Heliotrope… What Colour Is That?

2021. № 2, 54-62

Olga A. Davydova Moscow Pedagogical State University (Russia, Moscow), dav.ol@mail.ru


The article is devoted to the rare word heliotrope in the modern language. This is not only the name of the plant, which one could commonly see in the XIX century city front gardens and summer beds. Many Russian writers mentioned the flower I. S. Turgenev, I. A. Goncharov, V. V. Nabokov, etc. The most famous quote mentioning heliotrope is from the play ‘Seagull’ by Anton Chekhov. The color of heliotrope is close to the color designated as ‘widow's color’. Heliotrope was praised for its elegant, tart smell and actively used in perfumery. Although nowadays this flower can be of different colour, our ancestors knew its common shade and used it to as a colour denomination of ‘purple’ ‘grayish-purple’.

The noun heliotrope with its various definitions is reflected in the most important dictionaries from the middle of the XIX century, but the meaning of heliotrope, describing a shade isn’t represented. The adjective heliotrope is not included in the dictionaries at all, although it was used by I. Bunin, A. Bely, V. Kataev. The authors of the article suggest that the adjective should be included in academic dictionaries.

For citation:

Davydova O. A. Heliotrope... What Colour Is That? Russian Speech = Russkaya Rech’. 2021. No. 2. Pp. 54–62. DOI: 10.31857/