The Meaning of Colors

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Colors have always been used as symbols. And their symbolism differs from culture to culture. They can carry social, political, and religious messages. And since the messages differ from culture to culture, knowledge of culture-specific color symbolism plays an important role in global marketing and communication between people with different cultural backgrounds. India is perhaps the most color-coded culture on earth.

Let’s check into the meaning of some of the main colors.


In Western cultures Red is associated with fire (fire trucks) or blood (he was caught red-handed). It signals sexual excitement and attraction but also danger and restriction. Most women color their lips red to make themselves more attractive, but a red light or the red stop sign at an intersection prompt you to stop.

Red arouses emotions – negative ones and positive ones. In Western cultures, Red means sexual excitement and attraction, passion, and love, but also danger and restraint.

We associate red with honor, excellence, and prominence. We roll out the red carpet for a celebrity. But we also associate Red with fury and anger when we “see red” or with other negative aspects for example when a soccer player gets the “red card”.

In China, Red symbolizes happiness and affluency. Red dresses are worn for important celebrations and money is given as a gift in red envelops. The Chinese stock market indicates a bull market with red color, while European stock markets use Red for a bear market. In the South African Bantu culture, Red symbolizes mourning. In the US, “Code Red” indicates utmost danger or emergency.

In the ancient world, purple red was the privilege of Roman senators and emperors. Probably mainly because the dye was so expensive, only rich people could afford it.

In India, Red is considered a dynamic color that breathes fire in the eyes of the beholder. It incites fear and is the color associated with Durga, one of the most revered goddesses in Hindu mythology. Her fiery image is enhanced by her red tongue and almost red eyes. Red also stands for purity. It is the preferred color for a bride’s garment and symbolizes the commitment between husband and wife.

In the recent past, Red was adopted worldwide by Communism and Socialism as their signal color. The “Red Army” was the Army of the Socialist Soviet Union. “Red Brigades” (Brigate Rosse) was the name of the Italian Neo-Communist terror organization. The German equivalent called itself Red Army Fraction (RAF). Everywhere in the world Red became associated with “left”, “socialist”, “communist”, “revolution” and “violence” etc. Except in the USA, where Red is the color of the Republicans and of Conservatism.


Yellow is a very mixed bag. It is the most effective attention getter of all colors. It is generally associated with positive values like mild-mannered behavior or spontaneity, however in the German culture it symbolizes envy and anger, and in the American culture it symbolizes cowardice, greediness, or lying.

In the Christian tradition, yellow and gold are often synonymous. Both symbolize faith and holiness as in the golden halo around the heads of holy persons on ancient paintings.

In Polynesia, Yellow is also a holy color. In the Polynesian language, the term for ‘yellow’ is identical with the term for the curcuma plant, which Polynesians consider the food of the gods.

In China, Yellow has historical and supernatural associations. The first Chinese emperor allegedly came from outer space and was called the “Yellow Emperor” and he wore only bright yellow clothes. Guests of honor at the Chinese Court were often given a yellow carpet.


Blue is reminiscent of the blue sky and the blue seas. It symbolizes depth and greatness and is therefore also a color of royalty in the Western world.

In marketing psychology, Blue is considered a color that instills trust and calms down fear. This is why most airplane interiors and many waiting areas in doctor’s offices or hospital rooms etc. are designed in shades of Blue.

In the French culture, Blue stands for “inexperienced” or “stupid”. A great nuisance for the national police, since they wear blue uniforms and are therefore called “les bleus” – the blue ones. You guess the secondary meaning.

In the German culture, “Blue” (blau) means “drunk”. In the American culture it means “sad”, “depressed”. Blue is also the color of the American political Left.

In India, the color Blue is associated with Lord Krishna, one of the most popular gods of Hinduism. Vishnu and Shiva are also depicted with blue skin.

In ancient Egypt, Blue refers to heaven and divinity. Amun, the main god of the ancient Egyptian religion, colored his skin blue, so he could fly in the sky without being seen.


In many cultures, Green is associated with “nature”, “growth”, “health” or “spring”. In traffic symbolism, it has been chosen as a “go” or “start” signal. If a project gets the go-ahead, we say it gets the “green light”.

Green was Mohammed’s favored color. He preferred green clothes, and the Koran associates Green with “paradise”, where the righteous sit in green clothes on green pillows enjoying luscious green vegetation – surely a very desirable environment for a desert people.

