Talk:Blue–green distinction in language

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This article is plainly incorrect. There are dozens of color names in the space that is claimed to be ambiguous; however, the color class is called "Cyan," and cyan is not a subset of blue. They might as well suggest that there's no color between red and yellow. Cyan was known in English at least as early as the first color Gutenbergs, when it was observed to be a component of rich blue colors (ask an artist how to make blue in CMYK; it's complicated.) Whereas it is interesting that languages have differing granularities for colors, as well as that there may be a predictable pattern to the emergence of differentiation, they could at least get the basics of English right in the English wikipedia, no?

To wit, if one takes the time to look at the CIE color model at the top of the discussion page, cyan is much closer to green than blue; the eye makes a clear line between blue and cyan, but the blend between cyan and green is hard to place. See that big horizontal line between blue and cyan? Find its parallel for cyan and green. The idea that blue folds in cyan is fairly appalling.

It does seem as though the article is not explicit on this, but usually in colour word research it is assumed that we're talking about basic colour terms. While this may be difficult to differentiate in some cases, I would argue that for most speakers Cyan is no such colour, it is rather a scientific term. (talk) 10:21, 19 November 2010 (UTC)


Article goes into too much detail and includes several color terms that are either highly informal or loan words from other languages.

For example, I've never heard of "παγωνί" or "φουντουκί" although I can easily imagine what they mean: one can append the "-ί" ending to almost any noun "X" refering to an object, to create an adjective meaning "color simliar to that of X". So, since "παγώνι" (note the difference in the accent) = "peacock", "φουντούκι" = "hazelnut", "αμύγδαλο" = "almond", etc., the meaning can be easily inferred. However, if those terms are included in the article, why stop there? How about "λουλακί" ("λουλάκι" = "indigo"), "αχλαδί" ("αχλάδι" = "pear"), "μαρουλί" ("μαρούλι" = "lettuce"), and an almost infinite number of other possibilities?

With respect to loan words, "βιολέ/βιολετί", "χακί", and "τυρκουάζ" are transliterations into Greek of "violet", "khaki", and "turquoise" (pronounced exactly the same way).

It would seem to me that many of these are terms one might use when, e.g., clothes-shopping, but I do not see the linguistic or scientific merit of the terms chosen for inclusion in that section. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 18:28, 8 May 2008 (UTC)


Green traffic lights in Japan appear to me to be bluish green, that is, they are green with more blue than a true green. The Japanese Wikipedia states that they are green. (See ja:信号機.) 「道路上において交通整理を行う色は世界共通で、緑(■)(日本では青と表現)・黄(■)・赤(■)の3色となっており」 It states that the color is green although it is expressed with the word "ao" in Japanese. The Japanese Wikipedia further states that they are as blue as they can be made within international standards for green lights. It refers to a Web site which has an FAQ section. One of the questions, 「信号機の色はなぜ赤・青・黄なのですか?」 has an answer stating more specifically that CIE establishes standards for red, yellow, green, blue and white signals, and that Japan's traffic signals are red, yellow and green according to CIE standards (blue and white being used for non-traffic applications such as aviation). It further asserts that Japan adds as much blue as possible within the CIE standard for green signals, doing this for people with colorblindness. Fg2 09:19, 29 January 2006 (UTC)

I stand corrected, then! I'll change it back. --Simoes 16:36, 29 January 2006 (UTC)
I would describe the lights as a greenish shade of blue, myself (Or simply as cyan). Anyway, I think there’s an issue in that the introduction makes this example sound much simpler than it is. The example is worth mentioning further down, but I think the part in the introduction gives the wrong impression. I suggest removing the phrase about the lights from the intro – the fruit example can stand on its own just fine. (talk) 10:33, 1 December 2009 (UTC)

This article seems to completely miss the way blue and green are separated in Japanese. It is not that a distinction is not seen, it is that the separation is in brightness instead of frequency. Ao is for natural bright living colours, i.e. bright light like traffic lights and fresh fruit whether it is blue, green or red. Midori is dark/dead green colour, leaves for instance are never midori. Stripy42 (talk) 21:42, 1 December 2009 (UTC)

The article says that "Modern Japanese has also adopted the Chinese word for green (緑, midori)". Does it mean that the kanji has been borrowed, or that the spoken word "midori" is of Chinese origin, or both? What is the origin of the pronunciation "midori"? Dark Formal (talk) 21:21, 14 January 2011 (UTC)

Color maps[edit]

It might be helpful to get some color maps of the terms for use in this article. -Branddobbe 15:27, 22 April 2006 (UTC)

Too specific[edit]

The article states separating green from yellow... is there an article on that?

