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Definition / meaning[edit]

I think the opening of the article should match that of the articles on the other major colors; with a definition that's short, not too technical and is understandable to laymen, along with a simple example - in this case, fresh milk or snow. I think the best source is the Oxford English dictionary definition: "Of the colour of fresh milk or snow; having that colour produced by reflection, transmission or emission of all wavelengths of visible light without absorption, being fully luminous and devoid of any hue." SiefkinDR (talk) 10:38, 16 September 2013 (UTC)

This page is completely missing even a definition of a white pigment or material -- something that reflects all light. Giving a summery of the whitest-known materials (reflect maximal amounts of light in different ranges) would be nice... —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 19:02, 25 January 2008 (UTC)

In Hinduism, the people wear white cothing when someone dies

This article, it seems to me, confuses pigment color and light color, or, actually, ignores pigment color. I have no competence in this field, but it does seem that someone who does should take a look. Ortolan88

in some cultures white is associated with death

vietnamese people wear white at funerals, or so i heard

In Chinese culture, white is the funeral color as well. Fuzheado 03:18, 23 Mar 2004 (UTC)
I've heard that in African cultures white meant death. --Dbenbenn 02:27, 19 Dec 2004 (UTC)

White means peace.

Racial interpretation[edit]

Should the pages for "white", "whites" and "black" ("blacks" just redirects) be standardized somehow? Personally, I'd rather see the racial interpretation of "white" handled via "white (race)" or "white (ethnicity)" or whatever.... - dcljr 18:59, 7 Jul 2004 (UTC)

I think we need to create white (disambiguation) page and move all except the color there. Same with black. The current disambig on the bottom (People whose surname is white, Other definitions) is just plain un-wiki and confusing. --Piotr Konieczny aka Prokonsul Piotrus 17:40, 10 Aug 2004 (UTC)

External link[edit]

Yesterday, User:Matthew Stannard added a link [1] to a course at a London community college entitled "The colour white". I reverted it [2]. Matt wrote on my talk page:

People who use an encyclopedia might be doing so because they want to learn something. People who want to learn more than the encyclopedia contains might be interested in finding out how. Putting a link on a page to a course specifically about the subject of the article might not add much, but it adds something, don't you think? Why take it out? I've put it back anyway. Matt Stan 12:12, 8 Jan 2005 (UTC)

I decided to reply here. I don't think the link should be here because

  1. It doesn't actually tell you anything about white itself; it only indicates the existence of a course about white.
  2. It seems like a mild form of advertising.

Wikipedia isn't a link farm. But it isn't something I feel strongly about; I'm not going to remove it again. Dbenbenn 17:48, 8 Jan 2005 (UTC)

I've removed it again, it really doesn't shed any light on the topic of the colour white. I have a really nice shirt that's white; that doesn't mean that should be mentioned in this article. Wikipedia is not a general knowledge base. --fvw* 00:28, 2005 Jan 9 (UTC)

Categorizing white[edit]

I recently created categories for colors as shades of R-O-Y-G-C-B-V. How can white be categorized in this?? Georgia guy 17:55, 25 Jun 2005 (UTC)

It can't nor can magenta as far as I can see. Jimp 05:56, 29 March 2007 (UTC)

"Zero hue"?[edit]

The article says that white "has high brightness but zero hue". In the hue-saturation-lightness color model, at least, you get white when lightness is at a maximum, no matter what the hue. From this point of view, white is the lightest "light red", the lightest "light blue", the lightest "light green", and so on; so it doesn't seem to make sense to say that white has zero hue, because the "hue" of white is irrelevant. Does this make sense, or am I a raving crackpot? —Bkell 07:56, 21 August 2005 (UTC)

It makes sense to me. I've just changed it but I hadn't read your comments first. I've changed it to "has high brightness and no hue". Jimp 05:55, 29 March 2007 (UTC)
Another thing this acrticle does not mention is an is an illusion that white (or black) have a hue of something seen near them (Human then thinks it is simply the very bright/glowing thing of that nearby color.), even though in reallity it often has no hue. I found no mention of this effect in any other article. -Zondartul
It has to do with color constancy and chromatic adaptation, which is why it is meaningless to talk about perceived colors without talking about the complete setup of observer and scene. This is the basis of a lot of Visual illusions.--Thorseth (talk) 23:12, 17 August 2009 (UTC)


Anyone besides me think that mentioning Apple Macintosh computers under the heading 'Computers' is off-topic? --Andymussell 21:32, 29 December 2005 (UTC)

Word root[edit]

I came here looking for the source of the word white. It has this info for days of the week and the names of months. anybody who knows anything about this want to add it?--Olsdude 02:00, 11 January 2006 (UTC)


What does white look like? I would like a picture. P.S. I'm blind.

