Both colors of dark chocolate and black coffee are the same to me. Why the color words used are different? Thanks!

  • Similar color adjectives are often arbitrary. Commented Dec 10, 2019 at 17:27
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    Usage. 'Dark coffee' usually refers to darker beans (they come in different shades), and then there's 'dark roast coffee'. It's handy to have a different descriptor. Commented Dec 10, 2019 at 17:28
  • I thought there were only two types of chocolate : plain and milk.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Dec 10, 2019 at 17:32
  • @Nigel J Plain/dark, milk and white are the three main classes in the UK (though some brands get more technical, specifying percentage of cocoa solids for 'ultra-dark' etc). Commented Dec 10, 2019 at 17:44
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    Because language is what it is, and not what somebody thinks it should be.
    – Colin Fine
    Commented Dec 10, 2019 at 17:46

1 Answer 1


"Dark chocolate" is a marketing term for what used to be marketed as "plain chocolate". "Plain chocolate" is the older term but "dark chocolate" has become more popular. (I added the words "bar of" in an attempt to exclude false positives where the phrase "dark chocolate" is part of the description of something by its colour.)

Plain chocolate is so called to distinguish it from milk chocolate: no milk is added in making it. "Dark" patently refers to its colour. As for why the word "dark" is used to denote such chocolate by its colour: what other word would be better? The whole term must distinguish it from milk chocolate, and both products are brown.

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    "What other word would be better?" The difficulty here is that, for coffee, black coffee is coffee with no milk added. Dark chocolate is chocolate with no milk added. So, at least in the abstract, black would be just as good for meaning "no milk added" while also referring to color. BTW, the explanation that dark chocolate was the marketed label is good (thank you for the Ngrams and the selectivity) - thank you. Commented Dec 10, 2019 at 17:35

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