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We know that 真っ赤 means "deep red," but how did it come to mean 'downright', as in 真っ赤な嘘 (outright lie)?

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真っ赤 doesn't mean deep red, it's an emphatic expression of being red.

It comes form suffix ma and reduplicated adjectives.

  1. ma aka aka --> makkakka --> makka (まっかっか is still a word)
  2. ma kuro kuro --> makkuro

Edit: Sorry, my answer was irrelevant to OP's question.

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  • This reduplication theory is really interesting! Is there somewhere I can read more? I'm curious how /massao/ fits in.
    – user1478
    Feb 17 '15 at 18:23

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