Green is the color between blue and yellow on the visible spectrum. It
is evoked by light which has a dominant wavelength of roughly
495–570 nm. In subtractive color systems, used in painting and color
printing, it is created by a combination of yellow and blue, or yellow
and cyan; in the RGB color model, used on television and computer
screens, it is one of the additive primary colors, along with red and
blue, which are mixed in different combinations to create all other
colors. By far the largest contributor to green in nature is
chlorophyll, the chemical by which plants photosynthesize and convert
sunlight into chemical energy. Many creatures have adapted to their
green environments by taking on a green hue themselves as camouflage.
Several minerals have a green color, including the emerald, which is
colored green by its chromium content.
During post-classical and early modern Europe, green was the color
commonly associated with wealth, merchants, bankers and the gentry,
while red was reserved for the nobility. For this reason, the costume
Mona Lisa by
Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo da Vinci and the benches in the British
House of Commons
House of Commons are green while those in the
House of Lords
House of Lords are
red. It also has a long historical tradition as the color of
Ireland and of Gaelic culture. It is the historic color of Islam,
representing the lush vegetation of Paradise. It was the color of the
banner of Muhammad, and is found in the flags of nearly all Islamic
In surveys made in American, European, and Islamic countries, green is
the color most commonly associated with nature, life, health, youth,
spring, hope and envy. In the
European Union and the United States,
green is also sometimes associated with toxicity and poor health,
but in China and most of Asia, its associations are very positive, as
the symbol of fertility and happiness. Because of its association
with nature, it is the color of the environmental movement. Political
groups advocating environmental protection and social justice describe
themselves as part of the
Green movement, some naming themselves Green
parties. This has led to similar campaigns in advertising, as
companies have sold green, or environmentally friendly, products.
Green is also the traditional color of safety and permission; a green
light means go ahead, a green card permits permanent residence in the
1 Etymology and linguistic definitions
1.1 Languages where green and blue are one color
1.2 In nature and culture
2 In science
Color vision and colorimetry
2.3 Pigments, food coloring and fireworks
3 In history and art
3.1 Prehistoric history
3.2 Ancient history
3.3 Postclassical history
3.4 Modern history
3.4.1 In the 18th and 19th century
3.4.2 In the 20th and 21st century
4 Symbolism and associations
4.1 Safety and permission
4.2 Nature, vivacity, and life
4.3 Springtime, freshness, and hope
Youth and inexperience
4.5 Calm, tolerance, and the agreeable
Jealousy and envy
4.7 Love and sexuality
4.8 Dragons, fairies, monsters, and devils
4.9 Poison and sickness
4.10 Social status, prosperity and the dollar
5 On flags
6 In politics
7 In religion
8 In gambling and sports
9 Idioms and expressions
11 See also
12.1 Cited texts
13 External links
Etymology and linguistic definitions
The word green has the same Germanic root as the words for grass and
The word green comes from the
Middle English and
Old English word
grene, which, like the German word grün, has the same root as the
words grass and grow. It is from a
Common Germanic *gronja-, which
is also reflected in
Old Norse grænn,
Old High German
Old High German gruoni (but
unattested in East Germanic), ultimately from a
PIE root *ghre- "to
grow", and root-cognate with grass and to grow. The first recorded
use of the word as a color term in
Old English dates to ca. AD 700.
Latin with viridis also has a genuine and widely used term for
"green". Related to virere "to grow" and ver "spring", it gave rise to
words in several Romance languages, French vert, Italian verde (and
English vert, verdure etc.). Likewise the
Slavic languages with
Ancient Greek also had a term for yellowish, pale green –
χλωρός, chloros (cf. the color of chlorine), cognate with
χλοερός "verdant" and χλόη "the green of new growth".
Thus, the languages mentioned above (Germanic, Romance, Slavic, Greek)
have old terms for "green" which are derived from words for fresh,
sprouting vegetation. However, comparative linguistics makes clear
that these terms were coined independently, over the past few
millennia, and there is no identifiable single Proto-Indo-European or
word for "green". For example, the Slavic zelenъ is cognate with
Sanskrit hari "yellow, ochre, golden". The
Turkic languages also
have jašɨl "green" or "yellowish green", compared to a Mongolian
word for "meadow".
Languages where green and blue are one color
In some languages, including old Chinese, Thai, old Japanese, and
Vietnamese, the same word can mean either blue or green. The
Chinese character 青 (pronounced qīng in Mandarin, ao in Japanese,
and thanh in Sino-Vietnamese) has a meaning that covers both blue and
green; blue and green are traditionally considered shades of "青". In
more contemporary terms, they are 藍 (lán, in Mandarin) and 綠
(lǜ, in Mandarin) respectively. Japanese also has two terms that
refer specifically to the color green, 緑 (midori, which is derived
from the classical Japanese descriptive verb midoru "to be in leaf, to
flourish" in reference to trees) and グリーン (guriin, which is
derived from the English word "green"). However, in Japan, although
the traffic lights have the same colors as other countries have, the
green light is described using the same word as for blue, aoi, because
green is considered a shade of aoi; similarly, green variants of
certain fruits and vegetables such as green apples, green shiso (as
opposed to red apples and red shiso) will be described with the word
aoi. Vietnamese uses a single word for both blue and green, xanh, with
variants such as xanh da trời (azure, lit. "sky blue"), lam (blue),
and lục (green; also xanh lá cây, lit. "leaf green").
