Where did the list of X11 color names come from? Every resource I've found online claims the origin is unknown, but it must be recorded somewhere. The best information I've found was in an archived discussion page at Wikipedia's Wikiproject Color:

The X11 color names were designed (...) by computer scientists making things up as they went along.


It is true the X11 colors were the work of mostly clueless grad students

Is there anything more substantial about the origins of the X11 color names?

  • 4
    Why the downvotes?
    – waldyrious
    Apr 18, 2013 at 17:21
  • Waldir: Look at the original post before Sukminder edited it.
    – user26112
    Apr 18, 2013 at 19:58
  • @EvanTeitelman: Sukminder's edit only changed a typo. Maybe you meant Michael Mrozek's edit instead? In any case, the question was downvoted after his edit, so I'm not really sure what, in either my original post, or the version after his edit, offended the principles of unix.SX. Hence my question.
    – waldyrious
    Apr 19, 2013 at 19:22
  • 2
    I made a couple of errors here. You are correct; I did mean Michael Mrozek's edit. I somehow missed that I was replying to the question's original poster in the comments. My sincerest apologies; I meant no insult. I meant to point out the possibility that the downvoters disliked the style of the original post. If the downvotes were received after the post's style was rennovated, then they seem truly unjustified.
    – user26112
    Apr 20, 2013 at 1:25
  • 1
    Isn't think kinda in the docs? The readme in the /other subfolder is actually a surprisingly fun read. And it talk about various named people sitting down with crayons and paints. (NB the link i posted is to someones githiub mirror, but it is the same as the one that is buried deep in the XOrg ftp) Oct 22, 2016 at 8:49

1 Answer 1


The ones used today is mainly from release X11R4. See below. That is: not only by name but also by definition.

Looking at Wikipedias entry on X11 color names it states that they were defined by Bob Scheifler of MIT's Laboratory for Computer Science. As he lead out the birth of X back in 1984 that is probably correct – but the reference has no such claims.

Looking at one of the first releases, X.V10R3, another name pops out when looking at the code, namely Tony Della Fera of MIT Laboratory for Computer Science, Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) and Project Athena.

He did at least commit the rgb.c file back in 86 ;)

static char *rcsid_rgb_c = "$Header: rgb.c,v 10.4 86/02/01 15:55:22 tony Rel $";

In the following release, X.V10R4, he is also credited in the man pages for e.g. X and xload.

Anyhow is it rather safe bet to guess Bob Scheifler had at least a big part in compiling the list given his role in the core start.

(A note from net.unix-wizards, X Window System Release 3 (Protocol Version 10) – Jim Gettys, Paul Asente, Brian Reid and Bob Scheifler on V vs W vs X on origins, credit, etc.)

But; that does not mean he or they actually coined the names. It could also origin form the Ultrix Window Manager as it got included in X. It at least uses color naming like Aquamarine, MediumSeaGreen etc.

LINFO X Origins of X.

Colors by revision

X10R3 - X11R1 ; 1986 - 1987

The colors for release (Dates from here):

10R3 ca. 1986-06-07
10R4 ca. 1986-12-25
11R1 ca. 1987-09-18

are the same. 69 colors given by lowercase separated words and upper camel case.


255 240 245     lavender blush
255 240 245     LavenderBlush

X11R2, ca. 1988-03-24

In release 11R2 two new colors came along namely:

Brown   165 42  42
Gray    192 192 192
Grey    192 192 192

Yes, gray was by two names. From notes it also seems some people was happy about this because they always forgot if it was grey or gray – ref. xfd change suggestion by HP Labs:


X11R3, ca. 1988-10-27

In release 11R3 there was a few changes SandyBrown came along. Until now white had been RGB 252 252 252 but now was changed to 255 255 255.

101 shades of gray was also introduced. Going from

gray0     0   0   0
gray1     3   3   3
gray2     5   5   5
# ... to
gray100 255 255 255
# with a 3-2 interval.

