Autumn foliage explodes in red, orange, yellow and brown. How about learning some colorful words to make your description of fall leaves more beautiful?

Feuille Morte (brownish-orange, yellowish-brown)

Feuille Morte is a brownish orange that is deeper and slightly redder than leather, yellower and deeper than spice, and yellower and deeper than gold pheasant. It is also called autumn leafdead leaffoliage brownleather lakeoakleaf brown,philamotwithered leaf.

In French, the term literally means “dead leaf.” In English, feuille morte refers specifically to a brownish-orange or yellowish-brown color. Its use is rare, but it has not been entirely forgotten by English writers.

She took out a new suit. It was of grosgrain, a shade called “feuille morte,” a vivid yellow-brown trimmed with darker bands of velvet.
Anya Seton, The Turquoise


Sepia (brownish)

In modern English, sepia is best known as the name for the brownish tone that makes photographs look vintage. Sepia hues can be found in an autumn leaf.

Late autumn brings about magical transformations in gardens of the intermountain West. As the days grow shorter and cooler, plants take on new personas, ripening into warm gold, russet, and sepia tones.
Marcia Tatroe, Sunset


Russet (reddish brown)

Being a reddish brown, russet is a popular fall color. Its name is a borrowing of an Anglo-French adjective, meaning “reddish” or “reddish-brown,” that came to designate a coarse, homespun cloth used to make garments. English borrowed the French term for the cloth in the 13th century before using it in its color sense.

The woods in autumn are a riot of russet and gold.

I found no pleasure in the silent trees, the falling fir-cones, the congealed relics of autumn, russet leaves, swept by past winds in heaps, and now stiffened together.
Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre


Amber (dark orange-yellow)

The fossilized tree resin type of amber, which is found around the shore of the Baltic Sea.

Species of insects and plants have been found as fossils in this yellowish to brownish amber, and deeply colored, translucent pieces are used in making jewelry and ornamental objects. It is from the color of this resin that amber has come to refer to a dark orange yellow.

The likely last nostalgic warmth of autumn has gone by, the amber leaves have fallen from the mountain ash, and still luminescent berries hold their positions on the chill, stiff branches….
Robert Pack, “Mountain Ash Without Cedar Waxwings”


Gamboge / Camboge (vivid yellow)

Gamboge, also spelled camboge, can be used to describe the vivid yellows of autumn. The name of the color refers to a gum resin from southeast Asian trees that is used as a yellow pigment in art. Cambodia happens to be one of the countries in which the trees producing gamboge are indigenous.

The ceaseless creasing of the morning sea, the fluttering gamboge cedar leaves allegro,  the rods of the yawing branches trolling the breeze….

Derek Walcott, The Prodigal



Scarlet (bright red)

Scarlet was not originally a word for a color but a name for a high-quality cloth, which is believed to have originated in Persia where it was called saqalāt. The word entered English via Anglo-French escarlet—a derivative of the Latin word for the cloth, scarlata—and became associated with bright red colors because the cloth was commonly dyed red.

Scarlet is a perfect descriptor for the bright reds of autumn.

… the trees were dropping golden, amber, and scarlet leaves, while under the pale yellow ones which rustled beneath the chestnut-trees, there were brown, glossy nuts….
Frances Hodgson Burnett, In Connection with the DeWilloughby Claim


Crimson and Carmine (deep red)

Crimson and words for deep reds, are doublets from the same Arabic source.

The color crimson is a deep purplish red that is found in a dye made from the dried bodies of insects. In the 18th century, carmine arrived in English via French as a synonym of crimson.

The fact that crimson and carmine are connected to a dye made from dead insects, it seems applicable to use both words during the spookiest time of the year.

I have tried to delay the frosts, I have coaxed the fading flowers, I thought I could detain a few of the crimson leaves until you had smiled upon them; but their companions call them, and they cannot stay away.
Emily Dickinson


Maroon (dark red)

Maroon as the name for a dark red color, derives from French marron, which is the Spanish name for a chestnut. The earliest examples in English of the word refer to the reddish-brown nut, with the color sense dating from the late-18th century.

Before becoming a color name, maroon referred to a loud firework. Supposedly, people associated the noise of a chestnut bursting in a fire to an exploding firework.

The leaves had already turned and were falling off the trees like a rain storm—beautiful brown, yellow and maroon leaves all over the ground.
Wilmer Todd, The Daily Review (Morgan City, Louisiana)


Auburn (goldish and reddish brown)

Prior to the 16th century, auburn would not have been an ideal word to describe an autumn color. It derives ultimately from the Latin word albus, meaning “white,” and originally designated a yellowish or brownish white color.

However, by the 16th century, the word’s meaning shifted to goldish and reddish shades of brown.

The trees were blazing with autumn; red and gold and auburn leaves littered the ground like a many-hued carpet that crackled and rustled as they hiked along.
Ben Bova, Return to Mars


Lurid (pale yellow)

The history of lurid makes it a fitting adjective for dying pale-yellow leaves. It is from luridus, the Latin word for such a color, and in the 17th century, it was used to describe the pale yellowish color of diseased or bruised skin.

The sun, shining through the smoke that drove up from the tops of the trees, seemed blood red, and threw an unfamiliar lurid light upon everything.
H. G. Wells, The War of the Worlds


Magenta (reddish-purple, purplish-red)

The color magenta was the result of the industrial chemistry revolution of the mid-nineteenth century, which began with the invention of the first synthetic aniline dye. The enormous commercial success of the dye and the new color it produced inspired other chemists in Europe to develop new colors made from aniline dyes.

The web color magenta is also called fuchsia.