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From Middle English vermelioun, vermyloun, vermylon, vermilun, from Old French vermeillon (vermilion), from vermeil, from Latin vermiculus (little worm), from vermis (worm), ultimately in reference to Kermes vermilio, a type of scale insect used to make a crimson dye.


  • (UK) IPA(key): /vɜː(ɹ)ˈmɪl.jən/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -ɪljən


vermilion (countable and uncountable, plural vermilions)

  1. A vivid red synthetic pigment made of mercury sulfide, cinnabar.
    • 1734, “VERMILION”, in The Builder's Dictionary: Or, Architect's Companion, volume II, London: Printed for A. Bettesworth and C. Hitch, [] and S. Austen, [] :
      Take ſix Ounces of Brimſtone, and melt it in an Iron Ladle, then put two Pound of Quick-ſilver into a ſhammy Leather, or double Linnen Cloth, and ſqueeze it out into the melted Brimſtone, ſtirring them, in the mean Time, with a wooden Spatula till they are well united; and when they are cold, beat the Maſs into a Powder, and ſublime it in a Glaſs-veſſel, with a ſtrong Fire, and it will riſe into that Red Subſtance, which is called artificial Cinnabar or Vermilion.
  2. A bright orange-red colour.
    vermilion Web:  
    • 1911 February 24, Outram Bangs, “Two New Birds from the Island of Molokai”, in Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington, volume XXIV, page 29:
      While this particular difference in the shade of vermilion is very striking in the symmetrical, smooth skins of even and regular make, which I have just compared, I must confess that it probably would not be in rough skins such as some European ornithologists appear still content with.
  3. A type of red dye worn in the parting of the hair by married Hindu women.
  4. The red skin of the lips or its border with the skin of the face.
  5. (obsolete) The kermes or cochineal insect.
  6. (obsolete) The cochineal dye made from this insect.

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Related terms[edit]



vermilion (comparative more vermilion, superlative most vermilion)

  1. Having a brilliant red colour.
  2. Having the color of the vermilion dye.


The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout § Translations.

See also[edit]


vermilion (third-person singular simple present vermilions, present participle vermilioning, simple past and past participle vermilioned)

  1. (transitive) To color or paint vermilion.
    • 1774 March, “Coraly: A Portrait”, in The Hibernian Magazine, or, Compendium of Entertaining Knowledge, page 160:
      Coraly has few of thoſe charms that conſtitute perſonal excellence—her cheek is pallid—her eye no brilliant; but when the latter beams benevolence, or ſparkles with mirth—when the former is ſuffuſed with the captivating bluſh of modeſty, or vermilioned with the glow of the tender paſſion, there are none more pleaſing.