AskDefine | Define mauve

Dictionary Definition

mauve adj : of a pale to moderate grayish violet color n : a moderate purple

User Contributed Dictionary



From French mauve, from Latin malva, ‘mallow’, which has a purple colour. First coined in 1856 by the chemist William Henry Perkin, when he accidentally created the first aniline dye.



  1. A bright purple synthetic dye.
  2. The colour of this dye; a pale purple or violet colour.
    mauve colour:   





  1. having a pale purple colour.




See also



  • /mov/

Etymology 1

From Latin malva, ‘mallow’, which has a purple colour.


fr-noun f
fr-noun m


  1. mauve

Etymology 2

Cognate with mouette, Old English mæw, English mew, German Möwe, Polish mewa


fr-noun f
Related terms

Extensive Definition

distinguish move
Mauve (French form of Malva, "mallow"; , rhymes with "grove") is a pale lavender-lilac color, one of many in the range of purples.


Displayed at right is the color mauve. It is more grey and more blue than a pale tint of magenta would be. Many pale wildflowers called "blue" are actually mauve.


Mauve was first named in 1856. Chemist William Henry Perkin, then eighteen, was attempting to create artificial quinine. An unexpected residue caught his eye, which turned out to be the first aniline dye—specifically, mauveine, sometimes called aniline purple. Perkin was so successful in recommending his discovery to the dyestuffs industry that his biography by Simon Garfield is titled Mauve (2000).

Light Mauve

At right is displayed the color light mauve.
This color is also called pale lavender. The source of this color is the ISCC-NBS Dictionary of Color Names (1955)--Color dictionary used by stamp collectors to identify the colors of stamps--See sample of the color Lavender (R) #209 displayed on indicated page (along with several other shades of lavender): Mauve can also be described as pale violet.

Opera Mauve

At right is displayed the color opera mauve.
The first recorded use of opera mauve as a color name in English was in 1927.

Mauve Taupe

The color displayed at right is mauve taupe.
The first recorded use of mauve taupe as a color name in English was in 1925.
See the article on taupe to see additional shades of taupe.

Shades of Mauve Color Comparison Chart

Light Mauve (Hex: #DCD0FF) (RGB: 220, 208, 255) Mauve (Hex: #E0B0FF) (RGB: 224, 176, 255) Opera Mauve (Hex: #B784A7) (RGB: 183, 132, 167) Mauve Taupe (Hex: #915F6D) (RGB: 145, 95, 109)

Mauve in human culture

Decade nostalgia

  • The 1890s were sometimes referred to as the "Mauve Decade", because William Henry Perkin's aniline dye mauveine allowed the widespread use of that color in fashion. When Perkins accidentally discovered that he was able to chemically make the color purple (mauve), he began the world's search for other colors through chemistry. Now, many colors are chemically made instead of taken from natural sources. Chemistry also became a more profitable career.
  • Mauve became very popular in the 1890s and became associated with homosexuality because well known figures in the art world during that decade were gay such as author Oscar Wilde and artist Aubrey Beardsley. (By the 1950s, lavender came to symbolize homosexuality, and then pink beginning in the 1970s.)
  • The Mauve Decade was the title of a 1926 Thomas Beer (1889–1940) book about the 1890's in the United States. Beer, looking back on this time, believed the United States was moving away from its New England traditions to a time of "decay and meaningless phrases". He took the title from a quote from artist James Whistler: "Mauve is just pink trying to be purple."


  • In the cult Bruce Robinson film Withnail and I, Montague Withnail declines his nephew's offer of sherry with the explanation "Oh dear no, no, no. I'd be sucked into his trap. One of us has got to stay on guard. He's so mauve we don't know what he's planning." He fears alcohol may cloud his judgement and weaken his determination to engineer a private encounter with Marwood (accused of mauveness in the quotation) on Monty's terms. Marwood wishes to avoid such an encounter on any terms, but regardless of this he is as unlikely as the viewer to understand any literal meaning in having this colourful adjective applied to him. Whether that uncertainty is its own explanation, given what we later come to know of Monty's (cruelly misinformed) understanding of Marwood's lifestyle choices, and Marwood's own ambiguous reaction in several scenes to Monty's advances, is a question left unanswered until much later, ironically in opposite ways in the minds of the two protagonists.




  • In the British science fiction TV show Doctor Who, mauve is the universal color for danger (Earth is an exception).
  • In an episode of the kids television series Hey Arnold! the protagonist Arnold and his friend Eugene name their go-cart 'The Mauve Avenger'.
  • Television host David Letterman once stated jokingly that "you know somebody is gay if they know the difference between mauve and taupe."


  • Mauve is a commonly used color in stage lighting to represent sunsets.
  • In Angels in America, Louis identifies the color of the sunset as "purple", to which Belize replies: "Purple? What kind of a homosexual are you, anyway? That's not purple, Mary, that color out there is mauve."
  • In Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine's 1988 musical Into the Woods, Cinderella's stepsisters return from the Prince's ball to comment "Never wear mauve at a ball."


mauve in German: Mauve
mauve in Esperanto: Malva
mauve in French: Mauve (couleur)
mauve in Japanese: モーブ (色)
mauve in Italian: Malva (colore)|Malva
mauve in Lithuanian: Mauve
mauve in Simple English: Mauve
mauve in Vietnamese: Cẩm quỳ (màu)

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

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