Military Wiki

Soldiers of 33rd Punjabis of British Indian Army in khaki.

Khaki (UK /ˈkɑːk/, US /ˈkæk/, in Canada /ˈkɑrk/[1]) is a color, a light shade of yellow-brown similar to tan or beige. Khaki is a loanword incorporated from Hindustani ख़ाकी and Urdu خاکی (both meaning "soil-colored") and is originally derived from the Persian: خاکی [xɒːˈkiː] (khâk, literally meaning "soil"), which came to English from British India[2] via the British Indian Army. It has been used by many armies around the world for uniforms, including camouflage. It has been used as a color name in English since 1848.[3]

In Western fashion, it is a standard color for smart casual dress trousers for civilians.

However, the name is sometimes also used to describe a drab green color. 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 1846 Sir Harry Lumsden raised a Corps of Guides for frontier service from British Indian recruits at Peshawar. Lumsden was of the view that the border troops were best dressed in their native costume, which consisted of a smock and white pajama trousers made of a coarse home-spun cotton, and a cotton turban, supplemented by a leather or padded cotton jacket for cold weather. For the first year, no attempt was made at uniformity. Subsequently, the material was dyed locally with a dye prepared from the native mazari palm. This created a drab gray which was used historically by Afghan tribals for camouflaging themselves. However, mazari could not dye leather jackets, and an alternative was sought. Cloth was dyed in mulberry juice which gave a yellowish drab shade.[4]:537–539 Subsequently all regiments, whether British or Indian, serving in the region had adopted properly dyed khaki uniforms for active service and summer dress. The original khaki fabric was a closely twilled cloth of linen or cotton.

Military use

Policemen in India in their khaki-colored uniform

Khaki-colored uniforms were used officially by British troops for the first time during the Abyssinian campaign of 1867–68, when Indian troops traveled to Ethiopia (Abyssinia) under the command of general Sir Robert Napier to release some British captives and to "persuade the Abyssinian King Theodore, forcibly if necessary, to mend his ways".[5] Subsequently, the British Army adopted khaki for colonial campaign dress and it was used in the Mahdist War (1884-1889) and Second Boer War (1899–1902). During the Second Boer War, the British forces became known as Khakis because of their uniforms. After victory in the war the government called an election, which became known as the khaki election, a term used subsequently for elections called to exploit public approval of governments immediately after victories.

Khaki is a common color in military uniforms, as on these students from the Philippines Merchant Marine Academy.

The United States Army adopted khaki during the Spanish American War (1898). The United States Navy and United States Marine Corps followed suit. When khaki was adopted for the continental British Service Dress in 1902, the shade chosen had a clearly darker and more green hue. This color was adopted with minor variations by all the British Empire Armies and the US expeditionary force of World War I, in the latter under the name olive drab. This shade of brown-green remained in use by many countries throughout the two World Wars.

During the second half of the WWII, American olive drab became distinctly more green, known as olive green. Most of the countries that participated in NATO, adopted the US military style and with it the olive green color. 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.

Use in civilian clothing

The trousers known as "khakis", 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 can refer to the fabric and style of trousers based on this older model, also called "chinos", rather than their color.

Tones of khaki

Light khaki

Khaki (X11)
About these coordinates     Color coordinates
Hex triplet #F0E68C
sRGBB  (red, green, blue) (240, 230, 140)
HSV       (hue, s, Brightness) (54°, 41%, 94%)
Source X11[6]
B: Normalized to [0–255] (byte)

At right is displayed the color light khaki.

It corresponds to Khaki in the X11 color names.[7]


Khaki (HTML/CSS)
About these coordinates     Color coordinates
Hex triplet #C3B091
sRGBB  (red, green, blue) (195, 176, 145)
HSV       (hue, s, Brightness) (37°, 26%, 76%)
B: Normalized to [0–255] (byte)

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.

Dark khaki

Dark Khaki
About these coordinates     Color coordinates
Hex triplet #BDB76B
sRGBB  (red, green, blue) (189, 183, 107)
HSV       (hue, s, Brightness) (56°, 43%, 74%)
Source X11
B: Normalized to [0–255] (byte)

At right is displayed the web color dark khaki.[7]

It corresponds to Dark Khaki in the X11 color names.

See also


  1. The Canadian Dictionary (McClelland and Stewart, 1962).
  2. Dictionary Meaning: Khaki; TheFreeDictionary; Free Online Dictionary, Thesaurus, and Encyclopedia
  3. Maerz and Paul A Dictionary of Color New York:1930 McGraw-Hill Page 197; Color Sample of Khaki: Page 49 Plate 13 Color Sample J7
  4. Jackson, Major Donovan (1940). India's Army. London: S. Low, Marston & Co. OCLC 2939077. 
  5. Byron Farwell, Armies of the Raj, 1989, page 75.
  6. W3C TR CSS3 Color Module, HTML4 color keywords
  7. 7.0 7.1 CSS3 Color Module, retrieved 2010-09-12

External links

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