I don't see how the distinction between blue and green is any more encyclopedic than the distinction between red and brown, green and yellow, blue and purple, etc. Color terms are different from culture to culture. I think the scope of this page may be too specific. Ƶ§œš¹ [aɪm ˈfɻɛ̃ⁿdˡi] 22:07, 14 January 2007 (UTC)

Berlin and Kay[edit]

I've added a reference to Berlin and Kay's research that explains why the green/ blue distinction is significant.--Ethicoaestheticist 20:04, 27 February 2007 (UTC)

I've removed my edit to the talk page while I double check!

According to Brent Berlin and Paul Kay's 1969 study Basic Color Terms: Their Universality and Evolution, if a language makes a distinction between green and blue, it will also have a distinct term for red. If no distinction is made the language will have terms for white/black and green/yellow, but not necessarily red. (Summarised in David Crystal, The Encyclopedia of Language (1997) (p106)).

--Ethicoaestheticist 20:45, 27 February 2007 (UTC)

Correction: According to Brent Berlin and Paul Kay's 1969 study Basic Color Terms: Their Universality and Evolution, distinct terms for brown, purple, pink, orange and grey will not emerge in a language until the language has made a distinction between green and blue. In their account of the development of colour terms the first terms to emerge are those for white/black, red and green/yellow. (Summarised in David Crystal, The Encyclopedia of Language (1997) (p106)).

If my earlier mis-reading of the research casts doubt on this version (!) you can find lots of information by Googling 'Berlin Kay green blue'.

--Ethicoaestheticist 23:50, 27 February 2007 (UTC)

B&K '69 is dated. They changed several aspects in their later work, and not all of their findings have been reproduced. kwami (talk) 07:43, 24 December 2008 (UTC)

Welsh and Irish[edit]

In Modern Irish, gorm is the word for "blue"—the first part (gor(m)) pronounced as in the Welsh gwyr(dd).

Can anyone confirm the assertion (somewhat irrelevant anyway) that gor and 'gwyr are pronounced the same? I sort of doubt it! Flapdragon (talk) 20:46, 27 January 2008 (UTC)

I can confirm that they're not pronounced "the same"! And, as you say, any similarity in their sound is irrelevant anyway. The words are not related (gwyrdd is derived from Latin -- and gwrm, the true Welsh cognate of Irish gorm, is obsolete in the modern language).
Consequently I intend to delete the statement. -- Picapica (talk) 13:36, 12 May 2008 (UTC)

In the article it mentions that in Irish 'gorm' can mean black as well as blue, with the example of "daoine gorm" (black people) given as the example. It has always been my understanding that the phrase 'fear gorm' to describe a black man (though literally meaning 'blue man') is used in preference to 'fear dubh' (lit. 'black man') because the latter refers to the devil. I'm afraid I can't academically confirm this, however. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 00:24, 5 November 2009 (UTC)


According to this article, Russian is somewhat special for having two different names for both light and dark blue, which are treated as different colours, but such a distinction is found also in Portuguese.

Although portuguese does not have a name for cyan (which is assumed to be "sky blue", except when the anglicism is incorrectly used), it does have a special word for the dark blue: "anil". Anil is also the name of a chemical that is called "bleach" in English, but the color "anil" is a very dark blue (as dark as navy blue). The problem is that this word is falling out of usage, especially in Brazil and tends to be used for any blue: I have heard things like céu azul anil ("bleach-blue sky"). (talk) 02:37, 13 May 2008 (UTC)

Well, this is very odd. According to the Portuguese wikipedia, Portuguese does have a word for "cyan", namely ciano (a.k.a. verde-água or azul-piscina). And the colour anil is what is called "indigo" in English. (As for "bleach", isn't that lixívia in Portuguese?)
Another even curiouser thing is that cyan (what most people would consider a very light shade of blue) has been given a name derived from the Greek kyanos, which means "DARK blue"! (Cyanide gets its name because it was first obtained by heating the pigment powder used to make "Prussian blue", a very dark shade of blue.) -- Picapica (talk) 14:51, 13 May 2008 (UTC)
The question is whether it's an independent color or a hyponym. kwami (talk) 07:45, 24 December 2008 (UTC)
In Portuguese the darker hues of blue are called "Marinho", "Naval" or "Anil". It is an independent color. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 17:04, 12 September 2010 (UTC)


