One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
1A red or violet dye obtained from certain lichens, used as a source of litmus, orcinol, and other pigments.
- ‘He paints women with coloured earth, mud, carbon powder or orchil.’
2A lichen with flattened fronds from which a red or violet dye can be obtained.
Roccella (order Graphidiales) and other genera: several species, including the Mediterranean R. tinctoria, used for dyeing, and the Madagascan R. montagnei, used for litmus
Late 15th century: from Old French orcheil, related to Spanish urchilla; of uncertain origin.
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