the Ancient Greeks called it «ἶρις» /îːris/ (fem.).
:thank you:
The etymology is confusing (probably from PIE), but interestingly, it's also the name of the Goddess Iris, personification of the rainbow, and messenger of the gods.
It is said that when she descended from Olympus to earth to carry a message, her foot was leaving a trace in the sky, a rainbow, symbolizing the link between gods and humans.

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  • The name hasn't survived in MoGr (for describing the rainbow) bar the name for the iris of the eye = «ίριδα» [ˈi.ɾiða] (fem.) < oblique «ἰριδ-» /irid-/ of the 3rd declension ancient noun «ἶρις» /ˈîː.ris/ (fem. nom. sing.), «ἴριδος» /ˈi.ridos/ (fem. gen. sing.), and in the set-phrase for describing the colours of the rainbow = «χρώματα της ίριδος» [ˈxɾo̞.mat̠aˌt̠is̠ˈi.ɾiðo̞s̠].
    Yes in European languages, we also have iridescent/iridescence (= like the colours of the rainbow or of the iris of the eye).
    Italian: arcobaleno ("arco"="arch";"baleno"="flash, lightning")
    The etymology of this one is interesting. Balena means whale in Italian, and the connection comes from the popular habit of indicating atmospherical phenomena using the names of sea monsters.
    Seems as if @Yendred's thread has fused with a previous thread on 'rainbows'.

    Here's my little contribution:


    enfys /'ɛnvɨs/ (n.f.m.) Etymology, Celtic. cf. BZH. envez
    Historically, Bwa'r (n.m.) Arch /'bu:ar arX/ 'Bow of the Ark*'

    *Noah's (obviously).


    Side track into English. Traditionally, many English learn (or at least, used to learn) this expression referencing the Battle of Bosworth (1485) to remember the colours of the rainbow:

    Richard - Red
    Of - Orange
    York - Yellow
    Gave - Green
    Battle - Blue
    In - Indigo
    Vain - Violet

    Any other mnemonics in other languages?
    Any other mnemonics in other languages?
    There are a few of them in French, for example:

    Vous - Violet
    Inventez - Indigo
    Bien - Bleu
    Vous - Vert
    Jeune - Jaune
    Oisif - Orange
    Ridicule - Rouge

    It's the reverse order of the English sentence, and the problem is that there are two colours that start with a V.
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    Vasmer suggests the Russian word "радуга" most likely comes from "рад" (happy), mentioning the jolly look of a rainbow and popular incantations that are inspired by it.

    Any other mnemonics in other languages?
    Каждый (Every) <-> Красный (Red)
    Охотник (Hunter) <-> Оранжевый (Orange)
    Желает (Desires) <-> Жёлтый (Yellow)
    Знать, (to Know) <-> Зелёный (Green)
    Где (Where) <-> Голубой (Light Blue)
    Сидит (is Sitting) <-> Синий (Intense Blue)
    Фазан (a Pheasant) <-> Фиолетовый (Violet)