In pashto For blue we say abee or aby not sheen. sheen is only for green —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 23:59, 16 May 2008 (UTC)

there is no grue[edit]

I've noticed a couple descriptions of a language's color term meaning "bluish green". This seems doubtful. AFAIK, the best example of a color term will be either blue or green, not something inbetween. Japanese aoi, for example, is blue, not green, though it covers green as well, much as "yellow" covered orange in English until approx. the 1950s without actually being orange. Similarly, in 3-color languages, the best match to the warm-color word is blood red, even though many other shades are acceptably described by that word. kwami (talk) 07:50, 24 December 2008 (UTC)

Human evolution[edit]

I read somewhere that someone had suggested, I think back in the 19th century, that in Homer's day the Greeks in particular, and perhaps all humans, hadn't fully evolved their irises, thus they were in fact color blind. Eugene-elgato (talk) 14:23, 4 February 2009 (UTC)

The major problem with that idea is that human irises are the same no matter where you're from. Thus all common features to the iris must have come about before humans spread from Africa to the rest of the globe. In addition (and somebody can correct me on this) I'm pretty sure that other apes have the same or similar color-perception capacity that humans do so the ability to perceive colors has been with us for a long time. — Ƶ§œš¹ [aɪm ˈfɻɛ̃ⁿdˡi] 18:48, 4 February 2009 (UTC)
Good answer, and one which somehow lends more credibility to the more linguistic hypothesesEugene-elgato (talk) 19:01, 4 February 2009 (UTC)
Does the Iris play any part in Color vision? I understand it merely blocks light, except that which passes through the Pupil hole in the middle. See Rods and cones. There is a tendency for Ancient Greek art to be monochrome, either red-on-black or black-on-red, but that is likely due to a lack of pigment technology, rather than poor color vision. -- (talk) 03:21, 6 January 2014 (UTC)

Universalism_and_relativism_of_color_terminology#Gladstone_and_Geiger Lazarus Geiger (1880). -- (talk) 08:30, 6 January 2014 (UTC)

Confusing Allusion[edit]

The allusion in the third paragraph of the introduction to grey "like a horse" is confusing and not helpful. Horses are a wide range of colors, and I wouldn't say that a large enough proportion of them are grey to qualify this. That is unless horse has some second meaning that I'm not aware of in this context? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 16:37, 14 April 2009 (UTC)

Off topic[edit]

Most of the entries here seem off-topic - only describing various languages (separate) words for blue and green, instead of discussing whether the language distinguishes them. Should we be listing all languages that do not make a distinction (or have a combined word = grue), hence assuming other languages do make a distinction; or simply listing the words for blue, green and grue in every language?YobMod 08:40, 14 May 2009 (UTC)

Similar scenario with red and orange?[edit]

I was wondering, should we have an article about a similar scenario of distinguishing red and orange? I mean, it is quite common in an informal sense (i.e. red hair), however, here are some other examples:

  • In the Advance Wars video game series, the side referred to as "Orange Star" in North America is refered to as "Red Star" in Japan, despite being colored orange. This change was likely made due to Red Star's reference to communism.
  • In the Pokémon video game series, there is no "Orange" color category for different species of Pokémon. Most orange-colored Pokémon are placed in the Red category.
  • Similarly, the color for the Cool attribute in the Pokémon games is described as Red, but is actually an orange color.

Should we have an article about this? ANDROS1337 00:59, 5 August 2009 (UTC)

It's not clear that any of those have to do with language. Are there languages without "orange"? Need sources. Dicklyon (talk) 01:08, 5 August 2009 (UTC)
Well, Japanese has the term "orenji", but it is an English loanwoard; I don't know if there is a native term for the color orange. After all, all three of those video game examples originated in Japan. ANDROS1337 01:20, 5 August 2009 (UTC)
Although orenji is more common nowadays, the native term 橙色, daidaiiro, refers to the colour orange. 柑子色, koujiiro, is also used, primarily for the more yellow hues of orange. My dictionary tells me that 炎色, enshoku, can also mean orange, but I’ve only heard referring specifically to fire. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 10:50, 1 December 2009 (UTC)
Although a bit late, and I'm not necessarily advocating a red-orange article, the Gaelic languages have no word for "orange". This colour is divided between "yellow" (ga: buí, gv: buigh) and red (ga: dearg, gv: jiarg). The English concept of red can be further divided in the Gaelic languages between "rua" and "dearg" or "ruy" and "jiarg", with rua/ruy generally used for a colour approaching the English colour "russet". Modern innovations exist whereby speakers of Gaelic can state "tá dath oráiste air"/"ta daah oranje er" ("it is orange", lit. "the colour [of an] orange is on it") or where new terms have been coined such as the Irish "flannbhuí" (from "flann" as an adjective meaning "bloody" or "sanguine" or as a poetic noun meaning "blood", and "buí" meaning yellow). Mac Tíre Cowag 09:32, 15 July 2011 (UTC)

