Raw liver has a distinctive reddish-brown almost purple colour. It is also completely opaque.

enter image description here

Is there a name for this sort of colour? My first instinct is mauve, but that's not quite right.

Edit: To put this in context, I would like to describe a chunk of raw liver in a way understandable by a twelve-year-old. To artificially narrow the audience, suppose the reader is aware that the liver is an internal organ, but they are not necessarily aware of what it does or looks like. After the description, they should be no more aware of the liver's function in the body, but have some idea what colour it is.

"Mary pushed the _______ lump of raw liver around her plate."

  • 6
    Surprisingly, liver is a color with Hex value - #674C47. And liver-colored is a proper adjective!
    – BiscuitBoy
    Commented Dec 27, 2015 at 13:04
  • @Daron It's reddish-brown. Shade may vary from medium to darker brown depending on the animal and their diet...
    – Elian
    Commented Dec 27, 2015 at 14:12
  • 1
    I would describe it as "repulsive".
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Dec 27, 2015 at 14:13
  • 1
    I'd say it's marsala (pantone.com/images/pages/20758/wallpaper/…) or maroon (s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/9d/61/6d/…)
    – Yay
    Commented Dec 27, 2015 at 16:56
  • 1
    There is a shoe-polish color in the United States called cordovan that is extremely close to liver (or ox-blood) color. But for some reason neither Merriam-Webster nor American Heritage acknowledge the word's existence as a term for a particular color.
    – Sven Yargs
    Commented Sep 1, 2016 at 0:25

4 Answers 4


In the context you've given, I'd personally use the word livid (Dictionary.com). Livid is often used to describe the color of fresh bruises and it also has the meaning of being speechless with fury.

Although the picture you've posted doesn't appear that way, in my experience, raw liver is pretty similar in color to the deep reddish purple of fresh bruises. I think livid not only conveys this, but also adds a sort of distasteful, gross feel that would match your context.

If you think that 12-year-olds won't understand that context, you could consider using bruised instead.

  • I like livid, but at least in my part of the word it is mostly used as hyperbole to mean furious. Bruised is the best idea we got for this question. Other people got close with variations of bloody, but no one got all the way to the colour of scabs -- which are like bruises.
    – Daron
    Commented Dec 30, 2015 at 13:39

I would describe it as a bloody color, but my English teacher would probably say it's Burgundy, which is the answer you're probably looking for.

Update: I would like to point out that liver is in fact a color, as @BiscuitBoy pointed out.

  • I am aware that liver is the name of a colour. However that colour does not especially resemble an actual liver. It's also not particularly enlightening to describe a liver as liver-coloured. Burgundy is pretty good, though.
    – Daron
    Commented Dec 27, 2015 at 13:29
  • @Daron - See this en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liver_%28color%29#Liver_.28organ.29 It may not be enlightening, but it is pretty straight forward to describe the color of a liver as liver-colored. Of course, Burgundy does encompass shades ranging between dark red-brown to grey-purple. Then again , it's your context and you have every right to decide.
    – BiscuitBoy
    Commented Dec 27, 2015 at 13:37
  • If you were describing something other than a liver, especially something most un-liverlike (like some flowers) then liver-coloured would probably be a much richer description. Of course that's assuming you're writing for an audience who should know what a liver looks like in the first place.
    – Daron
    Commented Dec 27, 2015 at 13:40

Naturally, as an internal organ it looks rather bloody, so I'm primarily going to suggest sanguine

Of the color of blood; red; ruddy: as, a sanguine complexion; the sanguine francolin, Ithaginis cruentatus; specifically, in heraldry, same as murrey.

The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia 1890-1914

It is a bit problematic though since blood color can come in many shades depending on the state it's in: It can be very bright when it's thin and fresh or very dark when it's clotting and despite being very apt by definition for many contexts, I have never seen anything directly described with this word.

The alleged synonym Murrey is quite helpful though since the C.D.C. specifies it's the color of a mulberry, which should be relatively easy to observe in reality:

Of a mulberry (dark-red) color.

n. In heraldry, a tincture of a dark-reddish brown, also called sanguine, indicated in heraldic representations in black and white by lines crossing each other

The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia, 1890-1914

Given that these are colors of heraldic tradition, you might also be able to examine a coat-of-arms with the color. The Heraldry Society's Education Pack P.D.F. pack may be helpful. Although the C.D.C. considers these words synonymous, which makes sense given that berries may have been used for such pigmentation, Sanguine seems to be a brighter color than Murrey according to the H.S. P.D.F., so despite the semantic appeal of Sanguine, Murrey would be more accurate if both words don't refer to the whole spectrum of reds blood and mulberries can be.

For your convenience and as a contingency for if the Hearldry Society's website goes offline, here's an image file with both colors, with a Sanguine backdrop and a Murrey heart. It looks fairly close to me. It also seems like the colors of this website's unbolded and bolded links:

enter image description here

Speaking of contingencies and convenience both of the above Wordnik links also contain entries in The American Heritage Dictionary, 4th edition which is a newer and presumably less rare book than the multi-volume C.D.C. if you need to verify with a print source.

  • I disagree with saguine because, as you said, it is too general. Even "blood-coloured" can mean various things, since blood changes colour as it hardens. Scab-coloured I think is better, or even using the word scab somewhere in the description, maybe not "scabby", since that also means miserly. I disagree with Murrey, because the word is too esoteric, and using jargon is bad form. I liked mulberry, until I realised it is not the colour of the actual fruit.
    – Daron
    Commented Dec 30, 2015 at 13:34
  • . . . what's up with that?
    – Daron
    Commented Dec 30, 2015 at 13:40
  • @Daron Actually, mulberry is also recognized as another name of the color, which is similar to orange in that regard. However I didn't include a definition as such after you added the simplicity criterion because comparative color descriptors can be confused with their real world counterparts (a scabby liver sounds more like one that's injured but healing to me), it suffers a similar variation problem and I couldn't find a CC-SA Unported 3.0 pic of a mulberry pie close enough to the liver, so I couldn't embed a pic of one. (There were pics, but I'm very conscientious regarding copyright.)
    – Tonepoet
    Commented Dec 30, 2015 at 14:18

Ironically, "liver" is used to describe a color of dogs' coats. In Spanish and French, marron, which means chestnut, is also used to describe shade of reddish-brown. It's rough equivalent in English is maroon, which can be anything from a deep red to a reddish-brown. Yet maroon conjures up the color of a car more than it does the color of a liver. "The maroon liver" seems cartoonish.

In a sentence written for a young audience, you may want to consider going beyond color, for example, "Mary pushed the dense, reddish-brown lump of raw liver around her plate." (Mary was, no doubt, wondering why the liver was not cooked prior to serving.)

As a 12-year-old child, I would have immediately understood "reddish-brown" and been encouraged to look up "dense", thus learning a new word.

  • Why not just translate maroon to [the colour] chestnut, which kids should be familiar with (I certainly was). Liver does appear to be slightly redder than a chestnut, though. Commented Sep 1, 2016 at 0:11
  • And the chestnut-colored liver does not conjure up a good image.
    Commented Sep 1, 2016 at 2:20

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