Added reference to Korea, and separated India from East Asia. In India, the symbolic representation of white has similarities with East Asian cultures, but ultimately represents different things. Intranetusa (talk) 17:47, 3 February 2008 (UTC)

"White" outside of visibility[edit]

the visible part of light is just a small section of a much much larger spectrum, so could an object be visibly white, yet non-visibly black, or vise-versa? that is, an object that, while it reflects all visible light, absorbs infrared and ultraviolet light. this would mean that two different white objects could have much different efficiencies when used to reflect light to keep something cool for instance. just a thought. Sahuagin (talk) 18:09, 16 February 2008 (UTC)

While such objects most certainly exists, white is a perceptional quality and since no one can perceive anything outside the visible the object would not be called white unless they were visibly white--Thorseth (talk) 10:50, 13 March 2009 (UTC)

Carte blanche[edit]

I don't see any mention of carte blanche in the article.

I think it's about any form of signed document, with the field for purpose left empty, to be filled by the possessor as needed. Meaning a "license for everything". But I'm not completly sure about that, so maybe someone else should add it to the list. (talk) 21:50, 18 July 2008 (UTC)

Better lead[edit]

The lead is actually not very good (white color can be made with a yellow and blue laser)

Here is new lead it is a bit more technical:

White is a color, the perception which is evoked by light that stimulates all three types of color sensitive cone cells in the human eye in near equal way and with high brightness compared to the surroundings.

Its not the final word but I think it is more accurate --Thorseth (talk) 12:49, 15 August 2008 (UTC)

Flawed definition...[edit]

The statement "white is all colors" is so widespread even here on Wikipedia ( White_noise ) that it might deserve its own section, here is my proposal:

Flawed Definition

The notion that white light can be defined as a mixture of "all colors" or "all visible wavelengths"[1], is widespread and might stem from the fact that sunlight is composed of light with wavelengths across the visible spectrum as discovered by Newton. Concluding that since "all colors" produce white light then white must be made up of "all colors" is a common logical error called affirming the consequent, which might be the cause of the misunderstanding. --Thorseth (talk) 14:37, 19 August 2008 (UTC)
But is sunlight white, is white the proportional mix of wavelengths that looks white to a human eye, or is white an equal mix of all wavelengths in the visual spectrum? I could see it being the first two. But it can't be the first and the third. Sunlight's emission spectrum is not equal across the visual spectrum. --Agentchuck (talk) 02:40, 18 September 2009 (UTC)

White is what humans perceive as white, sunlight is a special kind of white light, and the equal mix will give a blue/greenish color quite far from being white. --Thorseth (talk) 07:37, 18 September 2009 (UTC)

"White", as taught many years ago, was one of two "Non-Colors" (the other being black). When referencing light, white was stated to be the balanced presence of all color (or as humanly perceived three colors). When speaking of pigments it was said to be the lack of all color. Black, conversely, was the absence of all light, and the presence of all pigment. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Moonroverer (talkcontribs) 03:22, 20 March 2011 (UTC)


Tone vs. color[edit]

I have changed "tone" to "color" in the lead. The disambiguation tone has no mention referring to color."Color tone" might also be appropriate but Color tone is a redirect to color theory, which I also find a little strange.-- (talk) 12:55, 18 November 2008 (UTC)


White is white. It is the absence of colour. Once you tint it blue or yellow or pink or whatever, it's not white anymore because now it absorbs some light, when white should reflect all light. Having said that, can someone explain to me why there is a "Shades of white" section at the bottom, and why the picture of white shows shades of blue and yellow? Thanks, Clem (talk) 16:33, 23 May 2009 (UTC)

