Color is all around us, present everywhere we turn, as constant as the air we breathe. Perhaps it is inevitable that human society will associate certain colours with different significant aspects of our lives. Different cultures worldwide each have their own meanings for the different colours, and within these cultures, their meanings have also changed over time.

The ancient Egyptians used colours to represent the powers of their gods. In China, red was not always the most favoured colour; it was actually yellow. On the other hand, the ancient Mayans regarded colours as a representation of the ordinal directions of north, south, east, and west, as well as many different gods in their belief system. Let us now look at the more contemporary meanings of each colour and understand their significance in our current cultures.

Red Symbolism

Red represents love, passion, fire, fury. It is considered the most intense colour emotionally, stimulating the senses and causing a faster heartbeat and breathing. Often red is used as the dominant color when warning signs are put up, seemingly signifying “beware”. On national flags, red is commonly used to symbolize the country’s pride and strength, displayed more predominantly during times of conflict or war.

Blue Symbolism

The ancient Egyptians associated the colour blue with the gods like Amon, the god of the wind. It is the colour of the oceans and of the skies. Quite the opposite to the colour red, blue evokes feelings of calm, peace and tranquillity. It symbolizes loyalty, wisdom, and trust. It inspires creativity and deep thinking. This effect that the colour blue has on the human psyche makes it a perfect colour for spaces where rest and calm need to be achieved, like bedrooms, libraries or hospitals.

Yellow Symbolism

For the ancient Chinese, yellow symbolizes good luck and is often associated with gold. Throughout the ages, in most parts of the world, the colour yellow is regarded as the colour of wisdom and intellect. It enhances optimism, logic, and concentration. It stimulates a speedy metabolism. Bright and cheerful, it represents the playfulness and carefree attitude of the young.

Green Symbolism

Green is universally regarded as the colour of nature and health. It stands for new life, growth, money, and safety. The god Osiris is well represented by the colour green, for Osiris is the god of resurrection and fertility. During the Middle Ages, green was the colour of choice for brides because it symbolized fertility. Green is the easiest colour for the human eyes and can soothe and improve vision. It promotes calm and a feeling of crisp freshness all around. Next to blue, green is also a popular colour scheme for hospitals and convalescent facilities.

Purple Symbolism

Purple is the colour of royalty or nobility. Kings and queens are often depicted in their finest using the color purple mixed with yellow or gold. It implies wealth, luxury, extravagance, and sophistication. It symbolizes magic, mystery, and power. Today, purple with yellow is most effective in promoting children’s toys because it gives the appearance of fun and ease of play.

Orange Symbolism

Orange is a healing colour associated with luck and the sun’s warmth. It is believed to increase one’s appetite for food. It stimulates creativity and enthusiasm, resulting in some relief from monotony and boredom. Even with traces of the hotness of red, orange is more gentle and controlled yet not lacking in power and adaptability to change.

Black Symbolism

Black has always symbolized death and the underworld, yet it equally symbolizes authority and power. Quite ironically, with all the implied power behind it, black implies submission, which is why priests often wear this colour to signify their submission to God. A more widely known use of the colour black is to depict negativity and evil, hence the colour of Dracula’s cape.  Fashion-wise, black is a popular colour that stands for formality and elegance.

White Symbolism

In ancient Egypt, white stood for omnipotence and purity. They used this absence of colour for ceremonial objects used in holy rituals. Everywhere else up to the present time, white also stands for purity and innocence. It depicts the highest sacred power of God. It stands for everything good, positive, clean, fresh and heavenly. It is a popular colour scheme for hospitals, charities, and non-profit organizations to emphasize something good and positive.

Brown Symbolism

Brown is the colour of the earth. It stands for life in general: real, solid and reliable. It encourages feelings of warmth, security, and a strong connection with the earth. In medieval times, brown was associated with the humble lives of the monks, often close to poverty. Today, brown is used in modern interior design to depict something natural, of the earth, warm and living.

Whether we realize the fact or not, colour is a major part of our lives. They can quietly influence our emotions and, consequently, our decision-making processes. This knowledge should open up our minds to the possible ways by which we can make them an active and positive influence on our day-to-day existence.