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  • Q&A - Symbolism & Terms

Q&A-Symbolism & Terms


Where can I find out what some colors mean?

Where did blue for boys and pink for girls come from?

Where can I get a list of the names of colors?

Whats the term for choosing a color by the feeling it gives you?

Color and religion

The meaning of colors

I was wondering if anyone knows of a good site where i can find out what some colours mean? The colours i need to find out about include: -Blue -Purple -Pink -Green. Its for a presentation where i had to create a homepage and then explain what the colours that i used mean.

Look at the book COLOR, ENVIRONMENT AND HUMAN RESPONSE, by Frank Mahnke (pub. VanNostrand Rhinehold

Yes. Depending upon where you are and what access you have to large bookstores, there are several sources for the meanings of color, although few of them are only about color or only about meaning. I'm working on a book on the topic myself, but it won't be out until the spring, and that's probably too late for you. Elsewhere on this vey website is an offer on a compendium of color meanings that you can download (for a price). I haven't done that yet, so I can't vouch for how useful this info is. A couple of books to check for would be 1) The Color Compendium by Hope & Walch; 2) Symbols Sourcebook by Henry Dreyfuss (it's terrific but hard to find); 3) Color: Eyewitness to History, one in a series of Dorling Kindersley books on very specific topics; 4) Selling Color to People by Faber Birren (an oldie but goodie). Good luck, and if color info is something you still need in the spring of 1998, look for my book, Global Graphics: Color, from Rockport Publishers.

..try the ColorVoodoo electronic book here. And be sure to post a thank you note here to the book's author, since the effort that goes into creating such work takes a long hours and hard labor. Best of luck. Mac

Penny, This might be a good site to get another explanation. If I told you I saw a person that was 1. kicking her legs constantly, and 2. moving her arms too and 3. occassionally she'd turn her head 4. and kinda gasp for air What would you make of it? I've given you 4 things she was doing, 4 separate behaviors or actions. (Just like the 4 colors you are asking about). Each of the 4 things she was doing is an action and has meaning within itself. But until you combine them, consider the whole, and realize she was swimming in a pool of water, you miss out on the integration and overall purpose of the individual acting elements. The point is, a person can learn the meaning of a discrete color, but s/he should keep in mind that as more colors are added, the composite meaning may be very different than any of the individual meanings.

Where did blue for boys and pink for girls come from?

Please tell me how girls and boys acquired their stereotypical pink and blue colours and when etc.

I'm quoting from the Color Compendium: "Baby blue is the palest possible tint of blue. A popular color of the 1950's, it is perennially associated with infant boys. Baby pink, a textile standard since the 1920's, is the softest of the true pinks, a favorite for newborn girls. This shade was also in vogue during the 1950's, when the popularity of baby pink sweater sets reached fad proportions." Not much I agree but with a bit of digging on your part a good start.

The Color Compendium mentioned by cwillard is a terrific source for the kind of info you're looking for. A couple of general ideas for you: the Virgin Mary in both western and byzantine art is usually portrayed in blue. From this, pale-to-medium blue (it's almost never dark blue) became somewhat "feminine" color. There are exceptions of course. Part of the reason for this (I don't know the whole story) is that blue was needed to balance the composition of Medieval paintings. Christ is usually wearing red, and if Judas is seen he's in yellow, or sometimes some heavenly messenger (of maybe Biblical era FedEx) would be gold or yellow, so Mary gets the blue robes. Portuguese depictions of the Madonna are just as often crimson or purple. Any society that has developed a formal system of color meaning will usually designate colors that are masculine or feminine, although few other cultures are as strict about it as we ('Mericans, that is) are. (Very) generally speaking, the sun is given masculine attributes and the moon, feminine. China, Japan, and Korea all had separate and distinct codes of color, usually regarding color use by royalty or at least the very upper crust of the society. Almost by default, you could point to colors that are (wer e or have been) restricted for use by those of a certain rank or profession that have traditionally held by men only; women, then, couldn't wear or use that color in that way. There is this Western notion of "softer" "pastel" colors being at least less "manly" if not actually feminine... In some tribal cultures color use isn't distinguished between genders but how it is used might be. If you can get a copy of the Color Compendium I'd recommend it highly. There are also several other books around, including a couple by Faber Birren. Depending upon the focus of your paper, you might want to narrow your search to either artistic uses of color in regards gender, or head toward the anthropology section of the library and see if you can find a running theme. Good luck.

