Khaki (color)
The name of the color khaki coined in British India comes from the Hindustani language
Hindustani language
Hindi-Urdu is an Indo-Aryan language and the lingua franca of North India and Pakistan. It is also known as Hindustani , and historically, as Hindavi or Rekhta...

 (itself a borrowed form of the Persian
Persian language
Persian is an Iranian language within the Indo-Iranian branch of the Indo-European languages. It is primarily spoken in Iran, Afghanistan, Tajikistan and countries which historically came under Persian influence...

 word khak meaning dust), meaning "dusty, dust covered or earth colored." It has been used by many armies around the world for uniforms, including camouflage
Camouflage is a method of concealment that allows an otherwise visible animal, military vehicle, or other object to remain unnoticed, by blending with its environment. Examples include a leopard's spotted coat, the battledress of a modern soldier and a leaf-mimic butterfly...

. Most notably, khaki was used by the British Army
British Army
The British Army is the land warfare branch of Her Majesty's Armed Forces in the United Kingdom. It came into being with the unification of the Kingdom of England and Scotland into the Kingdom of Great Britain in 1707. The new British Army incorporated Regiments that had already existed in England...

 in India beginning in 1848.

In Western fashion, it is a standard color for smart casual
Smart casual
Smart casual is a loosely defined dress code, casual, yet "smart" enough to conform to the particular standards of certain Western social groups....

 dress pants (trousers) for civilians.

However, the name is sometimes also used to describe a green color similar to asparagus or pale sea green (especially by the linen/textile/lingerie industries). In the mid-twentieth century as many Western militaries adopted an olive drab instead of the older, more brownish khaki, the two color names became associated with each other. In French
French language
French is a Romance language spoken as a first language in France, the Romandy region in Switzerland, Wallonia and Brussels in Belgium, Monaco, the regions of Quebec and Acadia in Canada, and by various communities elsewhere. Second-language speakers of French are distributed throughout many parts...

, "khaki" refers to a much darker olive drab style military green.

Military khaki

Initially, khaki was the characteristic color of British tropical uniforms, having a shade closer to the original Indian idea of 'dusty' brown. To these days, in common parlance of Anglo-Saxon countries, khaki as color brings to mind a brown, even beige
Beige may be described as an off tan color or an extremely pale brown color.The term originates from beige cloth, a cotton fabric left undyed in its natural color...

, hue. This is not necessarily the case for the military terminology, though, often creating confusion. In common sartorial parlance 'British' or 'golden' khaki has a deeper, ochre
Ochre is the term for both a golden-yellow or light yellow brown color and for a form of earth pigment which produces the color. The pigment can also be used to create a reddish tint known as "red ochre". The more rarely used terms "purple ochre" and "brown ochre" also exist for variant hues...

 shade than 'American' khaki, which may be described as a medium to light beige.

When khaki was adopted for the continental British Service dress
Service dress
Service Dress may refer to any of several military uniforms:*Service Dress *Service Dress, a uniform of the United States Navy*Service Dress, a uniform of the United States Air Force...

 in 1902, the shade chosen had a clearly darker and more greenish hue. This color was adopted with minor variations by all the British Empire Armies and the US expeditionary force of World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

, in the latter under the, probably more descriptive, name Olive Drab. This shade of brown-green remained in use by many countries throughout the two World Wars. One could roughly divide the world's Armies in the first half of the century in those wearing 'khaki' (brown-green) - US, UK, France, Russia/Soviet Union, Japan, Canada, Australia, Belgium, Holland, Turkey, Greece to name but few - and those that chose grey-green shades, foremost Germany, Austria, Italy, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Romania, Scandinavian countries. Then again there was dramatic variation and significant overlap between the two extremes of brown and grey, even within the same army.

During the second half of the WWII, American olive drab became distinctly greener, a major departure from the original idea of khaki. Most of the countries that participated post war in the NATO alliance, adopted the US military style and with it the green olive drab color (often called olive green for this reason). This color continued to be called khaki in many European countries. In France for example the term passed in the general language for a green-shade of olive color. The older yellow-brown used in WWI was called in France moutarde instead. Nowadays very few significant militaries still use solid olive drab or khaki for battledress - with notable exceptions the Israeli IDF
Israel Defense Forces
The Israel Defense Forces , commonly known in Israel by the Hebrew acronym Tzahal , are the military forces of the State of Israel. They consist of the ground forces, air force and navy. It is the sole military wing of the Israeli security forces, and has no civilian jurisdiction within Israel...

 and the Austrian Bundesheer, as the vast majority has adopted multicolor camouflage
Camouflage is a method of concealment that allows an otherwise visible animal, military vehicle, or other object to remain unnoticed, by blending with its environment. Examples include a leopard's spotted coat, the battledress of a modern soldier and a leaf-mimic butterfly...


The trousers known as chinos, which became popular following World War II, were initially military-issue khaki twill used in uniforms and were invariably khaki in color. Today, the term 'chino' refers to the fabric and style of trousers based on this older model (khakis), rather than their color.

Dark khaki

At right is displayed the web color dark khaki.

This is the color that is called dark khaki (one of the X11 color names
X11 color names
In computing, on the X Window System, X11 color names are represented in a simple text file, which maps certain strings to RGB color values. It is shipped with every X11 installation, hence the name, and is usually located in <X11root>/lib/X11/rgb.txt.It is not known who originally compiled...

) in X11 because it is darker than X11 khaki (and also HTML/CSS Khaki).


Displayed at right is the color khaki.

This is the web color called khaki in HTML/CSS.

The color shown at right matches the color designated as khaki in the 1930 book A Dictionary of Color, the standard for color nomenclature before the introduction of computers.

The first recorded use of khaki as a color name in English
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

 was in 1848.

Light khaki

At right is displayed the color light khaki.

This color is called khaki in X11.

See also

  • Khaki
    This article is about the fabric. For the color, see Khaki . Kaki, another name for the persimmon, is often misspelled "Khaki".Khaki is a type of fabric or the color of such fabric...

  • List of colors
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