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Colours and What They Mean

What colour do you prefer? Have you ever thought about why you prefer a certain colour to others? What does your favourite colour symbolise?
Picture from above of boxes containing different colours in powder form. Foto.
Åpne bilde i et nytt vindu

Make sure you understand these words before you read the text. Use the dictionary in the link collection to look up new words:

  1. advertising
  2. profound
  3. cheering
  4. serene
  5. dignified
  6. distinguish
  7. burst
  8. display
  9. exude
  10. self-confidence
  11. tinge
  12. forefathers
  13. radiate
  14. impress/impression
  15. spirituality
  16. soothing
  17. pertain
  18. wearer
  19. desire
  20. resemblance
  21. flesh
  22. garb
  23. calming
  24. wise
  25. open-minded
  26. grief
  27. severity
  28. judge (noun)
  29. innocence
  30. purity
  31. emphasise
  32. tanned
  33. sobering
  34. imply
  35. self-esteem

The Meaning of colour


The Psychological Effect of Colour

As every artist and advertising expert knows, colour has profound psychological effects on all of us. Some colours are cheering, humorous and active, while others are restful, serene and dignified. Which colours go well together? Which colours are harmonious?The answers to these questions are often a matter of personal opinion, as some people prefer one special colour to others. Another important factor is that some people, mostly men, are colour-blind. They may not distinguish blue or red from green. Of course the world will look different to them than to people who are more sensitive to variations in colour. We say that some people "have an eye for colour". They have a natural talent for combining and matching colours.

The Meaning of Colour

RED is a warm colour and is known as the colour of love. Red bursts with energy and life. The eye adjusts when it perceives the colour red, so red objects appear closer than they actually are. For this reason, traffic lights use red. Many football teams also display red in their club colours. People who wear red clothes exude self-confidence and bravery. Some people, however, associate red with blood, fire and danger. Such people would probably not choose to wear red!
Red is usually a warm colour, but when it is mixed with blue (to produce magenta) it becomes much colder. Crimson and purple are deep red colours with tinges of blue in them.

YELLOW is definitely a summer colour, as it makes us think of the sun and often makes us light at heart. Some of our forefathers believed that yellow protected them from illness.Yellow is also an intellectual colour. People who wear yellow radiate optimism and self-confidence, and they give an impression of intelligence and spirituality. Walls painted with pale yellow have a soothing effect on us. Too much yellow, however, can cause stress.

VIOLET pertains to the higher mind and the spirit. In some Eastern cultures, "the seventh Chakra"*, the highest level of spiritual evolution, is related to violet. Violet is an introverted colour, and it usually indicates that the wearer prefers to be left alone in peace.

(* The Chakras are centres of energy. When you go through the seven Chakras programme, you unlock life energy and can fulfill your desires.)

PINK represents the purest expression of femininity. Pink is a sexy colour with its obvious resemblance to flesh. Many people use pink in the decor of their bedrooms. Unless pink is balanced by blue or green, the effect can be disturbing, as too much pink is physically weakening.

ORANGE can be a very passionate colour, but it can also look "cheap" in clothing. In many countries in the East, monks and priest wear orange garb.

GREEN stands at the centre of the spectrum and represents perfect balance. Green symbolises the harmony and balance in nature, and it has a soothing effect on us. Green feels restful to the eye, which explains why people feel peaceful and harmonious after a walk in the forest! People who wear green seem to be confident and understanding. They are "down to earth persons" who observe traditions, and they form good relationships with other people.

BLUE is the colour of intellect. It is also the colour of the sky and of water. It has a clear, cold character which produces a calming effect on us. A person who wears blue impresses others as a well-balanced and wise person. In fact, many schools use blue in their school uniforms. Blue is also regarded as the colour of an introverted person, in contrast to red, which is the colour of extroverted and open-minded people.

BLACK represents grief and severity. Judges dress in black, as do priests and nuns. Black is also perceived as being sophisticated and elegant, but only when worn by the right type of person (i.e.Winter personalities).

WHITE is the colour of innocence and purity. This is the colour worn by brides and doctors. Many sports have adopted white as their colour, such as cricket, tennis, sailing and gymnastics. Many people like to wear white in the summer because it emphasises tanned skin by contrast.

GREY is the only colour which is completely neutral. It combines well with red as an elegant neutral, but usually grey has a negative and sobering influence on other colours. It often implies a lack of self-esteem and confidence in a person.

Tasks and Activities


Meaning of Colour - Comprehension

Find the Norwegian Equivalents

  • a becoming colour
  • a matter of opinion
  • to distinguish between
  • to have green fingers
  • red as a beetroot

Do you know any other English expressions using colour?

Some suggestions

e.g. feeling blue, green with envy, a black mood, in the pink, etc.

Discuss in Pairs

  1. What are the colours of the walls and the curtains in your classroom? What do you feel when looking at them?
  2. What is your favourite colour? (excluding black and white)
  3. Which of these flowers do you prefer: forget-me-nots, roses, lilies or chrysanthemums? Why?


Use the following link to answer questions 1 and 2. National Colours on Wikipedia

  1. What are the national colours of: Italy, Japan, Brazil, Sweden? Do these colours give any "message"?
  2. What countries other than Norway have red, white and blue in their flags?
  3. What are the colours of the political parties in Norway? Discuss whether you think they have a specific meaning?


Kitchen - Sketch Up

If you were to redecorate your room, which colour(s) would you have on the walls, curtains, your bedspread? Make a drawing of your room and decide on the colour(s), then present your "new room" for a partner or for the class. Explain why you have chosen specific colours.

  • Here is a program for free download that helps you create a digital sketch: Google SketchUp
CC BY-SARettighetshaver: NKI Forlaget
Sist faglig oppdatert 25.11.2018


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