Absence of "color" on white paper, yes. Absence of color in sunlight, no. Absence of color from a RGB computer screen no. A tinted "white" surface viewed under a certain light source, may look completely white. White is perception, its not a physical quality, it is dependent on the general lightning of the scene and nearby colors in the scene and many other factors. --Thorseth (talk) 09:23, 24 May 2009 (UTC)
At the both of you and with regards to White, Grey and other harmonic configurations.
Terms: Colouration - Applying or applied multitudes of a colour; Discolouration - Dis(Absence of) Colouration;
Some classically defined colour are not strictly colours but colourations and discolourations.
As a single pure wavelength represents one colour (Red in this instance).
darker red is a discolouration of red whilst a bright red is a colouration of the colour red.
A multitude of wavelengths that collocates is colouration where as weakening the frequency or altering the frequency of a waveform is a discolouration.
Let's suppose the frequency is consistent with visible Yellow, adding a fraction of the Red frequency would create a colouration known as orange.
In this instance orange is not a colour, but colours because it is 2 colours mixed to form a colouration.
White is a colouration, a colours or a mix of colour and not a colour, white cannot be defined as a discolouration because it contains maximum values of multiple wavelengths.
Labeling white as a colour is the logical equivalent of labeling a 'book' as a 'page'.
Black on the other hand is a discolouration of all colours, it is not a colour or a colouration as there are no single or multiple wavelengths visible, it is also not a discolouration of a single colour as black is a balance of all colours in a state of full discoloration, it is literally the absence of colour.
Labeling black as a colour is the logical equivalent of calling atheism a religion.
In short, due to vagueness people have somehow managed to turn an objective scientific explanation of poly colouration into a paradoxical state where a discolouration is a colour and a juxtaposition of many colours is a colour and an absence of any colour is a colour... This is highly irregular and completely illogical.
—Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 16:29, 9 July 2010 (UTC)
Your definitions of "color" and "coloration" are idiosyncratic and not especially useful. "Coloration" is not a word which has a precise technical definition, and so using it with a narrow unexpected meaning is a bad idea for an article in Wikipedia, and "color" is a word with a precise technical definition, so using it to mean something different than that would be quite confusing. When you say "objective scientific explanation of poly-coloration", I have no idea what you’re talking about, and when you say “juxtaposition of many colors” you should be precise: do you mean spatially juxtaposed, or do you mean the additive mixture of lights with different spectral power distributions? In the former case, the way in which perception is affected by complex contrast effects, and depends on the scale of the color patches involved. In the latter case, the result is a light which certainly also has a "color".
I think you are perhaps confusing the term "color" with the more specific notion of a "chromatic color". The latter does indeed imply a color with a discernible hue (while an "achromatic color" would be white, gray, or black).
If you have any questions, I can suggest some resources which might help you understand better what color is and how it works. –jacobolus (t) 18:26, 9 July 2010 (UTC)
Part of the problem is of course that Wikipedia’s articles about color topics are disorganized, often vague and incomplete, and sometimes wrong. Hopefully your present confusion doesn’t stem from the unfortunate holes in Wikipedia’s coverage. –jacobolus (t) 18:33, 9 July 2010 (UTC)
Notes: 'Bad' is a worthless value; Colour is an ascription not a description; You saying that the comments are idiosyncratic is an ad-hominem against the validity of them and have no value in this discussion.
Colouration is the "state of being coloured", Colour is an ASCRIPTIVE VALUE and therefore is only worth something to human beings.
The frequencies which colouration is based on are DESCRIPTIVE as they describe objectively what is actually there. But what would a qualified graphics and multimedia designer know about colour theory. Oh wait that's right, Surgepedia where the surgeon is told to go away.
So let me clarify this in a way you can understand.
Colouration actually has a VERY SPECIFIC definition as it is the state of being COLOURED. The number of colours used to produce the resultant is what gives an object it's colouration. Colouration is the state of adding more than one frequency of light to another to produce a colouration.
Darkening a frequency which creates a classically defined colour is a discolouration.
This means that grey is a colouration in a state of discolouration, (All colours moxed and then the frequencies restricted.
Considering the reality of light being frequencies interacting with each other it is testable and verifiable, arguing semantics wont change the facts, last I checked this wasn't an idiosyncrasy but a well established scientific fact.
I reiterate, naming White as a colour is the same as calling a book a page as white is a colouration or a colours. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 19:44, 10 July 2010 (UTC)
Ad hominem refers to attacking a person rather than his statements or arguments. Ignoring that “ad hominem“ is an adjective (or sometimes a noun) and not a verb, I don’t understand how my statement that your definitions are confusing can be interpreted as a personal attack. I hope I have not implied any attack on your reputation, or in any way been unfriendly or unfair. Disputing your claim that “coloration” is a technical term, and suggesting that its use in a technical context is idiosyncratic was not intended as an insult.
“Coloration” is indeed a word in English, and as such has a dictionary definition. I don’t disagree with that. I maintain, however, that while it has a (vague and multifaceted) definition, it has no precise technical definition, and your usage of the term is not typical in precise/scientific discussions of color and related subjects, and is likely therefore to confuse rather than communicate (for example, “colouration in a state of discolouration” is an extremely confusing construction).
“Colour is an ascription not a description” – what does this mean?
I can’t interpret “The number of colours used to produce the resultant is what gives an object it's [sic] colouration.” How do you “count” colors? What is a “resultant”?
I don’t know what you mean when you say “Darkening a frequency which creates a classically defined colour is a discolouration”. How does one darken a frequency?
When you describe the “reality of light being frequencies interacting with each other”, what do you mean? In general, different frequencies are completely independent, making the completely general description of a light stimulus into an infinite dimensional Hilbert space. The exception to this is fluorescence.
Anyway, it might be best to consolidate further discussion on the page talk:black, so that other editors can easily follow it. –jacobolus (t) 00:44, 11 July 2010 (UTC)


I'm sure that off-white is not a scientific name for a color; however, I came here looking to find it. I can tell from the previous discussions here that people want to be scientific and not have this article contain misleading information. However, off-white is in such common use (at least in the U.S.) that I feel it deserves at least a mention here, about what it is and how it relates to "White". It definitely would not merit its own article, and White would seem to be the closest place for it, maybe under a section whose title indicates it is not "scientific" somehow? Thanks for considering it.Fallendarling (talk) 01:26, 1 August 2010 (UTC)

There’s not really any one “off-white”, is there? Can off-white be bluish? Reddish? Do you have any reliable sources talking about off-white? –jacobolus (t) 03:16, 1 August 2010 (UTC)

Stellar class[edit]

The bit about stellar class and white dwarfs appears grammatically and factually broken. I had to go back to to see that it appears to have been moved/merged from two previous statements, separately about stellar class A stars and white dwarfs. Even then I'm not convinced by the original explanations.

[Stellar classification] seems to suggest that class A is named by convention alone, related mostly to ionic absorption lines, and not due to their blackbody colour temperature under which they would be considered more towards the blue. ("True white", if it means anything, being related to our own sun's colour temperature which as a class G star is rather cooler.)

