[< Anglo-Norman and Middle French orenge (c1393 in Middle French; earlier in Anglo-Norman in phrase pume orenge (c1200), 1314 in Old French in phrase pomme d'orenge: see note below), Middle French, French orange
(1515 as noun in a translation from Italian (itself translating a
Portuguese source), 1553 as adjective), ult. (prob., in spite of the
chronology, via Italian arancio (c1309), arancia (a1336; also as
In Anglo-Norman pume orenge and Old French pomme d'orenge, prob. after Italian melarancio (although this is first attested later: 14th cent.) < mela apple (see
The loss of initial n- in French and Italian prob. results from absorption of the n- when preceded by the indefinite article, although in some cases such forms may reflect loss of n- already in Arabic. Conversely, the 19th-cent. Scots form nirrange shows attraction of the -n of the indefinite article by metanalysis (see
The native home of the orange may have been south-east Asia, and the name may have originated there. In the Middle Ages the bitter (or Seville) orange was brought by the Arabs to Sicily, from where it spread to the rest of Europe. The sweet (or China) orange was brought from China by the Portuguese in the 16th cent.
The designations for certain varieties of pear (see senses A. 1b, B. 2c) are attested earlier in French than in English: with winter orange (in quot. 1767 at sense A. 1b) cf. French orange d'hiver (1690); with orange musk and orange pear at sense B. 2c cf. French orange musquée (1690) and poire d'orange (1603) respectively.
Cf. the following surnames, which may reflect the Anglo-Norman or the Middle English word (or perh. even the place name