What Colors Mean

Should you pay attention to what colors mean when you decorate your home?

The short answer is: no.

For a slightly longer answer (including a 'meaning of color' list), please read on!

For all of us humans, the sun is yellow (well, sort of), foliage is green, the sky is blue, and blood is red.

But when it comes to even the most fundamental events of our lives - birth, marriage, death - what colors mean will depend entirely on the culture and times you happen to live in.

color meaning neutral colors

In much of Europe and the USA, babies are dressed in white for their birth ceremonies, and brides marry in white.

In other parts of the world these celebrations are often very colorful, with the main persons wearing anything but white.

Similarly, the color for mourning and funerals is black in the West, but white in parts of Asia.

So, what do colors mean?

As such, colors don't 'mean' anything.

The meaning of colors is entirely man-made.  And in all likelihood, people around the world have been making up color meanings for hundreds of thousands of years.

Here are a few examples of what colors can "mean":

  • which clan / social, ethnic or religious group / sports team / country you belong to
  • whether you're male or female
  • whether you're married or single
  • whether you're in mourning
  • which political issues, or party, or social causes you support
  • which (religious) event or holiday you're celebrating ...
  • ... and so on.

The meaning of colors is a way of communicating within, and between, different groups of people.

color meaning warm colors

When it comes to home decorating, however, particular color meanings are probably less important than their psychological effects, because these really do influence your personal well-being.

(For general information about the psychological effects of color, please click here.)

Below are some examples of what colors mean in different parts of the world.

I'm a European, and no expert on the significance of colors in faraway lands, so please do treat these 'snippets' with some caution.

And if you find mistakes in this list, it would be lovely if you could contact me with the correct information. Let me know what colors mean where you come from!

Peace, neutrality, surrender, innocence, purity, virginity, humility, winter, warmth (Laos), death (Japan, parts of China and India)

Age, wisdom, neutrality, humility, dullness, subtlety, elegance, respect, stability, formality, conservatism

Death and mourning, sorrow, evil, danger, illegal transactions, formality, power, sophistication, elegance, seriousness, renunciation of worldly things and pursuits (Chassidic Jews, Christian clergy and religious orders)

Earthiness, nature, reliability, autumn, poverty, simplicity, calm

The sun, joy, optimism, danger/hazard, wealth (gold), cowardice, avarice, dishonesty, courage (Japan), royalty/nobility (China), mourning (Egypt)

Energy, fire, enthusiasm, warmth, autumn, danger/warning, renunciation and spirituality (Hindu and Buddhist orders in India, Nepal, Thailand)

color meaning cool colors

Love, passion, blood, danger, aggression, sex, fire, ambition, anger, revolution, communism, marriage (India), luck and prosperity (China)

Health, romantic love, spring, femininity, homosexuality, trust (Korea)

Spirituality, enlightenment, the Passion of Christ, mystery, creativity, wisdom, wealth, nobility, mourning (Thailand, 19th-century England)

Royalty, nobility, confidence, truthfulness, clarity, water and the sea, planet earth, coldness, depression, immortality (China), heaven (Iran)

Nature, fertility, youth, hope, health, harmony, good luck, inexperience, envy, disgrace (China), corruption (North Africa), perfect faith (Islam)

Please remember to treat this as an 'ideas' list!

To utilize it, you could start making up color meanings for your home. Decide what colors mean in your house, for example: a reminder of good things to come, or a goal you want to achieve, or something you want to do first thing in the morning.

You could create your own, private set of color meanings if that works for you.

Take some colors you love, decide what you want this color to mean, and 'color code' your environment. Have fun - don't take this too seriously!

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