pur·​ple | \ ˈpər-pəl How to pronounce purple (audio) \
purpler\ ˈpər-​p(ə-​)lər How to pronounce purpler (audio) \; purplest\ ˈpər-​p(ə-​)ləst How to pronounce purplest (audio) \

Definition of purple

 (Entry 1 of 3)

1 : having a color between red and blue : of the color purple a purple flower purple fabric … can only have left his antagonists purple with frustration.— Joseph Epstein
2a : ornately and showily phrased or expressed … the writing often descends into the purple prose of a besotted fan.— Stephen Holden … Rice is a first-rate writer. There are no purple patches in this narrative, and no attempts to sermonize.— Lawrence S. Cunningham
b : marked by profanity His language in public is so purple they had to stop broadcasting the meetings of the city council.Newsweek
3 US politics : having roughly equal levels of support for Democratic and Republican candidates or policies …a blue candidate trying to swipe a red seat in a purple state.— Don Rollins … as the race pulled tighter than Paris Hilton's jeans, Kerry volunteers flooded the purple states to energize their voters—tens of thousands of them newly registered.— Michelle Cottle — compare blue sense 9, red sense 5
4 dated : regal, imperial



Definition of purple (Entry 2 of 3)

1a(1) : cloth dyed purple
(2) : a garment of such color especially : a purple robe worn as an emblem of rank or authority
b(1) : tyrian purple
(2) : any of various colors that fall about midway between red and blue in hue
c(1) : a mollusk (as of the genus Purpura) yielding a purple dye and especially the Tyrian purple of ancient times
(2) : a pigment or dye that colors purple
2a : imperial or regal rank or power
b : high rank or station


purpled; purpling\ ˈpər-​p(ə-​)liŋ How to pronounce purpling (audio) \

Definition of purple (Entry 3 of 3)

transitive verb

: to make purple

intransitive verb

: to become purple

Keep scrolling for more

Examples of purple in a Sentence


The book contains a few purple passages. Her writing was full of purple prose.

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

What’s left of the Mandalay is spread out in about 12 feet of aquarium-clear water, home to schools of colorful fish, gaudy purple sea fans and all sorts of reef flora and fauna. Bonnie Gross, sun-sentinel.com, "Boat tours explore underwater Biscayne National Park," 20 June 2019 Not to be outdone, Fulton’s smoky Japanese sweet potato offered both a stunning, deeply elemental taste sensation and a treat for the eyes with its purple flesh, shocking white horseradish and dainty chive blossoms. Mark Kurlyandchik, Detroit Free Press, "An early taste of Pernoi, one of metro Detroit's most anticipated restaurants ever," 19 June 2019 The funny nurse appeared with a syringe of purple Infant Tylenol. Beth Spotswood, SFChronicle.com, "Trip to the ER with screaming baby a dose of reality," 19 June 2019 Planted Pigments Herno, a 71-year-old Italian outerwear label, is using farmable foodstuffs like olives, grapes and onions to dye jackets green, purple and yellow, respectively. Jacob Gallagher, WSJ, "Does ‘Sustainable Fashion’ Really Mean Anything?," 17 June 2019 Getty Images Getty Images The former Dawsons Creek star chose a shimmering Missoni gown this time, with a fitted strapless body, and striped floor length skirt in glittering, muted tones of blue, green and purple. Lucy Wood, Marie Claire, "Katie Holmes Wore a Missoni Ball Gown and Looked So Chic," 10 June 2019 Big green and purple barrel cactus bounce along the crisp white walls. azcentral, "61-year-old Scottsdale ranch home gets one more upgrade – a new backyard. Take a look," 6 June 2019 When Vogue toured the complex last year, it was adorned with oversized purple velvet chairs, celestial carpeting, and flowers. Alice Bell, Vogue, "Cosmic Flair: Home Decor Inspired by Prince’s Paisley Park," 19 Apr. 2018 The Pink Bali Lounge features fuchsia and purple bean bag lounge chairs and umbrellas as well as a place to get food or drinks. Melissa Minton, Teen Vogue, "This Unicorn-Themed "Inflatable Island" in the Philippines Is the Magical Vacation Destination of Your Dreams," 17 Apr. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

If a matte purple is too one dimensional for your taste, take a cue from this look and try a holographic color. Michelle Li, Teen Vogue, "8 Eyeshadow Colors Everyone Will Be Wearing This Summer," 6 June 2019 In fact, peacock spiders employ a complex variety of techniques to create their back-end bling, with their flickering reds and golds based on pigments, and the iridescent blues and purples being the work of light-reflecting structures. Nadia Drake, National Geographic, "How peacock spiders use optical illusions to woo females," 22 May 2019 The first flower colors have appeared — the white of snowdrops, the yellow of witch hazel, the electric blue of scilla, the purple of the earliest crocuses. Beth Botts, chicagotribune.com, "Mind your mulch: Here's how to get your garden ready for the rush of spring," 21 Mar. 2018 The manufacturer had provided Jurgen Klopp's side with bold away designs for the last three seasons, with last season's purple away kit following on from the prior season's 'Bold Citrus' strip. SI.com, "Liverpool Away Kit 2019/20: Reds Reveal Strip for Next Season," 7 June 2019 Her bright purple quilted jacket will go on top of that. David Canfield, EW.com, "Exclusive: The author of A Simple Favor is back with another juicy thriller," 5 June 2019 Kylie went for a Candy Land-meets-Marilyn Monroe type of vibe, wearing head-to-toe purple. Kelsey Stiegman, Seventeen, "Kendall and Kylie Jenner Wear Matching Feather Dresses on the 2019 Met Gala Red Carpet," 7 May 2019 The blues and purples also gave us ocean vibe romance. Gabe Bergado, Teen Vogue, "What Met Gala 2019 Outfit You Are According to Your Zodiac Sign," 7 May 2019 Just last week, more than a few New York designers sent models down the runway sporting sparkling throwback shadow shades ranging from icy blue to pastel purple. Jenna Rennert, Vogue, "Selena Gomez Tries Out This Season’s Trickiest Makeup Trend," 20 Feb. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'purple.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of purple


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a(1)


15th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense

History and Etymology for purple


Middle English purpel, alteration of purper, from Old English purpuran of purple, genitive of purpure purple color, from Latin purpura, from Greek porphyra

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about purple

Statistics for purple

Last Updated

23 Jun 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for purple

The first known use of purple was in the 15th century

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for purple



English Language Learners Definition of purple

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: of the color purple
disapproving : using many fancy words



English Language Learners Definition of purple (Entry 2 of 2)

: a color that is between red and blue


pur·​ple | \ ˈpər-pəl How to pronounce purple (audio) \

Kids Definition of purple

: a color between red and blue


pur·​ple | \ ˈpər-pəl How to pronounce purple (audio) \
purpler\ -​p(ə-​)lər How to pronounce purpler (audio) \; purplest\ -​p(ə-​)ləst How to pronounce purplest (audio) \

Medical Definition of purple

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: of the color purple



Medical Definition of purple (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : any of various colors that fall about midway between red and blue in hue
2 : a pigment or dye that colors purple — see visual purple

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on purple

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for purple

Spanish Central: Translation of purple

Nglish: Translation of purple for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of purple for Arabic Speakers

Comments on purple

What made you want to look up purple? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


a device or gadget

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Words for Summer: A Quiz

  • a closeup of a sunflower
  • Which of the following words means “of or relating to summer”?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!