That would mean, as both grey and gray was used – 202 new names.

Gray variants was used earlier as well but then mere in the form of:

menu = "  CREATE WINDOW  " {
Black:      !"xterm -r -bw 3 &"
White:      !"xterm -bw 3 &"
"Gray #1":  !"xterm -bw 3 -bg LimeGreen -fg Black &"
"Gray #2":  !"xterm -bw 3 -bg MediumSeaGreen -fg White &"
"Gray #3":  !"xterm -bw 3 -bd White -bg DarkSlateGray -fg White &"

and various shades dynamically generated in C, and bitmaps such as gray3.bitmap:

#define gray3_width 16
#define gray3_height 16
static short gray3_bits[] = {
   0x1111, 0x0000, 0x4444, 0x0000,
   0x1111, 0x0000, 0x4444, 0x0000,
   0x1111, 0x0000, 0x4444, 0x0000,
   0x1111, 0x0000, 0x4444, 0x0000};

used to tile backgrounds etc.

X11R4, 1989-01-29

Then by release 11R4 came a major change (X11R4/mit/rgb/others/README) by the hands of Paul Raveling at Information Sciences Institute (ISI) of the University of Southern California and John C Thomas at Tektronix, Inc. Oregon (at least).

They removed two and added 376 new colors but also redefined almost all colors. These values are what stands today. A few has been added later.

Thomas, funny enough, among other things, did tuning by going trough 72 Crayola crayons. Paul Raveling then did further tuning using his own HP monitor.

The README speaks for itself.

Crayola crayons

Image from http://blog.flauntme.com/2010/02/17/diy-crayon-lipstick/

Example of tuning:

-OLD-                     -NEW-
BlueViolet 159  95 159    BlueViolet  138  43 226
DarkGreen   47  79  47    DarkGreen     0 100   0
Firebrick  142  35  35    Firebrick   178  34  34

Added colors:

AliceBlue        Gainsboro       Linen          PaleGoldenrod   RosyBrown  
AntiqueWhite     GhostWhite      MediumPurple   PaleTurquoise   RoyalBlue  
Azure            Honeydew        MintCream      PaleVioletRed   SaddleBrown
Beige            HotPink         MistyRose      PapayaWhip      Seashell   
Bisque           Lavender        Moccasin       PeachPuff       SlateGray  
BlanchedAlmond   LavenderBlush   NavajoWhite    Peru            SlateGrey  
burlywood        LawnGreen       OldLace        PowderBlue      Snow       
DodgerBlue       LemonChiffon    OliveDrab      Purple          Tomato     

DarkGoldenrod    DarkOrange      DarkSeaGreen   DeepPink   
DarkKhaki        DarkSalmon      DarkViolet     DeepSkyBlue

LightCoral       LightGoldenrodYellow   LightSeaGreen    LightSlateGray
LightCyan        LightPink              LightSkyBlue     LightSlateGrey
LightGoldenrod   LightSalmon            LightSlateBlue   LightYellow   

And also 312 shades like:

snow1 snow2 snow3 snow4
seashell1 seashell2 seashell3 seashell4



MediumForestGreen  107 142  35
MediumGoldenrod    234 234 173

X11R5, 1994-05-18

Gray and grey was changed from 192 192 192 to 190 190 190.

X11R6, 1995-03-02

New additions:

DarkBlue   DarkCyan   DarkMagneta   DarkGray   LightGreen   DarkRed   

X11R6 - DD.

None I'm aware of. Notice Wikipedia also list six W3C colors plus teal, olive, crimson, fuchsia, indigo and an alias for cyan as aqua.

  • That was incredibly informative. Thanks a lot! I'll see what I can do about integrating this information back into Wikipedia :)
    – waldyrious
    May 12, 2013 at 9:24
  • Too bad there's no info on individual names. I'm curious how "AliceBlue" and "Peru" ended up in the list for example. Jan 9 at 17:10

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