Cultural Meanings of Colour

There’s more to colour than meets the eye. We attach meanings to colour and these can vary depending on context and culture. Below are some of the meanings attached to the primary (red, blue, yellow) and secondary colours (orange, green, purple).

Red – in the UK we associate red with danger, anger, passion and love. But in China it’s the colour for good luck and in India it’s the colour of purity with it being a popular colour for brides to wear.

Orange – the Marmite of the colour wheel people either love it or hate it. The world over associates orange with autumn and good health. It is a sacred and auspicious colour in Hinduism

Yellow – generally this is the colour for happiness and optimism, of enlightenment and creativity, sunshine and spring. But it also symbolizes caution, madness and betrayal. Whilst in Japan yellow is the colour of courage, in the west it’s the colour of a coward.

Green – being most regarded nature’s colour it symbolises growth, re-birth and fertility. It is also the colour of jealousy, feeling poorly or being a novice. It is a sacred colour in Muslim countries and a symbol of luck in Ireland.

Blue – is a calm, cool and serene colour invoking a sense of trust. But it can also be associated with sadness – feeling blue – and is the colour of mourning in Korea.

Purple – is usually associated with emperors and popes as in the past it was very expensive to produce. For many cultures it is the colour of mourning and in USA for bravery.

Talking Colour

Colour is a fun topic to talk about with children whilst they’re making art. You can find out what they think of colours. Do they associate red with being hot and blue with cold? I bet they come up with some surprising and quite amusing or poignant answers.

What’s Your Favourite Colour?

This is a question we often ask when getting to know people. But what’s the significance I wonder? I remember it being very important when I was a child.

Often children will get attached to a particular colour wanting everything from the clothes they wear to the dish they eat from to be in that colour. This will also show when you let children choose their own colours from paint, crayons and collage.

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