[White dwarf] doesn't say why the name was chosen but over time as they cool they fade through a range of colour temperatures. (Maybe as purer blackbody sources than most stars they can be in some sense "white whatever the colour"?)

So this paragraph, while it may have value in some form somewhere in the article, basically boils down to a (short) list of things which happen to have been given the name "white" in the middle of a technical discussion of colour temperature. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 16:01, 7 September 2011 (UTC)

White is not a colour[edit]

Why does the first sentence say "White is a color" (or, as one would say on my side of the Atlantic, "white is a colour")? Surely white is the absence of all colours (in the case of paints) or the presence of all colours (in the case of lights) and is therefore not a true colour). ACEOREVIVED (talk) 16:56, 1 November 2011 (UTC)

Please see the discussion here. As you will see "white" is not generally defined as you do, and "true colour" is not a term that has any technical meaning. But if you have suggestions for a revised intro to the article you are more than welcome to post it here.--Thorseth (talk) 10:00, 2 November 2011 (UTC)

Light colours[edit]

Is there any accepted definition of the colour region in e.g. the CIE 1931 colour space which is considered white of belonging to an illuminant? In particular, is there a lower and upper limit to the colour temperature outside which the light is no longer called white? For example, almost everyone would agree that sunlight can be called white. Opionions differ about the light of a light bulb − most manufacturers call it "warm white" (which is actually wrong since it is a quite low colour temperature and just the human experience with open fire and similar articifial light sources causes the relation of red to yellow tones as "warm" colours) while many people actually perceive it as something like a pale orange (which it acutally is if displayed in standard RGB with whitepoint D65). Glowing coals at 1000 K are nowhere called "white". Similarly, the blue sky is also quite close to the Planckian locus, but at colour temperatures up to 30000 K. No one would call this white. So, are there any accepted limits and references to these limits?--SiriusB (talk) 11:51, 29 June 2012 (UTC)

In the CIE Color rendering index the recomendation of what should be called white light is given to be: Light with a chromaticity difference less than 5.4x10^-3 in the CIE 1960 color diagram, between the light and the reference light (Blackbody and Daylight) of the same color temperature. In this definition there is (as far as I remember) no limit on the color temperature of the light. The perception of white light is highly adaptive so in some cases people will experience light as white even though it is very far from what is normally perceived as white.--Thorseth (talk) 07:09, 1 July 2012 (UTC)
As Thorseth said, what looks white or not depends so much on adaptation. I’m not sure having an absolute limit on the definition would be especially helpful. As for “warm”, the “warmth” of lighting has nothing to do with color temperature; calling it “warm” is just a convention, not “actually wrong”. –jacobolus (t) 08:08, 1 July 2012 (UTC)
Hmm, this cannot be true since the light of red glowing ember is doubtlessly far from being white, and the same is true for deep blue skylight. Both are pretty close to the Planckian locus (I can retrieve links to optical science papers if you want). And chromatic adaption is not chromatic adaption, but instead there are at least two different meanings. One meaning of it is that you are still able to (at least approximately) recognize surface colors (e.g. recognize the colors on a photograph or of fruit) even under strongly tinted light colors, as long as the spectrum is continuous. This is the meaning of color rendition. However, the second meaning is that you can still recognize the ambient light color if you look at a definitively white surface (e.g. printer paper). Only within a narrow CCT range a complete white balance (i.e. any color tint vanishes) is possible. I read (on the web) something about 5000-5500 K as the ideal white regime under intermediate light levels. From my own experience, I can tell that, at typical home lighting conditions, color temperatures below about 3500-4000 K never appear perfectly white, as well es CCTs considerable above 5000 K. In other words: Incandescent and even halogen bulbs never produce white light (the orange tint attenuates a bit after an hour or so, towards a slight yellowish tint, but never vanishes completely). At daylight illuminance levels, even the 5500 K of the noon Sun (if viewed on a white or neutral grey surface) appears slightly yellow. Even the lighting industry doesn't call the low-CCT lights as "white". The term "warm white" already denotes that this light has a slight but visible orange-yellow tint, in contrast to "neutral white" or simply "white". A third meaning may be that only near-Planckian light colors appear as "natural", despite a residual blueish ("cool") or yellowish ("warm") tint even after hours of exposure. Therefore there must be some limits within a kind of "true white" is defined. Otherwise the definition of "white" as a neutral light color cannot be taken seriously.--SiriusB (talk) 09:17, 2 July 2012 (UTC)
I am afraid that what you think can and cannot be true, is not a good enough reason to include or exclude something on wikipedia. If you can produce a reliable source for a definition of white (other then the one from Wyszecki & Stiles) then you are most welcome to put it in. Actually, I myself, would be very interested if you have some references for the issues you mention. In my personal opinion the perception of white is highly subjective and any definition will therefore have to include the vagueness of subjectivity. --Thorseth (talk) 09:38, 5 July 2012 (UTC)
One possible hint could be the selection of white points for graphical displays. As far as I know there is no standard whitepoint outside about 5000 K (D50) and 7500 K (D75). I only know of one prominent exception at the blue end, the 9300 K for some CRT displays, which, as fas as I know is, also no longer used for standard. But you won't find any computer display of TV set which uses 2700 K or 10000 K as whitepoint (although the D-illuminants are defined up to 25000 K). See also Standard illuminant#White_points_of_standard_illuminants, which also includes some obsolete white points. In addition, all relevant RGB color spaces use whitepoints with CCTs between 5000 (D50) and 6800 K (C).--SiriusB (talk) 09:23, 6 July 2012 (UTC)
@jacobolus (in addition to my previous comment): What kind of "convention" lies behind the "warmth" of light? Is there any scientific article about the "felt temperature" of light, or is it, as I would suppose, just marketing? Whether light appears warm or cold is not strictly related to color temperature; there are people (like me, but also many people in southern countries or Asia) to whom low-CCT-light (including that from incandescent lamps or candles) doesn't appear warm, but rather dull/gloomy and uncomfortable. Maybe the majority does associate it with warmth, and so the lighting industry simply labels it as "warm white". But without any scientific justification I won't call it a convention (at least not a binding one), because it is opposite to physical facts. But anyway, it remains that terms like "warm" describe a visible colour tint which already contradicts the word "white", which, to natural understanding, means the absence of any visible colour (in other words, a successfull white balance of our visual system).--SiriusB (talk) 07:35, 17 July 2012 (UTC)

