1858, "fine woolen fabric," from dialectal French beige "yellowish-gray, brownish-gray," from Old French bege "the natural color of wool and cotton; raw, not dyed" (13c.), of obscure origin. "Das Wort lebt namentlich in der Bourgogne und Fr. Comté, daneben aber auch im Südwesten" [Gamillscheg]. As a shade of color, it is attested from 1879. As an adjective by 1879.