"Green" in modern European languages corresponds to about
520–570 nm, but many historical and non-European languages make
other choices, e.g. using a term for the range of ca.
450–530 nm ("blue/green") and another for ca. 530–590 nm
("green/yellow"). In the comparative study of color
terms in the world's languages, green is only found as a separate
category in languages with the fully developed range of six colors
(white, black, red, green, yellow, and blue), or more rarely in
systems with five colors (white, red, yellow, green, and
black/blue). (See distinction of green from blue) These
languages have introduced supplementary vocabulary to denote "green",
but these terms are recognizable as recent adoptions that are not in
origin color terms (much like the English adjective orange being in
origin not a color term but the name of a fruit). Thus, the Thai word
เขียว kheīyw, besides meaning "green", also means "rank"
and "smelly" and holds other unpleasant associations.
Celtic languages had a term for "blue/green/grey", Proto-Celtic
*glasto-, which gave rise to
Old Irish glas "green, grey" and to Welsh
glas "blue". This word is cognate with the Ancient Greek
γλαυκός "bluish green", contrasting with χλωρός
"yellowish green" discussed above.
In modern Japanese, the term for green is 緑, while the old term for
"blue/green", blue (青, Ao) now means "blue". But in certain
contexts, green is still conventionally referred to as 青, as in blue
traffic light (青信号, ao shingō) and blue leaves (青葉, aoba),
reflecting the absence of blue-green distinction in old Japanese (more
accurately, the traditional Japanese color terminology grouped some
shades of green with blue, and others with yellow tones).
Persian language is traditionally lacking a black/blue/green
distinction. The Persian word سبز sabz can mean "green", "black",
or "dark". Thus, Persian erotic poetry, dark-skinned women are
addressed as sabz-eh, as in phrases like سبز گندم گون
sabz-eh-gandom-gun (literally "dark wheat colored") or سبز مليح
sabz-eh-malih ("a dark beauty"). Similarly, in Sudanese Arabic,
dark-skinned people are described as أخضر akhḍar, the term which
Standard Arabic stands unambiguously for "green".
In nature and culture
Main article: Shades of green
Emerald green. The Gachala
Emerald from the National Museum of Natural
Jade. A jade dragon from the Han Dynasty, China.
Jade can be many
different shades of green.
A 10th-century celadon pot from China (Musee Guimet, Paris). Celadon
is a pale greyish green which takes its name from a character in the
French romance Astrée by d'Urfe (1610).
Malachite green. A giant malachite vase in the Hermitage Museum, Saint
Lime green, Named for the lime fruit, inclines toward yellow.
Olive or olive green.
Olive drab was the standard color of U.S. Army combat uniforms from
World War II through the Vietnam War.
Moss green. Saihō-ji (Kyoto), also known as the "Moss Garden", in
Kyoto, Japan, begun in 1339
Teal takes its name from the color around the eyes of the
Color vision and colorimetry
Green, blue and red are additive colors. All the colors you see on
your computer screen are made by mixing them in different intensities.
In optics, the perception of green is evoked by light having a
spectrum dominated by energy with a wavelength of roughly
495–570 nm. The sensitivity of the dark-adapted human eye is
greatest at about 507 nm, a blue-green color, while the
light-adapted eye is most sensitive about 555 nm, a yellow-green;
these are the peak locations of the rod and cone (scotopic and
photopic, respectively) luminosity functions.
The perception of greenness (in opposition to redness forming one of
the opponent mechanisms in human color vision) is evoked by light
which triggers the medium-wavelength M cone cells in the eye more than
the long-wavelength L cones.
Light which triggers this greenness
response more than the yellowness or blueness of the other color
opponent mechanism is called green. A green light source typically has
a spectral power distribution dominated by energy with a wavelength of
roughly 487–570 nm.
Human eyes have color receptors known as cone cells, of which there
are three types. In some cases, one is missing or faulty, which can
cause color blindness, including the common inability to distinguish
red and yellow from green, known as deuteranopia or red–green color
Green is restful to the eye. Studies show that a green
environment can reduce fatigue.
In the subtractive color system, used in painting and color printing,
green is created by a combination of yellow and blue, or yellow and
cyan; in the RGB color model, used on television and computer screens,
it is one of the additive primary colors, along with red and blue,
which are mixed in different combinations to create all other colors.
On the HSV color wheel, also known as the RGB color wheel, the
complement of green is magenta; that is, a color corresponding to an
equal mixture of red and blue light (one of the purples). On a
traditional color wheel, based on subtractive color, the complementary
color to green is considered to be red.
In additive color devices such as computer displays and televisions,
one of the primary light sources is typically a narrow-spectrum
yellowish-green of dominant wavelength ~550 nm; this "green"
primary is combined with an orangish-red "red" primary and a
purplish-blue "blue" primary to produce any color in
between – the RGB color model. A unique green (green
appearing neither yellowish nor bluish) is produced on such a device
by mixing light from the green primary with some light from the blue
Lasers emitting in the green part of the spectrum are widely available
to the general public in a wide range of output powers.
pointers outputting at 532 nm (563.5 THz) are relatively
inexpensive compared to other wavelengths of the same power, and are
very popular due to their good beam quality and very high apparent
brightness. The most common green lasers use diode pumped solid state
(DPSS) technology to create the green light. An infrared laser
diode at 808 nm is used to pump a crystal of neodymium-doped
yttrium vanadium oxide (Nd:YVO4) or neodymium-doped yttrium aluminium
garnet (Nd:YAG) and induces it to emit 281.76 THz (1064 nm). This
deeper infrared light is then passed through another crystal
containing potassium, titanium and phosphorus (KTP), whose non-linear
properties generate light at a frequency that is twice that of the
incident beam (563.5 THz); in this case corresponding to the
wavelength of 532 nm ("green"). Other green wavelengths are
also available using
DPSS technology ranging from 501 nm to
Green wavelengths are also available from gas lasers,
including the helium–neon laser (543 nm), the Argon-ion laser
(514 nm) and the Krypton-ion laser (521 nm and 531 nm),
as well as liquid dye lasers.
