Khaki, as described in Soldier and Sailor Words and Phrases, was “the name of a colour-dust colour. First introduced as uniform in 1848...and adopted during the Indian Mutiny by some of the British regiments. The Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry (the 1st Battalion - old 43rd Foot) are said to have been temporarily put into "Khaki" before the Mutiny: when stationed at Peshawar and under orders to go on a punitive expedition against Kyhber tribesmen. It was the hot weather and to exchange the white drill uniforms for the regulation thick red tunic was considered out of the question. At the same time, to send men in white against the Afghan marksmen, meant offering target which could not be missed. To solve the difficulty the Colonel adopted the "Guides" colour and had the uniforms stained with brown mud. Khaki became the Field-Service uniform of the Indian Army between 1860 and 1870. Its official adoption as the British Army War Uniform dates from the South African War (Boer War) of 1899-1902.” 
The word is derived from the Persian "Kâk" which means dust.
References / notes
- Edward Fraser and John Gibbons (1925). Soldier and Sailor Words and Phrases. Routledge, London p.134.
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