In the recent past, Green has become the signal color of environmentalism and global warming doomsayers. It started with “Green Peace”. Yesterday, I read this on a community transportation bus: “Let’s go green – together”. The symbolism is deep.

Man-Made-Global-Warming believers are convinced that CO2 destroys nature and will ultimately spell the doom of planet earth and mankind. For a while, the EPA even classified CO2 as a toxic gas. The plain truth is that CO2 is the staple food of all plant life. To “go green” supposedly means to “support and save plant life”. “Go green together” on the bus means to support plant life by preventing fossil fuel derived CO2 from getting into the atmosphere. We are supposed to do this by giving up individual automotive transportation and take the bus instead (go together). Give up your private vehicle. Take the bus. Save the green plants, the climate, and the planet.

Disingenuously, those who consider themselves “green”, advocating for the reduction of CO2 in the atmosphere, are actually destroying plant life and green nature.

The increase of CO2 in the atmosphere over the last 120 years has led to a significant increase of global plant biomass. The effects of increased CO2 on photosynthesis, development, and carbohydrate metabolism were studied in sugarcane (Saccharum ssp.). Plants were grown at ambient (approximately 370 ppm) and elevated to (approximately 720 ppm) CO2 during 50 weeks in open-top chambers. The plants grown under elevated CO2 showed, at the end of such period, an increase of about 30% in photosynthesis and 17% in height and they accumulated 40% more biomass in comparison with the plants grown at ambient CO2. Farmers and nurseries have known this all along. This is why CO2 is called a “greenhouse gas”.

For me personally, the color Green has become a metaphor for a mindset that is unable to relate to reality and facts in a purpose-rational manner. How can anybody claim to be “green”, when he or she is in fact aiming to destroy plant life by depriving plants of their staple food – CO2?


In most Western cultures White is the color of light and brightness, of enlightenment and clarity, of goodness, innocence, cleanliness, purity, freshness, simplicity. It can symbolize a new beginning, a fresh start. Where there is light, you can see. You are not in the dark. You are not disoriented. You are not afraid. The white flag symbolizes surrender or willingness to negotiate. A white paper is an official report or statement of a government or organization. The white knight comes to the rescue. The good guy in Western movies wears a white hat. White is compatible with any other color.

On the negative side, White can relate to concepts like “emptiness”, “whiteout”, “lack of detail”, “blandness”. A white lie is an innocent small lie. A white elephant is an expensive but useless item. White-color crime is financial crime. To turn all white in the face means to experience serious fear or anxiety or to be dying. In non-Western cultures, e.g. in India and China, White is the color of death and mourning.

Recently, hate mongers and deranged CRT proponents have conjured up the concept of “Whiteness”, as a negative attribute of the “white race”.

First off, there is no “white race”. To have a relatively light skin color does not define a “race” any more than to have a relatively dark skin color. To speak of white or black races is like calling all dogs with brown fur one race or all dogs with white fur another. It’s just plain nonsense and it serves no reasonable purpose.

Its only use is that of a political weapon of derogation and defamation. Second off, so-called “white” people rarely have really white skin color. They are pinkish or light brown and in the case of the southern redneck, partially dark red.

The proponents of “Whiteness” claim that all “white” people are genetically or systemically “racist”, meaning they hate other races and discriminate against them, because they consider them inferior.

It is virtually impossible to group people by skin color – unless you want to run around like NAZI anthropologists with a color scale in your hand measuring skin lightness or darkness like you measure the Ph in a swimming pool. Then, where do you draw the line, based on what criteria and who does the line-drawing and by what authority? And what meaningful conclusions can be drawn from all of this? If the “Whiteness” theory is anything but BS, it is racism on steroids.

To define race in a scientifically meaningful and valid manner, one needs to apply a set of inheritable (genetic) characteristics, not just one or two. The more characteristics are used to define race, the more valid the definition. The current political concept of “whiteness” implies the assertions that

  • Skin color alone defines a race
  • There is a white race
  • People of the white race have white skin color
  • People of the white race hate non-white-skinned people
  • People of the white race consider themselves superior to non-white-skinned people
  • People of the white race discriminate against non-white-skinned people
  • People of white skin are systemically privileged

None of these assertions is true. Whiteness is a political weapon to seed hate and antagonism and to divide Americans against each other in order to facilitate the destruction of our common culture.