Green lasers have a wide variety of
applications, including pointing, illumination, surgery, laser light
shows, spectroscopy, interferometry, fluorescence, holography, machine
vision, non-lethal weapons and bird control.
As of mid-2011, direct green laser diodes at 510 nm and
500 nm have become generally available, although the price
remains relatively prohibitive for widespread public use. The
efficiency of these lasers (peak 3%) compared to that
DPSS green lasers (peak 35%) may also be limiting
adoption of the diodes to niche uses.
Pigments, food coloring and fireworks
Chicago River is dyed green every year to mark St. Patrick's Day
Many minerals provide pigments which have been used in green paints
and dyes over the centuries. Pigments, in this case, are minerals
which reflect the color green, rather that emitting it through
luminescent or phosphorescent qualities. The large number of green
pigments makes it impossible to mention them all. Among the more
notable green minerals, however is the emerald, which is colored green
by trace amounts of chromium and sometimes vanadium. Chromium(III)
oxide (Cr2O3), is called chrome green, also called viridian or
institutional green when used as a pigment. For many years, the
source of amazonite's color was a mystery. Widely thought to have been
due to copper because copper compounds often have blue and green
colors, the blue-green color is likely to be derived from small
quantities of lead and water in the feldspar.
Copper is the source
of the green color in malachite pigments, chemically known as basic
Verdigris is made by placing a plate or blade of copper, brass or
bronze, slightly warmed, into a vat of fermenting wine, leaving it
there for several weeks, and then scraping off and drying the green
powder that forms on the metal. The process of making verdigris was
described in ancient times by Pliny. It was used by the Romans in the
murals of Pompeii, and in Celtic medieval manuscripts as early as the
5th century AD. It produced a blue-green which no other pigment could
imitate, but it had drawbacks; it was unstable, it could not resist
dampness, it did not mix well with other colors, it could ruin other
colors with which it came into contact., and it was toxic. Leonardo da
Vinci, in his treatise on painting, warned artists not to use it. It
was widely used in miniature paintings in Europe and Persia in the
16th and 17th centuries. Its use largely ended in the late 19th
century, when it was replaced by the safer and more stable chrome
green. Viridian, also called chrome green, is a pigment made with
chromium oxide dihydrate, was patented in 1859. It became popular with
painters, since, unlike other synthetic greens, it was stable and not
Vincent van Gogh
Vincent van Gogh used it, along with Prussian blue, to create a
dark blue sky with a greenish tint in his painting Cafe terrace at
Green earth is a natural pigment used since the time of the Roman
Empire. It is composed of clay colored by iron oxide, magnesium,
aluminum silicate, or potassium. Large deposits were found in the
South of France near Nice, and in Italy around Verona, on Cyprus, and
in Bohemia. The clay was crushed, washed to remove impurities, then
powdered. It was sometimes called
Green of Verona.
Mixtures of oxidized cobalt and zinc were also used to create green
paints as early as the 18th century.
Cobalt green, sometimes known as Rinman's green or zinc green, is a
translucent green pigment made by heating a mixture of cobalt (II)
oxide and zinc oxide. Sven Rinman, a Swedish chemist, discovered this
compound in 1780.
Green chrome oxide was a new synthetic green
created by a chemist named Pannetier in Paris in about 1835. Emerald
green was a synthetic deep green made in the 19th century by hydrating
chrome oxide. It was also known as Guignet green.
Fireworks typically use barium salts to create green sparks
There is no natural source for green food colorings which has been
approved by the US Food and Drug Administration. Chlorophyll, the E
numbers E140 and E141, is the most common green chemical found in
nature, and only allowed in certain medicines and cosmetic
Yellow (E104) is a commonly used coloring in
the United Kingdom but is banned in Australia, Japan, Norway and the
Green S (E142) is prohibited in many countries, for
it is known to cause hyperactivity, asthma, urticaria, and
To create green sparks, fireworks use barium salts, such as barium
chlorate, barium nitrate crystals, or barium chloride, also used for
green fireplace logs.
Copper salts typically burn blue, but cupric
chloride (also known as "campfire blue") can also produce green
Green pyrotechnic flares can use a mix ratio 75:25 of
boron and potassium nitrate. Smoke can be turned green by a
mixture: solvent yellow 33, solvent green 3, lactose, magnesium
carbonate plus sodium carbonate added to potassium chlorate.
The chloroplasts of plant cells contain a high concentration of
chlorophyll, making them appear green.
Frogs often appear green because light reflects off of a blue
underlayer through a yellow upperlayer, filtering the light to be
A yellow-naped Amazon parrot, colored green for camouflage in the
The green huntsman spider is green due to the presence of bilin
pigments in the spider's hemolymph and tissue fluids
Green is common in nature, as many plants are green because of a
complex chemical known as chlorophyll, which is involved in
Chlorophyll absorbs the long wavelengths of light
(red) and short wavelengths of light (blue) much more efficiently than
the wavelengths that appear green to the human eye, so light reflected
by plants is enriched in green.