Red-Orange has been used in important studies - Universalism_and_relativism_of_color_terminology#Lenneberg_.26_Roberts
"Zuni language has one color term for yellow and orange" -- (talk) 08:42, 6 January 2014 (UTC)

French and Dutch[edit]

Grouping these two languages seems highly illogical, the one being romanic, the other germanic. Is there a particular reason for this grouping? (Except, possibly, from a Belgian perspective.) (talk) 11:56, 26 September 2009 (UTC)

Their sections were worded identically. Given that they're neighboring languages, it makes sense that they could have identical situations (with different words). — Ƶ§œš¹ [aɪm ˈfɻɛ̃ⁿdˡi] 16:50, 26 September 2009 (UTC)

Grouping French and Dutch makes very little sense. About as much sense as grouping German and French. Also, the term hemelsblauw is too awkward to be used as primary example. The every day breakdown of blues is more like this:

  • blauw (blue)
    • lichtblauw (light blue)
      • babyblauw (baby blue)
      • hemelsblauw (sky blue)
    • donkerblauw (dark blue)
      • marineblauw (navy blue)
      • kobaltblauw (cobalt, very dark blue) —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 15:19, 12 April 2011 (UTC)


Is this really true for Thai? I'm pretty sure that เขียว (khiaw) means green when it refers to the the sky and sea. Xaje (talk) 21:18, 1 December 2009 (UTC)

Racism/Westernised view[edit]

The second paragraph in the introduction seems almost racist in suggesting that only higher civilisations could possibly separate blue and green. Is it just me who thinks this? Stripy42 (talk) 21:42, 1 December 2009 (UTC)

I don't see it. It's not even talking about race or culture. How would you suggest rewording it? — Ƶ§œš¹ [aɪm ˈfɻɛ̃ⁿdˡi] 23:41, 1 December 2009 (UTC)

"Grue" link[edit]

Although the colour has a proper English name this article uses the word "grue" and implies that it is a colour between green and blue. However, the article for grue to which a link is given, does not contain information about this possible meaning of the word grue. It is an article on the artificial logical predicate grue which is used to construct some well-known paradoxes in formal logic. If the term grue really is used somewhere to denote actual colour shades, a disambiguation should be made between different meanings of "grue". (talk) 12:19, 19 May 2010 (UTC)


Unfortunately I don't recall the source (I'm pretty sure it was a book), but I've read that there are dialects in Southern Italy that the word blù (a loan from Germanic) is alien to, and verde is still used for both green and blue hues/shades. --Florian Blaschke (talk) 16:25, 16 July 2010 (UTC)

German adjectives declination[edit]

The only color adjectives that are not declinated are rosa and lila ("Ein rosa T-Shirt", but "Ein oranges T-Shirt"). Adding the suffix farben or farbig is not necessary, it is only optional. As a naturel language developement in colloquial language you frequently hear the new declinated form "Ein rosanes/orangenes T-Shirt". By the way, this has nothing to do with the articles heading: "Distinguishing blue from green". -- (talk) 13:42, 17 October 2010 (UTC)


Translation claims that žydra is the color in Lithuanian between blue and green, and that "some nations (English, American) don't differentiate the color žydra and confuse it with light green, light blue, turquoise and cyan colors." (talk) 15:35, 22 May 2011 (UTC)


I am a Vietnamese. It's true that many Vietnamese do not make a difference in their choice of words when speaking about the colors blue and green, although they can perceive them as different colors. As a "modern" speaker, I prefer the word "xanh" for blue and "lục" for green. Both terms are of Chinese origin (青 - qīng, and 绿 / 綠 - lǜ, respectively). If Berlin and Kay’s hierarchy is correct, đen (black), đỏ (red) and vàng (yellow) are the first three Vietnamese terms for colors. As green is the next color in the hierachy, "xanh" (the first imported term for colors) must mean green originally for both the Chinese and Vietnamese, and the second imported term is "lục" for the "true" green. When do the Vietnamese come up with the terms "nâu" (brown), tím (violet) and xám (grey) in the hierachy is up to anybody's guess. The Vietnemse also adopt the Chinese term hóng 紅, meaning red ("hồng", for the color pink) and gān 柑, mandarin orange ("cam" for the color orange).--Mirrordor 18:03, 27 April 2012 (UTC) — Preceding unsigned comment added by Mirrordor (talkcontribs)


