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How 8 Colors Got Their Symbolic Meanings

  • Intro

    crayons-02
    Intro
    Crayons
    Crayons. Public domain image.
  • Red passion

    love-sculpture-02
    8
    CREDIT: Creative Commons | Hu Totya Love Sculpture
    LOVE sculpture by Robert Indiana, in Manhattan, NYC. |
  • White purity

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    River Baptism
    An African American river baptism in New Bern, North Carolina around the turn of the 20th century. It is customary to wear white during Christian baptisms, Islamic pilgrimages, and other spiritual endeavors. Public domain image.
  • Black mystery/death

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    6
    CREDIT: Dreamstime Destructionsleep
  • Purple royalty

    purple-cloth-02
    5
    CREDIT: Ayla87 | sxc.hu Purple Cloth
  • Blue truth/sadness

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    4
    Johnleehooker
    Blues singer John Lee Hooker performing in 1997. The expression
  • Green nature/wisdom

    emerald-rough-02
    3
    CREDIT: Creative Commons | M.M. Emerald Rough
    An emerald crystal found in Muzo, Colombia. In astrology, emeralds were the gem stones associated with the planet Mercury, and thus, with wisdom.
  • Yellow happiness/cowardliness

    sunlight-02
    2
    CREDIT: sxc.hu Sunlight
  • Orange warning

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    1
    CREDIT: NASA Astronauts Orange Spacesuits
    Astronauts in their orange spacesuits prior to launch of the Space Shuttle Atlanis on mission STS-125, in front of a mockup of the shuttle.

Colors are imbued with great symbolic power. Even in the modern English-speaking world, where superstitious beliefs have largely faded in the light of scientific knowledge, many colors have retained their ancient associations. Most people know that brides should wear white, that "seeing red" means being angry, and that one can feel "green with envy." But learning why these connotations exist requires a look back to the beliefs and practices of the ancients.

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