The Symbolism of Colours

Colour symbolism refers to the use of colours to represent ideas and situations in the society. Interestingly, the philosophical meanings of colours also share striking resemblances or commonalities among the various cultures in the world. When they are used shrewdly, it will aid in promoting understanding between various people and cultural affiliations. It is a great source of enlightenment to abreast oneself with the powerful messages gleaned from the symbolic usage of colours.

Black: It is the colour of the night, and of “evil.” Black can also be a colour of elegance or class such as a black-tie only event, and black evening gowns. Black can also represent ideas such as power, sexuality, sophistication, formality, wealth, mystery, fear, evil, unhappiness, depth, style, sadness, remorse, anger, and mourning. Black can also represent a lack of colour, the primordial void or emptiness. It can also mean sorrow or mourning, in the Christian tradition of wearing black to funerals. Black is the colour of mystery and solemnity; the colour of the night. Black expresses the depths of the unknown, and encourages the imagination of a different world from that of daylight realities. Used by itself, black can represent bad luck or misfortune.

Black/White: They stand for mourning and cheerless occasions. For example, traditional dress for a funeral is black and white. The black stands for the loss, and the white colour for their passing onto the heavens.

Blue: It is the colour of the Virgin Mary, and is associated with girls who have similar pure qualities. In addition, it is the colour of water and the sea, with all the symbolic references already discussed for that element – that is, blue usually indicates femininity, life, purity, etc., just as water does. Blue can also symbolize peace, calm, stability, security, loyalty, sky, water, cold, technology, and depression. Indigo blue mirrors the colour of the vast ocean surrounding the Japanese islands. This shade of blue is very commonly seen in Japanese art and clothing.

Brown: It represents the ideas of earth, hearth, home, the outdoors, endurance, simplicity, and comfort.

Gold: It is also associated with royalty. It represents the colour of the heavens.

Green: This colour can also represent nature, the environment, good luck, youth, vigor, jealousy, envy, and misfortune. It is regarded as the colour of eternal life, as seen in evergreens which never change their colour from season to season. It represents both trees and vegetation.

Orange: It represents energy, balance, warmth, enthusiasm, flamboyant, and demanding of attention.

Pink: The colour pink usually serves two purposes. It can be used to show childish innocence, or the character of child-like personality. It can also be used to show a more flirtatious personality. Pink is normally a colour associated with girls and femininity. Pink is considered a colour of good health and life – we speak of people being “in the pink” or the “freshness” of a newborn baby. Pink is associated with sexuality and purity. That is, a girl who is a virgin in heart and body. Pink is symbolic of pure love. It is also the colour used for sexual advertisements and such, to indicate the purity of the girls.

Purple/ Violet: It represents royalty, spirituality, nobility, ceremony, mysterious, wisdom, enlightenment, cruelty, arrogance, and mourning.

Red: It symbolizes many things; from blood, to love, to infatuation. Basically red symbolizes strong emotions, or things of strong emotions rather than intellectual ideas. For example, red can symbolize excitement, energy, speed, strength, danger, passion, and aggression. Red, the colour of blood and fire, represents life and vitality. Red also signifies the colour of the sun: a symbol of energy, radiating its vitalizing life-force into human beings. Red is also looked upon as a sensual colour, and can be associated with man’s most profound urges and impulses. Ironically, red cats symbolize bad luck.

Red and White: Their use together immediately signifies happiness and celebration. The combination of red and white in the decorative ornaments used on wedding or engagement presents has a compelling quality that suggests man’s urge to create a bond between his own life and that of the gods.

Silver/Grey: Silver/Grey symbolizes security, reliability, intelligence, modesty, maturity, conservative, old age, sadness, and boring.

White: It is a sacred and pure colour. It’s the colour of angels and gods, as the colour reflects that which is sacred and pure. It is also the colour of doctors, nurses, and others in the health profession, as well as cleanliness. White can also represent reverence, purity, simplicity, humility, youth, winter, and snow, good, cold, clinical, and sterile.

Yellow: Yellow symbolizes joy, happiness, optimism, idealism, gold, dishonesty, cowardice, deceit, illness, and hazard.

Understanding the philosophical meanings of colours beyond their physical qualities and attributes can contribute to the understanding and friendship among various ethnic and cultural affiliations. Artists and designers who implement colours in their creations must endeavour to consider their symbolic implications when making choices for the creation of products.