Chlorophyll absorbs green light
poorly because it first arose in organisms living in oceans where
purple halobacteria were already exploiting photosynthesis. Their
purple color arose because they extracted energy in the green portion
of the spectrum using bacteriorhodopsin. The new organisms that then
later came to dominate the extraction of light were selected to
exploit those portions of the spectrum not used by the
Animals typically use the color green as camouflage, blending in with
the chlorophyll green of the surrounding environment. Green
animals include, especially, amphibians, reptiles, and some fish,
birds and insects. Most fish, reptiles, amphibians, and birds appear
green because of a reflection of blue light coming through an
over-layer of yellow pigment.
Perception of color can also be affected
by the surrounding environment. For example, broadleaf forests
typically have a yellow-green light about them as the trees filter the
Turacoverdin is one chemical which can cause a green hue in
birds, especially. Invertebrates such as insects or mollusks often
display green colors because of porphyrin pigments, sometimes caused
by diet. This can causes their feces to look green as well. Other
chemicals which generally contribute to greenness among organisms are
flavins (lychochromes) and hemanovadin. Humans have imitated this
by wearing green clothing as a camouflage in military and other
fields. Substances that may impart a greenish hue to one's skin
include biliverdin, the green pigment in bile, and ceruloplasmin, a
protein that carries copper ions in chelation.
The green huntsman spider is green due to the presence of bilin
pigments in the spider's hemolymph (circulatory system fluids) and
tissue fluids. It hunts insects in green vegetation, where it is
Main article: Eye color
There is no green pigment in green eyes; like the color of blue eyes,
it is an optical illusion; its appearance is caused by the combination
of an amber or light brown pigmentation of the stroma, given by a low
or moderate concentration of melanin, with the blue tone imparted by
Rayleigh scattering of the reflected light.
Green eyes are
most common in Northern and Central Europe. They can also be
found in Southern Europe, West Asia, Central Asia, and South Asia.
In Iceland, 89% of women and 87% of men have either blue or green eye
color. A study of Icelandic and Dutch adults found green eyes to
be much more prevalent in women than in men. Among European
Americans, green eyes are most common among those of recent Celtic and
Germanic ancestry, about 16%.
In history and art
Neolithic cave paintings do not have traces of green pigments, but
neolithic peoples in northern Europe did make a green dye for
clothing, made from the leaves of the birch tree. It was of very poor
quality, more brown than green. Ceramics from ancient
people wearing vivid green costumes, but it is not known how the
colors were produced.
The gardens of ancient Egypt were symbols of rebirth. Tomb painting of
the gardens of Amon at the temple of Karnak, from the tomb of Nakh,
the chief gardener. Early 14th century BC.
The Ancient Egyptian god Osiris, ruler of the underworld and of
rebirth and regeneration, was typically shown with a green face. (Tomb
of Nefertari, 1295–1253 BC)
Ancient Roman fresco of Flora, or Spring, from
Stabiae (2nd century
In Ancient Egypt, green was the symbol of regeneration and rebirth,
and of the crops made possible by the annual flooding of the Nile. For
painting on the walls of tombs or on papyrus, Egyptian artists used
finely ground malachite, mined in the west Sinai and the eastern
desert; a paintbox with malachite pigment was found inside the tomb of
King Tutankhamun. They also used less expensive green earth pigment,
or mixed yellow ochre and blue azurite. To dye fabrics green, they
first colored them yellow with dye made from saffron and then soaked
them in blue dye from the roots of the woad plant.
For the ancient Egyptians, green had very positive associations. The
hieroglyph for green represented a growing papyrus sprout, showing the
close connection between green, vegetation, vigor and growth. In wall
paintings, the ruler of the underworld, Osiris, was typically
portrayed with a green face, because green was the symbol of good
health and rebirth. Palettes of green facial makeup, made with
malachite, were found in tombs. It was worn by both the living and the
dead, particularly around the eyes, to protect them from evil. Tombs
also often contained small green amulets in the shape of scarab
beetles made of malachite, which would protect and give vigor to the
deceased. It also symbolized the sea, which was called the "Very
In Ancient Greece, green and blue were sometimes considered the same
color, and the same word sometimes described the color of the sea and
the color of trees. The philosopher
Democritus described two different
greens: cloron, or pale green, and prasinon, or leek green. Aristotle
considered that green was located midway between black, symbolizing
the earth, and white, symbolizing water. However, green was not
counted among the four classic colors of Greek painting – red,
yellow, black and white – and is rarely found in Greek art.
The Romans had a greater appreciation for the color green; it was the
color of Venus, the goddess of gardens, vegetables and vineyards. The
Romans made a fine green earth pigment that was widely used in the
wall paintings of Pompeii, Herculaneum, Lyon, Vaison-la-Romaine, and
other Roman cities. They also used the pigment verdigris, made by
soaking copper plates in fermenting wine. By the second century
AD, the Romans were using green in paintings, mosaics and glass, and
there were ten different words in
Latin for varieties of green.
Arnolfini portrait by
Jan van Eyck
Jan van Eyck (1434), the rich green
fabric of the dress showed the wealth and status of the family.
Duccio di Buoninsegna
Duccio di Buoninsegna painted the faces in this painting (1308–1311)
with an undercoat of green earth pigment. The surface pink has faded,
making the faces look green today.
