of uncertain origin; perhaps from a nasalized form of the Romanic stem that also yielded French piquer "to prick, pierce," Spanish picar (see pike (n.1)). Or perhaps from Old English pyngan and directly from its source, Latin pungere "to prick, pierce" (from suffixed form of PIE root *peuk- "to prick"). Related: Pinked; pinking.

Later "to decorate (a garment, leather) by making small holes in a regular pattern at the edge or elsewhere" (c. 1500). Surviving mainly in pinking shears (by 1934).

Related entries & more 
Advertisement
pink (n., adj.)

1570s, common name of Dianthus, a garden plant of various colors; a word of unknown origin. It is perhaps from pink (v.) via the notion of "perforated" (scalloped) petals. Or perhaps it is from Dutch pink "small, narrow" (see pinkie), itself obscure, via the term pinck oogen "half-closed eyes," literally "small eyes," which was borrowed into English (1570s) and may have been used as a name for Dianthus, which sometimes has small dots resembling eyes.

The noun meaning "pale red color, red color of low chroma but high luminosity" is recorded by 1733 (pink-coloured is recorded from 1680s), from one of the common colors of the flowers.  The adjective pink is attested by 1720. As an earlier name for such a color English had incarnation "flesh-color" (mid-14c.), and as an adjective incarnate (1530s), from Latin words for "flesh" (see incarnation) but these also had other associations and tended to drift in sense from "flesh-color, blush-color" toward "crimson, blood color."

The flower meaning led (by 1590s) to a figurative use for "the flower" or highest type or example of excellence of anything (as in Mercutio's "Nay, I am the very pinck of curtesie," Rom. & Jul. II.iv.61). Compare flour (n.). The political noun sense "person perceived as left of center but not entirely radical (i.e. red)" is attested by 1927, but the image dates to at least 1837. Pink slip "discharge notice" is attested by 1915; pink slips had various connotations in employment in the first decade of the 20th century, including a paper signed by a worker to testify he would leave the labor union or else be fired. To see pink elephants "hallucinate from alcoholism" is from 1913 in Jack London's "John Barleycorn."

Related entries & more 
rainbow (n.)

"arc of prismatic colors formed by the refraction of light rays by drops of rain or vapor," Middle English rein-bowe, from Old English renboga; see rain (n.) + bow (n.). Common Germanic compound (Old Frisian reinboga, Old Norse regnbogi, Swedish regenbåge, Dutch regenboog, German Regenbogen). The American rainbow trout (1876) is so called for its resplendent colors. Old English also had scurboga "shower-bow."

Related entries & more 
pink-eye (n.)

contagious eye infection, 1882, American English, from pink (adj.) + eye (n.). Earlier it meant "a small eye" (1570s).

Related entries & more 
pink-collar (adj.)

in reference to jobs generally held by women, 1977, from pink (adj.), considered a characteristically feminine color, + collar (n.). Compare blue-collar, white-collar.

Related entries & more 
Advertisement
pinky (adj.)

"pinkish, somewhat pink," 1790, from pink (n.) + -y (2).

Related entries & more 
iridescent (adj.)

1784, literally "rainbow-colored," coined from Latin iris (genitive iridis) "rainbow" (see iris). The verb iridesce (1868) is a back-formation. Related: Iridescently.

Related entries & more 
pinkish (adj.)

"somewhat pink," 1784, from pink (n.) + -ish.

Related entries & more 
tickled (adj.)

"pleased, happy," 1580s, past-participle adjective from tickle (v.). To be tickled pink is from 1909.

Related entries & more 
iris (n.)

late 14c. as the name of a flowering plant (Iris germanica); early 15c. in reference to the eye membrane, from Latin iris (plural irides) "iris of the eye; iris plant; rainbow," from Greek iris (genitive iridos) "a rainbow;" also "iris plant" and "iris of the eye," a word of uncertain origin, traditionally derived from PIE root *wei- "to bend, turn, twist."

Iris was the name of the minister and messenger of the Olympian gods (especially of Hera), visibly represented by the rainbow (which was regarded as the descent of a celestial messenger). From the oldest parts of the Iliad the word is used of both the messenger and the rainbow.

The eye region was so called (early 15c. in English) for being the part that gives color to the eye; the Greek word was used of any brightly colored circle, "as that round the eyes of a peacock's tail" [Liddell & Scott]. Another sense in Middle English was "prismatic rock crystal." Related: Iridian; iridine.

Related entries & more