In the Western cultures, the color Black is predominantly associated with negative symbolism. This is rooted in the nature of the color. Black means darkness, the absence of light. Lack of visibility. If we cannot see, we are disoriented, and if we are disoriented, we are afraid. Black symbolizes mainly insecurity, illegitimacy, danger, uncertainty, aggression, and death. In the Anglo-Saxon culture we speak of (to mention few):

Black marketsillegitimate markets
Blackoutlack of electricity, unconscious, forget
Blackmailextortion of money by threatening tort
Black sheepthe bad guy in a group
Black magicevil sorcery
Black liesbig fat obvious lies
Black outlookgloomy outlook
Black lookthreatening look
Black wordsunfriendly evil words
Black heartbad character
Black humorhumor bordering on sarcasm
Black economyevading business taxes
Black propagandadisinformation
Black artwitchcraft
Black deathbubonic plague
Black guardscoundrel
Black watersewage
Black workevading income tax

The Germans call untaxed income “black money” (Schwarzgeld), they are “annoyed black” (sie ärgern sich schwarz), “black distillation” (Schwarzbrennen) means “moonshining”. A “black rider” (Schwarzfahrer) is a person who rides a train or bus without a ticket. “black trade” (Schwarzhandel) means trading illegally or on black markets. A “black-painter” (Schwarzmaler) is a notorious pessimist. And to “make somebody black” (jemanden anschwärzen) means to say untrue derogatory things about a person.

In French “broyer du noir” (to crush or grind black) means to think negatively, to be a pessimist. “Être la/avoir une bête noire” (being or having a black animal) means to detest or to be detested by somebody. “avoir les idées noires” (to have black ideas) means to be down-trodden, melancholic. “caisse noire” (black cash register) means illegitimate fonds that do not appear in open accounting. “colère noire” (black anger) means very strong anger. The “drapeau noir” (black flag) is the symbol of pirates and anarchists, the Jolly Roger. “être dans le noir” (to be in the black) means to understand nothing, to be in the dark. “série noire” (black series) means a chain of negative events.

Not to forget that the Italian Fascists wore black gear and called themselves the “Blackshirts”.

It is easy to see how Black Americans, few of whom are really black-skinned, have an uphill battle, as long as they call themselves “Black”. But they continue to do so and it can’t be helped, since the color Black mostly represents evil, darkness, night, despair, i.e. all sorts of negative connotations.

In the Chinese culture, the color Black stands for illegality, badness, crime but strangely also for honor and integrity. Not unlike the Mafia concept of the “honorable criminal”. Criminal organizations are called “black societies”, which operate on the “black market” making “black deals” and reinvesting “black money”. Criminals speak a secret (black) language and meet in secret (black) places. They walk on the “black road” of crime driven by their “black hearts” (evil characters).

However, the color Black can also represent authority. It is the negative part of the eternal controversy and struggle between day and night, light and darkness, Yin and Yang, the two fundamental principles of Chinese cosmology or analogously Ahriman and Ormazd (Ahura Mazda) in ancient Iranian Zoroastrism. Yin is the negative, dark, passive, cold, wet, and feminine principle and yang is the positive, bright, active, dry, hot, and masculine principle. Yin is black. Yang is white. Accordingly, Ahriman is the force of evil and darkness, while Ormazd is the force of good and light.

To the linguist, it is somewhat ironical that Sub-Saharan African Americans call themselves “Black” or “Negroes” but object strongly to terms like “nigger”, “Neger” (German), “nègre” (French) or “negro” (Spanish/Italian). All of these terms are derived from the Latin term “niger”, which means – you guessed it – “black”.

Needless to emphasize that a “black race” does not exist any more than a “white race”. Using color to refer to each other and then stuffing this nonsensical “race” bag up with freely invented negative characteristics serves only one purpose: mutual discrimination and annoyance. Humans with relatively lighter complexion are not supreme, or superior, or systemically racist, just like humans with relatively darker complexion are not inferior, or higher primates, or systemically better athletes.

Maybe we should simply all stop using colors as (meaningless) human differentiators. If we cannot develop a meaningful concept of human race that has intrinsic cognitive value, maybe we should stop referring to each other in terms of race or skin color. Instead, we could group people by character trait or skill, or by intelligence type and level. It would make a lot more sense and be of more practical use.

And it would also avoid a lot of unnecessary mutual frustration and harassment.

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