The green costume of the
Mona Lisa shows she was from the gentry, not
from the nobility.
In the 15th century
Saint Wolfgang and the
Devil by Michael Pacher,
Devil is green. Poets such as
Chaucer also drew connections
between the color green and the devil.
In this 1503 painting by Perugino, malachite pigment was used to paint
the bright green garments of the worshippers, while the background
greens were painted in green earth pigments.
Middle Ages and Renaissance, the color of clothing showed a
person's social rank and profession.
Red could only be worn by the
nobility, brown and gray by peasants, and green by merchants, bankers
and the gentry and their families. The
Mona Lisa wears green in her
portrait, as does the bride in the
Arnolfini portrait by Jan van Eyck.
Unfortunately for those who wanted or were required to wear green,
there were no good vegetal green dyes which resisted washing and
Green dyes were made out of the fern, plantain, buckthorn
berries, the juice of nettles and of leeks, the digitalis plant, the
broom plant, the leaves of the fraxinus, or ash tree, and the bark of
the alder tree, but they rapidly faded or changed color. Only in the
16th century was a good green dye produced, by first dyeing the cloth
blue with woad, and then yellow with Reseda luteola, also known as
The pigments available to painters were more varied; monks in
monasteries used verdigris, made by soaking copper in fermenting wine,
to color medieval manuscripts. They also used finely-ground malachite,
which made a luminous green. They used green earth colors for
During the early Renaissance, painters such as Duccio di Buoninsegna
learned to paint faces first with a green undercoat, then with pink,
which gave the faces a more realistic hue. Over the centuries the pink
has faded, making some of the faces look green.
In the 18th and 19th century
Dedham Vale (1802) by John Constable. The paintings of Constable
romanticized the vivid green landscapes of England.
In the paintings of
Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot (1796–1875), the
green of trees and nature became the central element of the painting,
with the people secondary.
Symphony in gray and green; The Ocean by James McNeil Whistler
The Night Café, (1888), by Vincent van Gogh, used red and green to
express what Van Gogh called "the terrible human passions."
Émile Bernard – Still life with green teapot, cup and fruit, 1890
Louis Anquetin – Woman at the Champs-Élysées by night
Pedro II of Brazil
Pedro II of Brazil wearing a dark green velvet mantle
The 18th and 19th century brought the discovery and production of
synthetic green pigments and dyes, which rapidly replaced the earlier
mineral and vegetable pigments and dyes. These new dyes were more
stable and brilliant than the vegetable dyes, but some contained high
levels of arsenic, and were eventually banned.
In the 18th and 19th century, green was associated with the romantic
movement in literature and art. The French philosopher Jean-Jacques
Rousseau celebrated the virtues of nature, The German poet and
Goethe declared that green was the most restful color,
suitable for decorating bedrooms. Painters such as
John Constable and
Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot depicted the lush green of rural
landscapes and forests.
Green was contrasted to the smoky grays and
blacks of the Industrial Revolution.
The second half of the 19th century saw the use of green in art to
create specific emotions, not just to imitate nature. One of the first
to make color the central element of his picture was the American
artist James McNeil Whistler, who created a series of paintings called
"symphonies" or "noctures" of color, including "Symphony in gray and
green; The Ocean" between 1866 and 1872.
The late nineteenth century also brought the systematic study of color
theory, and particularly the study of how complementary colors such as
red and green reinforced each other when they were placed next to each
other. These studies were avidly followed by artists such as Vincent
van Gogh. Describing his painting, The Night Cafe, to his brother Theo
in 1888, Van Gogh wrote: "I sought to express with red and green the
terrible human passions. The hall is blood red and pale yellow, with a
green billiard table in the center, and four lamps of lemon yellow,
with rays of orange and green. Everywhere it is a battle and
antithesis of the most different reds and greens."
In the 20th and 21st century
In the 1980s green became a political symbol, the color of the Green
Party in Germany and in many other European countries. It symbolized
the environmental movement, and also a new politics of the left which
rejected traditional socialism and communism. (See Politics section
Symbolism and associations
Safety and permission
A green light is the universal symbol of permission to go
An agriculture company chooses green and yellow for their products.
Three wheels on each hub enables this tractor to work wetter land.
Green can communicate safety to proceed, as in traffic lights.
Green and red were standardized as the colors of international
railroad signals in the 19th century. The first traffic light, using
green and red gas lamps, was erected in 1868 in front of the Houses of
Parliament in London. It exploded the following year, injuring the
policeman who operated it. In 1912, the first modern electric traffic
lights were put up in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Red was chosen largely
because of its high visibility, and its association with danger, while
green was chosen largely because it could not be mistaken for red.
Today green lights universally signal that a system is turned on and
working as it should. In many video games, green signifies both health
and completed objectives, opposite red.
Nature, vivacity, and life
Green is the color most commonly associated in Europe and the U.S.
with nature, vivacity and life. It is the color of many
environmental organizations, such as Greenpeace, and of the Green
Parties in Europe. Many cities have designated a garden or park as a
green space, and use green trash bins and containers. A green cross is
commonly used to designate pharmacies in Europe.
In China, green is associated with the east, with sunrise, and with
life and growth. In Thailand, the color green is considered
auspicious for those born on a Wednesday day (light green for those
born at night).
Springtime, freshness, and hope
Green is the color most commonly associated in the U.S. and Europe
with springtime, freshness, and hope.[b]
Green is often used to
symbolize rebirth and renewal and immortality. In Ancient Egypt; the
god Osiris, king of the underworld, was depicted as green-skinned.