Hueless color how so?[edit]

If the Hue is the main property of a color and white is without hue then how is it considered a color. As much as light produces the color spectrum we can precieve, and the brightest bright of a color is a extreme light of that color. More importantly if the general idea proposed is that white and black are composed of all and absent of all color, then how is white a color? Maybe another term should be used for white and black that can truly define what they are in the color spectrum. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 14:56, 27 July 2012 (UTC)

I don't think you can say that hue is the main property of color, so I don't see the problem there. What you call brightest of bright is what I think is normally referred to as a saturated color. The idea that white is a mixture of all colors is a misconception, and the same for black really. But this does seem to have disappeared from the lead section at least.--Thorseth (talk) 08:56, 10 January 2013 (UTC)

Orphaned references in White[edit]

I check pages listed in Category:Pages with incorrect ref formatting to try to fix reference errors. One of the things I do is look for content for orphaned references in wikilinked articles. I have found content for some of White's orphans, the problem is that I found more than one version. I can't determine which (if any) is correct for this article, so I am asking for a sentient editor to look it over and copy the correct ref content into this article.

Reference named "osln":

I apologize if any of the above are effectively identical; I am just a simple computer program, so I can't determine whether minor differences are significant or not. AnomieBOT 23:06, 8 November 2012 (UTC)

What happened to the lead section?[edit]

I can understand the need for a more readable and less technical approach, but to me it now reads like a garbled children's book. The sentence on the visible spectrum is just a general misconception, which is demonstrably false, see White#Optics. As I understand the English language, white is NOT the color of pure snow or milk, rather it is almost the opposite: Pure snow is considered to HAVE a white color. I find it very hard to believe that the section is supported by the references given. I will start revising this as soon as I get the time, can anyone explain what happened? --Thorseth (talk) 10:13, 8 January 2013 (UTC)

I put back the first sentence about milk and snow, which had been deleted, to match the opening sentences of the articles on red, blue, green, and the other colors, which all use common objects. The milk and snow comparison is from the Oxford English dictionary, which also says "having all the wavelengths of visible light without absorption, being fully luminous and devoid of any hue."

The Websters New World Dictionary defines white as "having the color of pure snow or milk, of the color of radiated, transmitted or reflected light containing all of the visible rays of the spectrum. opposite to black" the Random House College dictionary uses "of the color of pure snow, of the margins of this page, etc, reflecting nearly all the rays of sunlight or a similar light." Random House and Websters probably took the milk and snow comparison from the OED.

What's a better way to say it? How about "Milk and pure snow both have a white color. White contains all the wavelengths of visible light without absorption, is fully luminous and does not have any hue." This isn't very comprehensible to non-specialists, but it's more accurate. Your advice? SiefkinDR (talk) 14:57, 8 January 2013 (UTC)

I have now tried to better the lead, a little. I have kept the familiar objects and removed the most glaring mistakes. I'm still astounded that a serious dictionary would include, what is basically a false public conception. I replaced that with a reference from a book on color science.--Thorseth (talk) 09:52, 13 March 2013 (UTC)
I see you reverted my edits to the lead, for being to technical. Instead the previous false information has been reinstated. I find this to be a mistake. If you look at Wikipedia:Wikipedia_is_not_a_dictionary#Major_differences you will perhaps see that using a dictionary as the main source is not necessarily a good approach. This article should not about how people use the word "white", but about what it is, defined in a meaningful way. I find that the the current text is not meaningful, but nonsense. My advice would be to remove the "white is all colors"-mistake and remove or completely rewrite the sentence on black as "opposite to white". And find a source that treats colors and words.--Thorseth (talk) 12:33, 13 March 2013 (UTC)

The first paragraph has to be clear and comprehensible to non-specialists, and free of jargon. The Oxford English Dictionary is generally considered a pretty reliable and standard source. Here's their full definition: "of the colour of fresh milk or snow; having that colour produced by reflection, transmission, or emission of all wavelengths of visible light without absorption. being fully luminous and devoid of any hue." − − The Petit Larousse, the French equivalent of the OED, says: (my translation), "of the color of snow, of milk. Light resulting from the combination of all the colors of the solar spectrum."

