1858, "fine woolen fabric," from dialectal French beige "yellowish-gray, brownish-gray," from Old French bege "the natural color of wool and cotton; raw, not dyed" (13c.), of obscure origin. According to Gamillscheg, the French word was especially associated with the Burgundy and Franche-Comté regions. As a shade of color, it is attested in English from 1891. As an adjective, "having the natural color of undyed wool," by 1875.