Colours and their Associations

In all cultures, different colours have different associations. They have symbolism and colour meanings. People respond to colours in different ways. The colour produces a certain physiological (connected with mind and body) and psychological (connected with history, culture and education) effect on a person. People’s reactions to colours are instinctive and subconscious and certain colours are tied with certain notions (for example, pink is considered to be a romantic colour). Cool colours such as blue, green, white, grey, and silver tend to have a calming effect. On the one hand they are cold and impersonal. On the other hand the cool colours are comforting and nurturing. Blue has a calming effect and it can help you sleep. That is why blue is a good colour for bedrooms. However, scientists say that too much blue could dampen spirits. That is why the expressions ‘to feel blue’ or ‘to get the blues’ mean ‘to feel sad, unhappy, depressed’. In many cultures blue is significant in religious beliefs, brings peace, or is believed to keep the bad spirits away. Blue, especially darker blue, is associated with intelligence, stability, unity, and conservatism. Navy blue is a common colour for uniforms such as those worn by sailors and the police. In Iran, blue is the colour of mourning while in the West the bride traditionally wears something blue to bring her luck. A deep royal blue or azure conveys richness and a touch of superiority.

Green is associated with life, spring, growth, renewal, health, and environment. At the same time green means jealousy or envy and inexperience. Green is known to calm the nerves and soothe emotions. It is the national colour of Ireland. Coupled with red green is a Christmas colour.

Grey is a neutral, balanced and conservative colour. Grey seldom evokes strong emotion although some people find it cloudy or moody. In the US and UK, grey is connected with being dull and boring. Like black, grey is used as a colour of mourning as well as a colour of formality.

White is purity, cleanliness, and virginity. In most Western countries women wear long white dresses when they get married. It is a brilliant colour that can cause headaches and that can be blinding. In the East, it’s the colour of mourning and funerals. Some cultures considered white to be the colour of royalty or of deities.

Silver is cool like grey but livelier and more playful. It often symbolizes riches, just as gold does. Silver can be glamorous and distinguished. The colour silver can be earthy, natural or sleek and elegant.

Warm colours fill us with joy and energy. Red, yellow, or orange can create excitement or even anger. Warm colours convey emotions from optimism to violence. In nature, warm colors represent change as in the changing of the seasons, the sunrise or the sunset.

Red is a hot and strong colour that evokes various emotions from passionate love to strong violence. Red is the colour of both Cupid and the devil. Red heart shapes and red roses represent romantic love. Studies show that red raises blood pressure. Red is often associated with power, that is why it is traditional to welcome a king, queen, president, celebrities and VIPs to a place by having a red carpet for them to walk on. Flashing red lights denote danger or emergency. In some cultures, red symbolizes purity, joy, and celebration. Red is the colour of happiness and prosperity in China. Red is often worn by brides in the East while it is the colour of mourning in South Africa.

Pink is a softer red. In some cultures, such as the US and the UK, pink is the colour that is worn by women and girls. It represents ‘sugar and spice and everything nice’. Most people consider pink to be a feminine, delicate colour.

Yellow is associated with sunshine. On the one hand it symbolizes happiness, cheerfulness and joy. On the other hand yellow is the colour of cowardice and deceit. If someone is ‘yellow’ it means he is a coward. Yellow was the colour of mourning in Egypt and actors of the Middle Ages wore yellow to signify the dead. Yet yellow has also represented courage (in Japan), merchants (in India), and peace.

Gold is the colour of riches and extravagance. As gold is a precious metal, the colour gold is associated with wealth and prosperity. In ancient Egypt, gold was the colour of the Sun god and the symbol of power.

Orange is vibrant. It denotes energy, warmth, and the sun. Orange can be found in nature in the changing leaves of autumn, the setting sun, and citrus fruit. Orange brings up images of autumn leaves, pumpkins, and Halloween. It is a colour of change between the heat of summer and the cool of winter.

Black is conservative, serious and conventional. It can also be mysterious and sophisticated. It is typically worn at funerals to show sadness and respect in most Western countries. Black is associated with death and evil (black magic). Black, especially combined with orange is the colour of Halloween. Black clothes are often worn to social occasions in the evening.

Brown is a natural, down-to-earth colour. It is found in nature: in earth, wood, and stone. Brown symbolizes wholesomeness and earthiness. It also represents steadfastness, simplicity, friendliness, dependability, and health.

It is difficult to imagine the world without colours. They surround us everywhere and constitute an important part of our lives. Colours help people communicate non-verbally. Besides, colours make our lives brighter and influence our emotions. Life without colours would be dull and uninteresting.