What is false about these definitions? I'm glad to re-write the lead to correct a mistake. However, I think a more detailed discussion of optics belongs in the section on that subject. Most of this article is devoted to the cultural history and uses of the color white. Please see the other color articles. − SiefkinDR (talk) 12:43, 13 March 2013 (UTC)

Yes, the definition is partly correct when it comes objects illuminated by daylight or incandescents, but is for instance not true for computer displays or Compact fluorescent lamps. Also some of the important words and meanings seem to have disappeared in the wiki version, and luminous changed to brightness altogether. I'm all for using layman's terms, but I don't think false ideas should be promoted, to gain simplicity. To me, referring to "objects" or "lightness" is no more jargon than "wavelengths" or "hue". I am not thrilled about the wording in the other color articles either. In my view colors are much more interesting and complex subjects then these leads seem to indicate, to me it seem like writing what any English speaking person would already know. Nobody would dream of a lead to Elephant that read "The elephant is a big gray animal with big ears and a long trunk" and then leave the rest to appropriate sections. To avoid an edit war I propose that we put a test lead here on the talk page and then work on it together. --Thorseth (talk) 15:20, 13 March 2013 (UTC)

True white[edit]

What we consider white is the spectrum that the sun emits. But that is a black body spectrum, and contains more green than red, and more red than blue. That means that white light does not have equal power in all frequencies the way white noise does. The article doesn't mention the role of the sun in our definition of white at all, even though it is quite a crucial role, since our visual system has evolved to match its spectrum. So what does true white, where all frequencies have equal power, actually look like? I imagine that it would be a slightly purplish blue (with red and especially blue overrepresented relative to sunlight). Could more information about this be added to the article? I haven't been able to find any sources about "true" white, and I'm not even sure what the scientific term is for it. CodeCat (talk) 00:32, 22 April 2013 (UTC)

The intro of the article has been made into a sort of dictionary definition, which is unrelated to any modern scientific understanding of what white is (See the discussion in the section above). I don't have the energy to force a correct version through, but if you look at White#Science there is still some correct information left. Also Color rendering index contains a standardized recommendation for a definition of white light --Thorseth (talk) 20:40, 22 April 2013 (UTC)


You just deleted everything I add, eh? I am not going to make you any difficulties because this isn’t an article I care much for but think this is a case of Wikipedia:Ownership of articles. But you just not appreciated the stuff you didn’t chose yourself. Sure, you are going to tell me that the dog was not white enough, the opal was not clear enough or whatever, and there is always an answer. Believing that an article has an owner of this sort is a common mistake people make on Wikipedia. Once you have posted it to Wikipedia, you cannot stop anyone from editing text you have written. As each edit page clearly states: Work submitted to Wikipedia can be edited, used, and redistributed—by anyone. Hafspajen (talk) 16:32, 14 May 2013 (UTC)

Dear Hafspajen: Thanks for your comment. There are a couple of reasons why this was deleted. First and most important, space; this section is comparable to sections in the colors red, blue, green, yellow, etc; and is designed to show the best-known variants of the color (in the case, alabaster, ivory) and some iconic examples of white (milk, snow, polar bear, White Cliffs of Dover). It's not meant to be an extensive list of everything that's white, there's not enough room for that. I thought a polar bear was a better example than the poodle, since a polar bear is always white, and is famous for its color. As to the opal, it doesn't appear white in the image provided, and I don't see it described as white in the article on opals. It might make sense to have a section on white minerals, however, if you can find an image that would fit. SiefkinDR (talk) 10:28, 15 May 2013 (UTC)

Dear SiefkinDR, my problem is that there is plenty of space. The galleries are extremely uneven. The rows are not complete. looks just , well unplesant to me. Hafspajen (talk) 02:27, 19 November 2013 (UTC)

I think the optics section should come before the section about History & art[edit]

White is, first and foremost, a physical and biological phenomenon. Its position in human culture is then derived from this. The optics section was previously the first section to follow the etymology section (which is generally always first, according to Wikipedia convention), until approximately the November of 2012, when it was unilaterally decided that White's history and art would come earlier in the article (and this happened to other color articles at approximately the same time). Whilst the history and art of a color is relevant and interesting, it definitely is not more important than a detailed explanation about the science that actually constitutes the color. This extends to all color articles that are now in this format, which I would like to see reverted to the more logical format.

I would like to link to the articles ink, Primary color, Color, all of which put the science first and the history afterwards.

Nickc8 (talk) 12:21, 19 May 2013 (UTC)Nickc8

Respectfully, I disagree. I think the history and culture of a color is just as important as the science, and is the main reason why people read the color articles. I vote for keeping the current organisation of the article. SiefkinDR (talk) 16:09, 19 May 2013 (UTC)

I agree with the original comment: optics first. I don't mean this as a slight to history or culture, I just think it helps to have considered the optical qualities of white to better understand the definition, and so be prepared to continue on to the history/culture information. Being grounded in the physical realities of white will help the reader think about how humans in this or that time, this or that culture, have encountered, related to, and then produced cultural works about, white.

