"precious metal noted for its color, luster, malleability, and freedom from rust or tarnish," Old English gold, from Proto-Germanic *gulthan "gold" (source also of Old Saxon, Old Frisian, Old High German gold, German Gold, Middle Dutch gout, Dutch goud, Old Norse gull, Danish guld, Gothic gulþ), from PIE root *ghel- (2) "to shine," with derivatives denoting gold (the "bright" metal).
The root is the general Indo-European one for "gold," found in Germanic, Balto-Slavic (compare Old Church Slavonic zlato, Russian zoloto, "gold"), and Indo-Iranian. Finnish kulta is from German; Hungarian izlot is from Slavic. For Latin aurum see aureate. Greek khrysos probably is from Semitic.
From Homer on through Middle English, "red" often is given as a characteristic color of pure gold or objects made from it. This is puzzling, but it might stem from an ancient practice of testing the purity of gold by heating it; in Middle English red gold was "pure gold" (c. 1200).
Nay, even more than this, the oftener gold is subjected to the action of fire, the more refined in quality it becomes; indeed, fire is one test of its goodness, as, when submitted to intense heat, gold ought to assume a similar colour, and turn red and igneous in appearance; a mode of testing which is known as "obrussa." [Pliny, "Natural History," 33.19]
mid-15c., "one who digs;" 1680s, "instrument for digging," agent noun from dig (v.). The communistic movement in England so called from 1649. Meaning "one who seeks gold in a prospecting place" is from 1853. In 19c. American-English, it was the name for degraded Native Americans in the West, who were so called for living chiefly upon dug-up roots (1837).