Very interesting questions; However, the green/blue issue may root more deeply in culture than the entry states. In many languages colors are not as independent as that in modern languages. Chinese or languages with the same origin, for instance, defines color primarily by object. "青" for example is used to describe colors of plants ( another saying is Chinese alchemy, hence may refer to black). It therefore ranges from deep green to light blue. Today, it's generally understood as cyan. There are actually several words in Chinese to describe green/blue like colors: "绿" or green "蓝" or blue are both ancient names of some general classes of plants. They are as old as "青". It's not known how they were modernly introduced; "靛" or indigo is the name for some dye made from plant "蓝"; "碧" emerald green is an ancient name for some jade etc. -- aichi Lee 01:02, 11 June 2012 (UTC) — Preceding unsigned comment added by Aichilee (talkcontribs)

The Hokkien dialect (southern dialect) defines 青 as dark blue and green, while 黄 (yellow) also includes light blue and green. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 15:03, 16 October 2013 (UTC)

By my understanding as a native Chinese speaker, 青 in modern context means "light green", pretty much. 绿 means moderate green or dark green. Xiiliea (talk) 18:46, 8 September 2016 (UTC)


Include information that urdin is probably comprised of ur, "water," and -din, "resembling," which accounts for its broad meaning. Also, the modern definition of urdin is incorrect as it fails to mention that urdin can also mean grey hair. [1]


In the Lebanese language there is a distinction between different frequencies of blue, The darker blue is "keḣle", while the lighter one (and also the general one) is "azraↄ". — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 12:43, 27 June 2013 (UTC)

It is interesting that you call 'darker' and 'lighter' frequencies.
In terms of Physics and Color science, Frequency clearly corresponds to Hue.
'Darker' and 'lighter' could mean Saturation (grey-pure axis) or Brightness (black-white axis) in terms of HSL and HSV as Color spaces.
There is a formal meaning of 'lightness' in Lab color space, but that is not always the way we use 'lightness' in English.
English is not a great language for color description - we are not consistent with each other, or even from one sentence to the next spoken by the same person.
I think color is really too complex and subjective to be described by informal language. I suspect other languages aren't much better.
The application of terms to ranges of the visible spectrum are essentially arbitrary, cultural conventions.
Historically we had a spectrum of 7 colors (to match musical notes !).
Now people argue that old usage is different from modern usage
"indigo" corresponds to what is today called blue, whereas "blue" corresponds to cyan.
and even remove Indigo altogether, but without adding Cyan !

-- (talk) 03:40, 6 January 2014 (UTC)


What sort? Modern or Ancient? No references. Stardude82 (talk) 01:25, 13 May 2014 (UTC)

Ref added. --@Efrat (talk) 17:59, 18 May 2014 (UTC)

Baltic - Latvian[edit]

1 quote: name for iris is zīlīte (from zils). Italic text linking name of iris with blue is not absolutely correct since in old Latvian the word "zīle" had a meaning of "pearl" or "bead" (f.e. "zīļu vainags" = "beaded crown"). And eyes & eyesight as a very precious would rather be compared with pearls.

The now archaic word mēļš was used to describe both dark blue and black (probably indicating that previously zils was used only for lighter shades of blue). For instance, blueberries are called mellenes.

2 quote: In Latvian black is "melns" (in some local dialects "mells"), actually there are two different berry species - blueberries and blackberries, both called "mellenes".

Blackberries (rubus) in Latvian are not called "mellenes" but "kazenes".

The two species of berries sometimes mixed up are "mellenes" (Vaccinium myrtillus) - Eng. "bilberries" mells = black

and "zilenes" (Vaccinium corymbosum) - blueberries  zils = blue  — Preceding unsigned comment added by AlinaV21 (talkcontribs) 19:13, 24 October 2015 (UTC) 

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Grey vs gray[edit]

The article uses both spellings extensively. Which one should be preferred here?--Adûnâi (talk) 01:30, 26 July 2016 (UTC)