Word Nerd: A Tint of Rogue

Columns Education Evergreen Word Nerd


Today we have another one of those word pairs that gets mixed up more often than one might expect, and the mix-up seems to only go one way. It may be an autocorrect fail, but I suspect it’s more likely that people just make the mistake a lot; oddly enough, “vogue” rhymes with “rogue” and both are spelled with the same ending, but nobody ever spells it “vouge.” I suspect people see “rouge” and read it as “rogue.”

Rouge: The French word for red. As a noun, a cosmetic used for adding red color to the cheeks or lips. As a verb, the application of cosmetics. The red numbers on a roulette wheel.

Rogue: An outlaw; scoundrel. A person who does not conform to boundaries; a dangerous or unpredictable animal; an unwanted plant growing in a place where it wasn’t planted.

Rouge-NationRouge, in the cosmetic sense, became popular in England in the 1700s, as part of the general fascination with French fashion. The French rouge came from the Latin rubeus, related to ruber “red”. The same word had been borrowed from French in Middle English with the sense of “red color” in the 1500s.

Rogue originated around 1560s, meaning “idle vagrant,” perhaps a shortened form of roger (with a hard -g-), thieves’ slang for a begging vagabond who pretends to be a poor scholar from Oxford or Cambridge. This usage probably originates from the Latin rogare “to ask.” Another theory traces it to Celtic, from rog “haughty”.

There is no member of the X-Men named Rouge, but Rogue wears rouge.

The Doom Patrol fights Madame Rouge, who is a rogue.

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