Green as the color of hope is connected with the color of springtime;
hope represents the faith that things will improve after a period of
difficulty, like the renewal of flowers and plants after the winter
Youth and inexperience
Green the color most commonly associated in Europe and the U.S. with
youth. It also often is used to describe anyone young, inexperienced,
probably by the analogy to immature and unripe fruit.[c]
Examples include green cheese, a term for a fresh, unaged cheese, and
greenhorn, an inexperienced person.
Calm, tolerance, and the agreeable
Surveys also show that green is the color most associated with the
calm, the agreeable, and tolerance.
Red is associated with heat, blue
with cold, and green with an agreeable temperature.
Red is associated
with dry, blue with wet, and green, in the middle, with dampness. Red
is the most active color, blue the most passive; green, in the middle,
is the color of neutrality and calm, sometimes used in architecture
and design for these reasons.
Blue and green together symbolize
harmony and balance.
Jealousy and envy
Green is often associated with jealousy and envy. The expression
"green-eyed monster" was first used by
William Shakespeare in Othello:
"it is the green-eyed monster which doth mock the meat it feeds on."
Shakespeare also used it in the Merchant of Venice, speaking of
Love and sexuality
Green today is not commonly associated in Europe and the United States
with love and sexuality, but in stories of the medieval period it
sometimes represented love and the base, natural desires of
man. It was the color of the serpent in the
Garden of Eden
Garden of Eden who
caused the downfall of Adam and Eve. However, for the troubadours,
green was the color of growing love, and light green clothing was
reserved for young women who were not yet married.
In Persian and Sudanese poetry, dark-skinned women, called "green"
women, were considered erotic. The Chinese term for cuckold is "to
wear a green hat." This was because in ancient China, prostitutes
were called "the family of the green lantern" and a prostitute's
family would wear a green headscarf.
In Victorian England, the color green was associated with
Dragons, fairies, monsters, and devils
Saint Wolfgang and the Devil, by Michael Pacher.
A medieval illustration of a dragon (1460)
A Chinese dragon dance
A 20th-century depiction of a leprechaun
In legends, folk tales and films, fairies, dragons, monsters, and the
devil are often shown as green.
In the Middle Ages, the devil was usually shown as either red, black
Dragons were usually green, because they had the heads,
claws and tails of reptiles.
Chinese dragons are also often green, but unlike European
dragons, they are benevolent;
Chinese dragons traditionally symbolize
potent and auspicious powers, particularly control over water,
rainfall, hurricane, and floods. The dragon is also a symbol of power,
strength, and good luck. The Emperor of China usually used the dragon
as a symbol of his imperial power and strength. The dragon dance is a
popular feature of Chinese festivals.
Irish folklore and English folklore, the color was sometimes was
associated with witchcraft, and with faeries and spirits. The type
of Irish fairy known as a leprechaun is commonly portrayed wearing a
green suit, though before the 20th century he was usually described as
wearing a red suit.
In theater and film, green was often connected with monsters and the
inhuman. The earliest films of Frankenstein were in black and white,
but in the poster for the 1935 version The Bride of Frankenstein, the
monster had a green face. Actor
Bela Lugosi wore green-hued makeup for
the role of
Dracula in the 1927–1928 Broadway stage
Poison and sickness
Like other common colors, green has several completely opposite
associations. While it is the color most associated by Europeans and
Americans with good health, it is also the color most often associated
with toxicity and poison. There was a solid foundation for this
association; in the nineteenth century several popular paints and
pigments, notably verdigris, vert de Schweinfurt and vert de Paris,
were highly toxic, containing copper or arsenic.[d] The
intoxicating drink absinthe was known as "the green fairy".
A green tinge in the skin is sometimes associated with nausea and
sickness. The expression 'green at the gills' means appearing
sick. The color, when combined with gold, is sometimes seen as
representing the fading of youth. In some Far East cultures the
color green is used as a symbol of sickness or nausea.
Social status, prosperity and the dollar
The famous British fashion leader
Beau Brummel wore a green tailcoat
The reverse of the
United States one-dollar bill has been green since
1861, giving it the popular name greenback.
Green in Europe and the
United States is sometimes associated with
status and prosperity. From the
Middle Ages to the 19th century it was
often worn by bankers, merchants country gentlemen and others who were
wealthy but not members of the nobility. The benches in the House of
Commons of the United Kingdom, where the landed gentry sat, are
United States green was connected with the dollar bill. Since
1861, the reverse side of the dollar bill has been green.
originally chosen because it deterred counterfeiters, who tried to use
early camera equipment to duplicate banknotes. Also, since the
banknotes were thin, the green on the back did not show through and
muddle the pictures on the front of the banknote.
Green continues to
be used because the public now associates it with a strong and stable
One of the more notable uses of this meaning is found in The Wonderful
Wizard of Oz. The
Emerald City in this story is a place where everyone
wears tinted glasses that make everything appear green. According to
the populist interpretation of the story, the city’s color is used
by the author, L. Frank Baum, to illustrate the financial system of
America in his day, as he lived in a time when America was debating
the use of paper money versus gold.
The flag of Italy (1797) was modeled after the flag of France. It was
originally the flag of the Cisalpine Republic, and the green came from
the uniforms of the army of Milan.
The flag of Brazil (1889). The green color was inherited from the flag
of the Empire of Brazil, where it represented the color of the House
The flag of
Ireland (1919). The green represents the culture and
traditions of Gaelic Ireland.
