Word Archaeology: gamboge

This word refers to a pigment, from deep saffron to mustard yellow, that’s been used to dye the robes of Buddhist monks and by Jean Perrin to prove Brownian motion. Commonly extracted from resin in the evergreen tree known as the gamboge tree, which must be at least ten years old before they’re tapped. The color name was first used in English in 1634, derived from the Latin word “gambogium”, which in turn comes from “Gambogia”, the Latin word for Cambodia. Large doses of gamboge, which has strong laxative properties, can be fatal.

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Wes Platt

Lead storyteller. Game designer and journalist. Recovering Floridian.

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