I've just come across a new book entitled When Blue Meant Yellow by (I think) Jean Heifitz. It's a language-oriented history/discussion of how color words evolved. She isn't a scholar or historian (nothing wrong with that) but she seems to have done tons of research made passing references to Berlin and Kay and others. I haven't got the book yet, so I couldn't tell you anything more about it. I just heard the author interviewed on a local Pubic Radio show (thank God it wasn't pledge week or I'd've been tuned into classic rock). The publisher is Henry Holt. I'm actually attempting to buy the book this very afternoon. If I am successful, I'll post a quick opinion (for whatever that's worth).

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According to a Swedish psychotherapist, Karl Ryberg, that uses monochromatic colours in therapy the fashion ideal originates from the fifties in the US but has a much earlier origin. Blue and red was an aid in fostering the child, as blue has a calming effect (for the boys) and red stimulates (for the girls). This was intuitive knowledge but already in the nineteenth century you will find a definite separation in blue and red as the colours of men and women. What was added in the fifties was white, the colour of innocence.

With parakeets the male's nose is blue and the female's is pink."

Blue if it's a boy, Pink if it's a girl. But wait?!?!... I thought Males were associated with Red? (And isn't pink kinda Red?) And I thought Blue was more feminine? Did someone get the baby outfits mixed up? Besides. Blue is more 'innocent' and red (pink) is 'not so innocent'. Surely there must be a mistake here. Does anyone have any thoughts or suspicions about this mix up? If so, let me know. :)

Read more about Pinkat Color Matters.

Color Voodoo for what you wear

Where can I get a list of color names?

Question :
I would like to see an extensive list of names of colors. I am especially interested in names that are rarely used, yet somewhat known. e.g.s vermillion, chartreuse, sepia. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Christopher Willard :
For a number of years the British Colour Council put out a Dictionary of Colour Standards that often had very strange names for colors like Bee Eater Blue, Kermes, Squirrel, or Eau-de-Nil. These were in the 1930s - 40's and while difficult to find you might locate a couple that will be of use. In Patricia Sloane's HIDEOUS and frequently very inaccurate book called The Visual Nature of Color she does present a long list of color names derived from objects as well as to reprint the Inter-society's names for a standard blue (all 125 names for it.) Further she reprints the ISCC list of 267 major color classes.

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I remember reading some time ago that a research project was underway (perhaps at Cal State Berkley) that was tracing the roots of the names of colors. One early finding was that as a language was traced toward the more primitive forms, the number of colors which had unique names grew smaller. The findings stated that in the most primitive languages the only colors afforded this distinction were red, white and black.

You are right about the study and that it was done at Berkeley, so put to rest any worries about your memory being time-warped. The duo that conducted the research were Berlin & Kay, and you should search for the published results of their work using their names. I don't recall the title of the book. Good luck.

Whats the term for choosing a color by the feeling it gives you?

What's the "term" for choosing a color by the feeling it gives you? Chroma Choosing ? Spectral Sensing ? Color Craving ? Feeling Hue ? Hue Pick'em ? Spectral Selection ? Pigment Preference ? Tastes for Tint ? Picking Pigment ?

I've often seen this described to as "semantic preference."

Global Color Database

Color and Religion

I am currently writing a book on creating balance through the use of color. My question - does anyone know how color is shown or is symbolic of in the religons of the world.

I think in Judaism, color is very important. On happy holidays such as purim, costumes of bright color are welcomed in the sanctuary. On more seriousholidays like Rosh Hashannah nd Yom Kippour, the Religous leaders (the rabbi and cantor) wear white robes over their suits.

White is the color of purity. It is always shown as such in the Bible, which happens to be your best resource. If you look at all color together in light, they form the color white, not black. That is their purist form. When people speak of seeing human auras, they always include the spectrum of color. Yet when Christ's aura is seen, it is white, symbolizing His purity. Read my other responses, they gave me some good insight into religious color. Most of my research has been either the Bible or secular studies.

I am seeking information on the color "violet" and its meaning in religions. Any suggestions?

The only thing I have found out about violet is it is considered the color in the aura surrounding many of the saints, and the virgin Mary. Violet's combination of blues and red are symbolic of responsiblity and sacrifice. I am currently writing a book on color in the Bible and violet is not mentioned - only blue, red or crimson, and purple. According to Luscher, violet pertains to our sensual nature, so maybe this is why its not found. Although it could definitely be included in the Song of Solomon.

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