1. Read the following sentences and circle TRUE or FALSE: 1) Cool colours tend to have a calming effect T|F|
2) Too much blue makes you feel happier. T|F|
3) Green is the national colour of Scotland. T|F|
4) Yellow is a colour of formality. T|F|
5) In the East, white is the colour of mourning and funerals. T|F|
6) Warm colours convey emotions from optimism to violence. T|F|
7) Red is the colour of impatience and agression in China. T|F|
8) Pink represents ‘sugar and spice and everything nice’. T|F|
9) Orange is associated with death and evil. T|F|
10) Brown symbolizes wholesomeness and earthiness. T|F|
2. Complete each sentence (A-J) with one of the endings (1-10): A. In many cultures blue is significant in religious beliefs, brings peace, or is believed to
B. A deep royal blue or azure conveys
C. Green is associated with
D. In the US and UK, grey is connected with
E. Some cultures considered white to be the colour of
F. In nature, warm colors represent
G. Red is often associated with power, that is why it is traditional to
H. Most people consider pink to be
I. Black is typically worn at funerals to
J. Brown also represents
1. royalty or of deities.
2. welcome a king, queen, president, celebrities and VIPs to a place by having a red carpet for them to walk on.
3. show sadness and respect in most Western countries.
4. richness and a touch of superiority.
5. change as in the changing of the seasons, the sunrise or the sunset.
6. steadfastness, simplicity, friendliness, dependability, and health.
7. life, spring, growth, renewal, health, and environment.
8. keep the bad spirits away.
9. being dull and boring.
10. a feminine, delicate colour.
3. Read some expressions containing different colours. Match them with their meanings. Give your own examples
1. blue collar 2. true-blue 3. blue blood 4. bluestocking 5. to feel blue 6. green card 7. green light 8. green fingers (green thumb) 9. green-eyed monster 10. to look green around the gills 11. grey matter 12. grey area 13. white elephant 14. white flag 15. white collar 16. silver-tongued 17. silver screen 18. to see red 19. red alert 20. red carpet 21. red herring 22. pink collar 23. goldbrick 24. black-tie 25. blackmail 26. brown goods
A. completely loyal and faithful;
B. natural skill in making plants grow well;
C. able to give fine persuading speeches, eloquent;
D. a worker who does hard or dirty work with his hands;
E. to feel sad or depressed;
F. brain power, the power of thought;
G. jealousy;
H. parties and other social occasions at which people wear evening dress;
I. something that is big and valuable but useless or unwanted;
J. a document necessary in order to work legally in the US;
K. a person who works in offices or at professional jobs;
L. the film industry;
M. a situation of sudden great danger;
N. female office worker;
O. a worthless thing that appears to be valuable;
P. the quality of being a nobleman or noblewoman by birth;
Q. to look pale, sick;
R. a special ceremonial welcome to an important guest;
S. a sign that one accepts defeat;
T. electrical goods bought to provide entertainment, such as TVs, home computers etc.
U. a situation or subject that is difficult to deal with because it is not clear;
V. a woman who is thought to be too highly educated;
W. to be angry;
X. a fact or subject which is introduced to draw people’s attention away from the main point;
Y. the practice of obtaining money by threatening to make known unpleasant facts about a person;
Z. permission to begin an action;

4. Read and translate the proverbs and sayings containing colours. Explain their meaning – The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.
– All cats are grey in the dark.
– Every cloud has a silver lining.
– The devil is not as black as he is painted.
– True blue will never stain.
– There is a black sheep in every flock.
– The kettle calls the pot black.
– Neither fish nor good red herring.
5. Answer the questions 1) What can you say about cool/warm colours?
2) Why is blue good for bedrooms?
3) Green has conflicting meanings, doesn’t it? What can you say about this colour?
4) What do many people think of grey colour?
5) What does white symbolize?
6) What does silver convey?
7) What emotions does red usually evoke?
8) What is red associated with in different cultures?
9) Why is gold associated with wealth and prosperity?
10) What images does orange bring up?
11) What is your favourite colour? Why do you like it?
12) Why are colours important in our lives?
6. Read and translate the quotations below. Choose any statement and comment on it – ‘Man needs colour to live; it’s just as necessary an element as fire and water.’ (Fernand Leger)
– ‘The purest and most thoughtful minds are those which love colour the most.’ (John Ruskin)
– ‘There are no lines in nature, only areas of colour, one against another.’ (Edouard Manet)
– ‘With the brush we merely tint, while the imagination alone produces colour.’ (Theodore Gericault)
– T cannot pretend to be impartial about the colours. I rejoice with the brilliant ones, and am genuinely sorry for the poor browns.’ (Winston Churchill)
Points for discussion. Prepare a short speech on one of the following topics.
1) The language of colours.
2) The importance of colours in people’s lives.
3) Colours and their effect on people’s psychology.
4) Colours and fashion.
5) Colour personality tests.

A. What do you associate these colours with?

Black blue green brown yellow red pink orange grey white
(sadness, life, envy, virginity, power, optimism, warmth, elegance, depression, peace, unhappiness, violence, stability, danger, inexperience, mourning, conservatism, renewal, mystery, jealousy, coolness, boredom, purity, love, joy, deceit, happiness, earthiness, energy, excitement, cowardice, steadfastness, romance, formality, delicacy, simplicity, anger, friendliness, heat, cheerfulness)

B. Read the text ‘Colours and their Associations’ and say what facts you have learnt about colours.