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
(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

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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 Fans arriving for Monday’s public memorial service are being given a program that only contains photos, a purple KB pin and a T-shirt with photos of the father and daughter. Bloomberg.com, "The Latest: Kobe Bryant Service Ends With Oscar-winning Film," 18 May 2020 At one point my spouse morphed into a giant purple dinosaur. Jennifer Ouellette, Ars Technica, "Have a Good Trip is a gateway drug to de-stigmatizing psychedelics," 16 May 2020 Brut had sourced its dividers, in a purple hue, to match the industrial-chic decor. Shibani Mahtani, Washington Post, "Bars and barre return, but date night isn’t the same: A glimpse into the new normal," 15 May 2020 In protest, players donned purple alien suits and rose up against the bully green gang members. Cecilia D'anastasio, Wired, "An Alien War Took Over Grand Theft Auto V. It Could End Tonight," 15 May 2020 Borowiak, who had said goodbye to her mother on FaceTime, went to Bria of Geneva one last time and watched as the funeral home arrived to pick up her mother’s body, draped in purple velvet, her favorite color. Jodi S. Cohen, ProPublica, "A Quarter of the Residents at This Nursing Home Died From COVID-19. Families Want Answers.," 14 May 2020 Greenfield suggests gardeners try native or purple cultivars of Penstemon like Dark Towers for the tall plants at the back of the bed. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "7 ways to improve your home's curb appeal, for all those now walking by," 14 May 2020 Clad in a replica of Selena’s purple, midriff-baring jumpsuit, Lopez effectively re-creates that thrilling night, thanks in no small part to 34,000 screaming fans who donated their time as extras. Jeanne Jakle, ExpressNews.com, "Take a drive through San Antonio movie history from ‘Sugarland Express’ to ‘Selena’ and ‘Spy Kids’," 13 May 2020 The saccharine shade of purple lends itself well to the trappings of hyperfemininity, from frills to ruffles, and only gets more vivid when paired with reds, yellows, and greens. Georgia Murray, refinery29.com, "Fashion’s Spring Colors Are Good Enough To Eat," 12 May 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun When the pH level drops, that blue changes to a bright purple. Paul Stephen, ExpressNews.com, "Empress 1908 Gin a colorful addition to your home bar," 20 May 2020 Though the novel is satisfyingly plotted and page-turningly suspenseful, Ropes’s sense of prose ranges from awkward to purple, his sense of psychology is simple, and his view of context and power of analysis are stunted. Richard Brody, The New Yorker, "What to Read and Stream: The Remarkable Out-of-Print Book That Inspired “42nd Street”," 6 May 2020 There are signs that Texas, due to changing demographics, may be the next Electoral College giant to turn from red, if not to blue, then at least to purple. John A. Farrell, The New Republic, "TNR Newsletters. Must reads. 5 days a week.," 16 Apr. 2020 In the Wellton area, manicured rows sprout vegetables in colors from emerald green to deep purple. Ian James, azcentral, "On Arizona vegetable farms, growers grapple with harvest demands and coronavirus risks," 5 Apr. 2020 Today there are scores of cultivars with blooms ranging from pure white to deep purple. Paul Cappiello, The Courier-Journal, "Look outside, folks. We're having a magical magnolia year. One for the record books," 3 Apr. 2020 Texas has been a solidly red state that has been edging closer to purple in recent years. New York Times, "Super Tuesday States: A Look at Six Key Battlegrounds," 10 Mar. 2020 Though talk of turning Texas from bright red to purple has emerged before – with dire results for Democrats – analysts and consultants said recent elections show this year may prove different. Rick Jervis, USA TODAY, "2020 Democratic presidential primary hopefuls take aim at red Texas as Super Tuesday looms," 16 Feb. 2020 The sides and hinge are a metallic blue, the bezel around the screen is black, and the two big back panels are metallic purple when viewed straight on, or metallic yellow when viewed at an angle. Ron Amadeo, Ars Technica, "Samsung Galaxy Z Flip review—I think I hate flip phones," 28 Feb. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Bloom’s favorite subject: The human body freshly released from the grip of death, often flayed and purpling, flesh turned inside out. Globe Staff, BostonGlobe.com, "This Boston artist shunned the limelight. He deserves to be famous.," 1 Aug. 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.

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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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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

25 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Purple.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/purple. Accessed 3 Jun. 2020.

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More Definitions for purple


How to pronounce purple (audio)

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

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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

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