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The South African flag Wikipedia article consistently refers to the reddish color in the SA flag as chilli, both outside of and within quotes from SA's official interim heraldic description and the SA Constitution's plain-English flag description. (However, Heraldry#Tinctures does not list chilli among the common heraldry colors.)

I looked (not successfully) for references for chilli as a color, and am inclined to think the color would be the same whether called chilli, chili or chile. Does anyone know different, or have access to an authoritative reference?

meta.cooking.SE considers the "Chilli, Chili or Chile?" debacle at great length, but implicitly treating chilies as foodstuffs, not colors.

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3 Answers

up vote 4 down vote accepted

According to this NGram, chili red is by far the most common of the three:

Chili red also seems to be common online--one site refers to it as a color that's currently in fashion. Chilli red also turns up pictures of the color, but it seems less common. Chile red mostly turns up the picture of the pepper itself.

By common usage, I think you could use "chili" or "chilli". Historically, "chili red" has been the most popular, and I think it might be most widely understood.

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A little Googling (on [color "chilli red"] and [color "chili red"]) quickly turns up numerous instances of both chilli red and chili red as color descriptors. Some are associated with pictures; the pictures for the two spellings show similar ranges of reds. I see no reason to doubt that chilli red and chili red are simply UK and US spellings of the same color term, just as chilli and chili are the UK and US spellings of the plant name. (And no, chil(l)i red is definitely not a standard heraldic tincture!)

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"Chilli" and "chili" are different spellings of the same thing, it seems, according to the New Oxford American Dictionary:

"Chil(l)i red", the color, as far as I can tell, comes from the plant name, so the same should apply (i.e., "chill red" and "chili red" are equivalent).

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What is about chili used to mean the color? –  kiamlaluno Aug 21 '11 at 21:32
    
"Chili (red)" the color, I believe, is based on the name of the plant, so the same should apply. –  jtbandes Aug 21 '11 at 21:33
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