This goes along with a larger thought: science, and technical information, more often enriches, rather than diminishes or drowns out, cultural and artistic content, just like how knowing the species of butterfly you're looking at in a pleasant meadow doesn't take away from all the other ways you appreciate seeing and thinking about that butterfly, but in fact adds to it.

Also, if we moved Optics/Science up to right after etymology, the History/Culture section could lead right into the Symbology section, which just makes more thematic sense. Someone who is truly only interested in those topics can easily hyperlink on down using the Contents box, they don't even have to bother scrolling past the science if they don't want to.

Marmalamarie (talk) 08:31, 22 December 2014 (UTC)

Optics and more[edit]

I just encountered this article today, and I'm unhappy to see that the Optics section, along with some other things in the article, is totally bogus. The definition of white is incorrect -- it can be defined either as a perceptual quality, or as a property of a surface, but it is incorrect to define it as a property of a light source or light spectrum. A white object will be white whether it is viewed by sunlight, incandescent light, fluorescent light, etc -- each of which gives rise to a different emission spectrum. I'm bringing this up here because I'm not sure I'll be able to put in the effort to fix the article, especially with proper references. Looie496 (talk) 18:53, 24 October 2013 (UTC)

Why can a light source not emit white light? CodeCat (talk) 20:22, 24 October 2013 (UTC)
There's really no such thing as white light. Every light source except a laser is a mixture of spectral components, and it is arbitrary to define any particular mixture as "white". Sometimes people think that it is possible to define white as the spectrum of the Sun, but the concept of whiteness obtained by doing that does not have any practical value. Under any sort of artificial lighting, or even under filtered sunlight, an object emitting that spectrum will not look white. Looie496 (talk) 16:08, 27 October 2013 (UTC)
To enlarge on that a bit, color is really a property of a surface, not of a light source. A surface is white if the light that it reflects has the same spectral composition as the light that strikes it. Our visual system works very hard to compensate for lighting in order to allow us to perceive the true color of a surface -- the color constancy article gives a (not very good) overview of the process. A light source will of course have a perceived color, but the rules that govern the perceived color are rather complex, except in very simple situations such as a pure light source against a pure black background. Looie496 (talk) 16:22, 27 October 2013 (UTC)
You will have to come up with a reference for that definition of white. Unfortunately the definition in the lead section would be more appropriate in a children's book. But for instance "white light" is a pretty standard term in both layman texts and technical publications. Thorseth (talk) 11:28, 3 April 2015 (UTC)
Please keep in mind that this article is not about optics or light, it's primarily about the culture and history and symbolism. What you call a "children's book definition" is the one used in the Oxford Engish Dictionary and other sources. This is not a technical article, and, per Wikipedia policy, should be written in a way understandable to average readers, not scientists. SiefkinDR (talk) 12:35, 3 April 2015 (UTC)
I must say I strongly disagree, an article on a color without strong content on optics and light would be meaningless to me. To me it would be like an article on elephants that only covered the cultural and historical significance of elephants,Thorseth (talk) 21:29, 4 April 2015 (UTC)

Keep the image of the white horse[edit]

Most of this article concerns the history, culture and associations of the color white, and the white horse is a perfect example to illustrate the article. (See image of space at the top of the article on black for another example, or the image of water in the article on cyan.) The grid of different colors that had been put in place of the white horse was misleading; in fact only one color on the grid was white; the others were shades of different colors. Putting a white square against a white page is more accurate, but dull and doesn't convey any information about the meaning of white. For these reasons, I believe we should keep the image of the white horse, which very clearly represents the symbolism and cultural meaning of white. SiefkinDR (talk) 08:26, 27 October 2013 (UTC)

Montage of white[edit]

Please see the montage of white now at the top of the page, as a proposed substitute for a white icon. This is an attempt to present the various aspects of white, in art, nature, biology, and culture in a single montage. Please let me know what you think. SiefkinDR (talk) 12:01, 18 November 2013 (UTC)

Well, it works. It would probably be better to build this into a single montage-image rather than using a gallery that takes up so much screen space, though. Looie496 (talk) 16:20, 18 November 2013 (UTC)

I agree, a single montage-image would be better; I just don't know how to make one. SiefkinDR (talk) 16:59, 18 November 2013 (UTC)

I could do it pretty easily using GIMP, but I wouldn't like to do it more than once, so it would be nice to have consensus on the components and arrangement first. Looie496 (talk) 18:05, 18 November 2013 (UTC)

That sounds like a good plan. I think the image be smaller, and represent the major aspects and uses of white; nature, culture, religion, art and architecture. Images in the montage should also be found in the article, with captions. Some examples of other montages are found in the articles on New York and Marseille. SiefkinDR (talk) 10:11, 22 November 2013 (UTC)

Other good examples of montages are found in the articles on Paris, London and New York City SiefkinDR (talk) 10:17, 22 November 2013 (UTC)