The flag of India (1947). The green has been said at different times
to represent the Muslim community of India, hope, or prosperity.
The flag of
Bangladesh (1971). The green field stands for the lushness
of the land of Bangladesh
Flag of Saudi Arabia
Flag of Saudi Arabia (1973) has the green color of Islam. The
inscription in Arabic says: There is no God but Allah, and
The flag of
South Africa (1994) includes green, yellow and black, the
colors of the African National Congress.
The former flag of Libya (1977–2011) was the only monochromatic flag
in the world, with no design or details.
The flag of
Nigeria (1960). The green represents the forests and
natural wealth of the country.
The flag of Pakistan (1947). The green part represents the Muslim
majority of the country.
The flag of Italy (1797) was modeled after the French tricolor. It was
originally the flag of the Cisalpine Republic, whose capital was
Milan; red and white were the colors of Milan, and green was the color
of the military uniforms of the army of the Cisalpine Republic. Other
versions say it is the color of the Italian landscape, or symbolizes
The flag of Brazil has a green field adapted from the flag of the
Empire of Brazil. The green represented the royal family.
The flag of India was inspired by an earlier flag of the independence
movement of Gandhi, which had a red band for Hinduism and a green band
representing Islam, the second largest religion in India.
The flag of Pakistan symbolizes Pakistan's commitment to
equal rights of religious minorities where the larger portion (3:2
ratio) of flag is dark green representing Muslim majority (98% of
total population) while a white vertical bar (3:1 ratio) at the mast
representing equal rights for religious minorities and minority
religions in country. The crescent and star symbolizes progress and
bright future respectively.
Flag of Bangladesh
Flag of Bangladesh has a green field based on a similar flag used
Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971. It consists of a red
disc on top of a green field. The red disc represents the sun rising
over Bengal, and also the blood of those who died for the independence
of Bangladesh. The green field stands for the lushness of the land of
Green is one of the three colors (along with red and black, or red and
gold) of Pan-Africanism. Several African countries thus use the color
on their flags, including Nigeria, South Africa, Ghana, Senegal, Mali,
Ethiopia, Togo, Guinea, Benin, and Zimbabwe. The Pan-African colors
are borrowed from the Ethiopian flag, one of the oldest independent
Green on some African flags represents the natural
richness of Africa.
Many flags of the Islamic world are green, as the color is considered
Islam (see below). The flag of Hamas, as well as the
flag of Iran, is green, symbolizing their Islamist ideology. The
1977 flag of Libya consisted of a simple green field with no other
characteristics. It was the only national flag in the world with just
one color and no design, insignia, or other details. Some
countries used green in their flags to represent their country's lush
vegetation, as in the flag of Jamaica, and hope in the future, as
in the flags of Portugal and Nigeria. The green cedar of Lebanon
tree on the Flag of Lebanon officially represents steadiness and
Wikisource has original text related to this article:
The Wearing of the Green
Green is a symbol of Ireland, which is often referred to as the
Emerald Isle". The color is particularly identified with the
republican and nationalist traditions in modern times. It is used this
way on the flag of the Republic of Ireland, in balance with white and
Green is a strong trend in the Irish
holiday St. Patrick's Day.
The green harp flag was the banner of
Irish nationalism from the 17th
century until the early 20th century.
The emblem of the Australian Greens. The party won 10% in the 2016
elections for the Australian Senate.
A demonstration by Les Verts, the green party of France, in Lyon.
Rainbow Warrior, the ship of the
The first recorded green party was a political faction in
Constantinople during the 6th century Byzantine Empire. which took its
name from a popular chariot racing team. They were bitter opponents of
the blue faction, which supported Emperor
Justinian I and which had
its own chariot racing team. In 532 AD rioting between the factions
began after one race, which led to the massacre of green supporters
and the destruction of much of the center of Constantinople. (See
Green was the traditional color of Irish nationalism, beginning in the
17th century. The green harp flag, with a traditional gaelic harp,
became the symbol of the movement. It was the banner of the Society of
United Irishmen, which organized the Irish Rebellion of 1798, calling
for Irish independence. The uprising was suppressed with great
bloodshed by the British army. When
Ireland achieved independence in
1922, green was incorporated into the national flag.
In the 1970s green became the color of the third biggest Swiss Federal
Council political party, the
Swiss People's Party
Swiss People's Party SVP. The ideology is
Swiss nationalism, national conservatism, right-wing populism,
economic liberalism, agrarianism, isolationism, euroscepticism. The
SVP was founded on September 22, 1971 and has 90,000 members.
In the 1980s green became the color of a number of new European
political parties organized around an agenda of environmentalism.
Green was chosen for its association with nature, health, and growth.
The largest green party in Europe is
Alliance '90/The Greens
Alliance '90/The Greens (German:
Bündnis 90/Die Grünen) in Germany, which was formed in 1993 from the
merger of the German
Green Party, founded in West Germany in 1980, and
Alliance 90, founded during the Revolution of 1989–1990 in East
Germany. In the 2009 federal elections, the party won 11% of the votes
and 68 out of 622 seats in the Bundestag.
Green parties in Europe have programs based on ecology, grassroots
democracy, nonviolence, and social justice.
