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

Definition of purple (Entry 3 of 3)

transitive verb

: to make purple

intransitive verb

: to become purple

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Examples of purple in a Sentence

Adjective The book contains a few purple passages. Her writing was full of purple prose.
Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective While no California counties are in the most restrictive purple tier, a dozen of the state’s 58 counties are in the second-most restrictive, or red, tier. Los Angeles Times, "In dramatic shift, California COVID-19 hospitalizations are lowest since pandemic’s start," 5 May 2021 Los Angeles County, though, never made it out of the most restrictive purple tier until this spring. Erin Allday, San Francisco Chronicle, "S.F. and Los Angeles enter the yellow tier together. How did that happen?," 4 May 2021 Mira Mesa resident Lillygol Sedaghat and Clairmont resident Cory Howell — co-founders of Suan Tian Stories — have been meeting up in Balboa Park ever since San Diego re-entered the purple tier last fall. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Mask wearing outdoors still evokes range of emotions, even with looser guidelines," 1 May 2021 Seventeen counties remain in the red tier, and none are left in the strictest purple tier. Luke Money, Los Angeles Times, "Santa Barbara County among 5 joining orange tier as California’s reopening continues," 20 Apr. 2021 Lynn Reaser, chief economist at Point Loma Nazarene University, said the numbers are still from early March when the county was in the most restrictive virus restriction level, the purple tier. Phillip Molnar, San Diego Union-Tribune, "San Diego unemployment drops to nearly lowest level of the pandemic," 16 Apr. 2021 Inyo County advanced out of the most restrictive purple tier to red. Chronicle Staff, San Francisco Chronicle, "Coronavirus news from the Bay Area: April 8-14, 2021," 15 Apr. 2021 Hotels have been open since the purple tier, but the move to orange means that on-site fitness centers can use 25 percent of their capacity. San Diego Union-Tribune, "A guide to reopening in the COVID-19 orange tier: what San Diegans need to know," 8 Apr. 2021 Only three counties — none in the Bay Area — remain in the most restrictive purple tier of California’s pandemic reopening plan. Aidin Vaziri, San Francisco Chronicle, "California plans to retire color-coded tiers, as more Bay Area counties poised to enter orange," 2 Apr. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun In a bit of a surprise, Apple dedicated some stage time to announce that the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 mini are now available in purple. CNN, "Apple unveils a new iPad Pro, colorful iMacs, AirTag and more," 20 Apr. 2021 Only eight — Fresno, Glenn, Inyo, Kings, Madera, Merced, San Joaquin and Yuba — remain in the purple. Luke Money, Los Angeles Times, "L.A. County, O.C. reach orange-tier coronavirus numbers; wider reopenings could be a week away," 23 Mar. 2021 Much of Southern California, including the park's Anaheim location, is currently in the purple -- and most restrictive -- tier. Mark Osborne, ABC News, "Disneyland, baseball stadiums set to reopen next month in California," 5 Mar. 2021 Another in purple would strike up a few feet away before flickering out. Courtney Tanner, The Salt Lake Tribune, "LGBTQ students at BYU light up the ‘Y’ in rainbow colors," 4 Mar. 2021 This would apply even to schools in counties that are in the purple, most restrictive tier. Dustin Gardiner, San Francisco Chronicle, "California lawmakers push ahead on school reopening deal without Newsom," 18 Feb. 2021 Kamala Harris and Michelle Obama were visions in purple, Lady Gaga nodded to The Hunger Games with couture Schiaparelli, and Bernie Sanders went viral for his mittens knit by a Vermont schoolteacher. Eliza Huber, refinery29.com, "TikTok Has Spoken — & It Wants More Fashion Looks From The Biden Grandchildren," 21 Jan. 2021 Former first lady Michelle Obama was also dressed in purple. Katherine Doyle, Washington Examiner, "Kamala Harris sworn in as America's first female vice president," 20 Jan. 2021 Only outdoor, low-contact sports are allowed in purple; those include swimming, golf, tennis, cross country and track and field. Mark Zeigler, San Diego Union-Tribune, "California quietly issues youth sports guidance for return to games," 14 Dec. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Only one Bay Area county — San Francisco — has ever hit yellow; it was moved back to purple with every other county in the state when cases surged in November. Meghan Bobrowsky, San Francisco Chronicle, "Marin County may be first in Bay Area to enter yellow tier," 18 Apr. 2021 The pack moves from pink to orange to blue to purple to animal print. Sarah Spellings, Vogue, "Josie and the Pussycats Is One of the Greatest Y2K Fashion Movies," 9 Apr. 2021 The sky turned from black to purple to pink and blue. Charles Bethea, The New Yorker, "On the Overnight Shift with the Amazon Union Organizers," 22 Mar. 2021 Less than two months later, most were downgraded to purple after easing of restrictions was accompanied by backsliding on progress. Kellie Hwang, San Francisco Chronicle, "San Francisco just hit its lowest COVID case rate since one year ago. Here's how other Bay Area counties compare," 22 Mar. 2021 To be a part of it, simply change your profile picture to purple on social media and declare your own black excellence on March 26th at 8PM. Noel Cody, Essence, "What is Black Excellence & Where Does It Live?," 19 Mar. 2021 After a few days tick by, China flips to purple—all classrooms are closed. Lila Maclellan, Quartz at Work, "Can companies help working parents without alienating everyone else?," 29 Dec. 2020 Cuyahoga County, at the time, was marked to escalate to purple. Emily Bamforth, cleveland, "See how Northeast Ohio public schools changed learning models throughout fall semester (maps)," 12 Dec. 2020 Yet even for some of the counties downgraded to purple this week, the indicators improved over a week ago. Rich Exner, cleveland, "Summit, Medina, Portage counties join Lorain and Lake on purple alert for coronavirus; Cuyahoga now on ‘watch’ for purple," 3 Dec. 2020

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.

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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

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Learn More about purple

Time Traveler for purple

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for purple

Last Updated

8 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Purple.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/purple. Accessed 8 May. 2021.

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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 purple (audio) \; purplest\ -​p(ə-​)ləst How to pronounce purple (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

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