Green parties are found in
over one hundred countries, and most are members of the Global Green
Greenpeace is a non-governmental environmental organization which
emerged from the anti-nuclear and peace movements in the 1970s. Its
Rainbow Warrior, frequently tried to interfere with nuclear
tests and whaling operations. The movement now has branches in forty
Australian Greens party was founded in 1992. In the 2010 federal
election, the party received 13% of the vote (more than 1.6 million
votes) in the Senate, a first for any Australian minor party.
Green is the color associated with Puerto Rico's Independence Party,
the smallest of that country's three major political parties, which
advocates Puerto Rican independence from the United States.
Green in Islam
Green is the traditional color of Islam. According to tradition, the
robe and banner of
Muhammad were green, and according to the Koran
(XVIII, 31 and LXXVI, 21) those fortunate enough to live in paradise
wear green silk robes.
Muhammad is quoted in a hadith
as saying that "water, greenery, and a beautiful face" were three
universally good things.
Green One"), was an important Qur'anic figure who was
said to have met and traveled with Moses. He was given that name
because of his role as a diplomat and negotiator.
Green was also
considered to be the median color between light and obscurity.
Roman Catholic and more traditional
Protestant clergy wear green
vestments at liturgical celebrations during Ordinary Time. In the
Eastern Catholic Church, green is the color of Pentecost. Green
is one of the
Christmas colors as well, possibly dating back to
pre-Christian times, when evergreens were worshiped for their ability
to maintain their color through the winter season. Romans used green
holly and evergreen as decorations for their winter solstice
celebration called Saturnalia, which eventually evolved into a
Christmas celebration. In
Scotland especially, green
is used to represent Catholics, while orange is used to represent
Protestantism. This is shown on the national flag of Ireland.
In gambling and sports
A green belt in judo.
A baccarat palette and cards on a casino gambling table.
Bentley colored British racing green.
A billiards table, colored green after the lawns where the ancestors
of the game were originally played.
Gambling tables in a casino are traditionally green. The tradition is
said to have started in gambling rooms in
Venice in the 16th
Billiards tables are traditionally covered with green woolen cloth.
The first indoor tables, dating to the 15th century, were colored
green after the grass courts used for the similar lawn games of the
Green was the traditional color worn by hunters in the 19th century,
particularly the shade called hunter green. In the 20th century most
hunters began wearing the color olive drab, a shade of green, instead
of hunter green.
Green is a common color for sports teams. Well-known teams include
A.S. Saint-Étienne of France, known as Les Verts (The Greens). A
number of national soccer teams feature the color, with the color
usually reflective of the teams' national flag.
British racing green
British racing green was the international motor racing color of
Britain from the early 1900s until the 1960s, when it was replaced by
the colors of the sponsoring automobile companies.
A green belt in karate, taekwondo and judo symbolizes a level of
proficiency in the sport.
Idioms and expressions
Having a green thumb. To be passionate about or talented at gardening.
The expression was popularized beginning in 1925 by a BBC gardening
Greenhorn. Someone who is inexperienced.
Green-eyed monster. Refers to jealousy. (See section above on jealousy
Greenmail. A term used in finance and corporate takeovers. It refers
to the practice of a company paying a high price to buy back shares of
its own stock to prevent an unfriendly takeover by another company or
businessman. It originated in the 1980s on Wall Street, and originates
from the green of dollars.
Green room. A room at a theater where actors rest when not onstage, or
a room at a television studio where guests wait before going
on-camera. It originated in the late 17th century from a room of that
color at the
Theatre Royal, Drury Lane
Theatre Royal, Drury Lane in London.
Greenwashing. Environmental activists sometimes use this term to
describe the advertising of a company which promotes its positive
environmental practices to cover up its environmental
Green around the gills. A description of a person who looks physically
Going green. An expression commonly used to refer to preserving the
natural environment, and participating in activities such as recycling
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^ 62 percent of respondents surveyed associated green with springtime,
(18 percent choosing yellow); 27 percent associated green with
freshness (24 percent choosing blue.) 48 percent associated green with
hope (18 percent choosing blue)
^ 22 percent of respondents surveyed associated green with youth, (16
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^ In a survey cited, 45 percent of respondents associated green with
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^ "Liturgical Vestment Colors of the Orthodox Church". 2004. Archived
from the original on December 22, 2007. Retrieved November 30,
^ Collins, Ace and Clint Hansen. Stories behind the Great Traditions
of Christmas. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003. ISBN 0-310-24880-9
^ * Pastoureau, Michel (2005). Le petit livre des couleurs. Editions
du Panama. p. 66. ISBN 978-2-7578-0310-3.
^ Everton, Clive (1986). The History of Snooker and
ver. of The Story of
Billiards and Snooker, 1979 ed.). Haywards Heath,
UK: Partridge Pr. pp. 8–11. ISBN 1-85225-013-5.
^ Maerz and Paul (1930). A Dictionary of
Color New York: McGraw-Hill
p. 162 – Discussion of color Hunter Green
^ Salley, Danielle (August 19, 2010). "Greenwashing: The Eco-Frenemy".
^ Oxford English Dictionary
Heller, Eva (2009). Psychologie de la couleur – Effets et
symboliques. Pyramyd (French translation).
Gage, John (1993). Colour and Culture – Practice and Meaning from
Antiquity to Abstraction. Thames and Hudson (Page numbers cited from
French translation). ISBN 978-2-87811-295-5.
Gage, John (2006). La Couleur dans l'art. Thames and Hudson.
Varichon, Anne (2000). Couleurs – pigments et teintures dans les
mains des peuples. Seuil. ISBN 978-2-02084697-4.
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