As you mention, there are indeed "good examples of montages". Please follow that format/layout and do not carry out your experiments on the article page. --Technopat (talk) 10:48, 22 November 2013 (UTC)

Will do that, but please put the montage back, or let me do so, so people can see what is proposed and can make suggestions and and comments. SiefkinDR (talk) 12:47, 22 November 2013 (UTC)

As for the formalities of the montage, if you just want other editors to see what images you want to include in same, and without violating WP:MOS layout guidelines, we "can see what is proposed" by reviewing your edit (View history, above) and/or if you're not sure as to the technical aspects of the montage you can create your own sandbox (User:username/sandbox) where you can experiment until you get it right.
On the other hand, infoboxes for other colours (blue, green, etc.) have a seemingly standard format, with "spectral coordinates", so I don't see why this one should be any different, but that's just my opinion. It could be argued that white and black require a more "imaginative" approach, but am not so sure. Regards, --Technopat (talk) 09:29, 24 November 2013 (UTC)

The articles on the main colors have images that show the different shades, although I'm not sure how useful those are, since they have no explanations or captions, and most of shades shown don't match the information given in the infoboxes. The great majority of the content of the color articles is not about the optics but about the symbolism of the colors and their occurrence and use in art, biology, history, politics, botany, etc. I think black and white should have a different kind of image, since neither by definition has any shades, and since everyone has a pretty good idea what they look like. The black article has a picture of outer space taken from Mars, which I think is more interesting than a plain black square, and its the most read of all the color articles by a wide margin. I think the white article should also have something more interesting than a plain white square on a white page and something that suggests that range of uses and and importance of white in science, culture, history and art SiefkinDR (talk) 18:52, 24 November 2013 (UTC)

Proposed photomontage for the lead article (II)[edit]

The talented folks at the Wikipedia Graphics Lab put together the photomontage below as a possible lead image for the article.

Polar bear with young - ANWR.jpg Andalusian.jpg Delphinapterus leucas 2.jpg
White sand on Berneray - - 684958.jpg Pope Francis in March 2013 b.jpg LhotseMountain.jos.500pix.jpg
Wedding Kimono.jpg Taj Mahal 2002.JPG Milk glass.jpg

Each of these images is clickable. It represent some of the varieties of white that exist in nature, culture, and art, which are explained in the article. I am hoping that it can be made into a single image, so it can be moved around more easily. Comments and suggestions are welcome. SiefkinDR (talk) 10:14, 25 November 2013 (UTC)

I have formatted it to the right at the start of the article as the lead image to see what you think. (Hohum @) 17:36, 25 November 2013 (UTC)
Seems fine to me. Looie496 (talk) 17:39, 25 November 2013 (UTC)
I think it looks very good; thank you! SiefkinDR (talk) 09:18, 26 November 2013 (UTC)

Undue bias toward European/"Western" culture and Christianity, especially in its History/Culture, Associations, and Symbol sections[edit]

First of all: I understand, this is the English language version of Wikipedia, and though English is a particularly wide-spoken language, many content writers and editors here will have a natural bias toward what is the mainstream culture of where they most likely live (i.e., in "English-speaking," Western nations). I don't mean to look down on the work already done with this article; I had as much fun learning about the chalky origins of the word "candidate" as the next etymology and history enthusiast, and differences in organizational preferences will always be with us.

However, the bias here is particularly glaring. I think it is also the main part of what keeps the article from having truly good (succinct and accessible) organization.

There is next to no information on the place of the color White in cultures other than those "Classical/Ancient" or European/Western. The "White in other cultures" content is not even filled out enough to exist in a proper paragraphical format. There is no reasonable substantiation I can think of for why those cultures featured in this section are "Other cultures" while those not relegated to this small corner can be presumed to be not-other, "Normal cultures". This confusion continues the rest of the way through this article. Information on the color White in non-Western, non-Christian context is indeed scattered sparingly in those places that are outside the "other cultures" penalty box, seemingly without rhyme or reason. If we're going to keep this cultural bias, we may as well be tidy, consistent, and open about it: all "Other" cultures fully separate and the main history, symbol, etc. sections labeled "European" or "Western" ... or full integration and reorganization.

Summary for action: I'm advocating for doing as much as possible to (1) re-organize these sections both for concision and for bias-removal. The "White in history and culture" section should contain all the history and culture pertaining to the color white from around the world, perhaps further organized into time-, subject- or region-based subsections, and to (2) increase the quality and quantity of content pertaining to the color white in as many diverse contexts as possible into the main body of the article's relevant sections.

If you disagree with any of these criticisms/aims/plans, responding to this here would be a good place to discuss it. Unless there are any expressed and convincing objections, I am going to begin doing my small bit to address this issue in the next few days. Help would be very, very much appreciated.

Marmalamarie (talk) 08:34, 22 December 2014 (UTC)

Thanks for your comments and suggestions on the article.

As you correctly point out, this article is in the English Wikipedia, and the great majority of readers are in the U.S., UK, and other English-speaking countries, who are naturally interested of the culture and history of the color in western culture. But, as you also correctly state, there could be a lot more about white in other cultures. Two of the three cultural images in the montage at the top show uses of white in Asian culture, and there should be more about that (and other cultures) in the article. I also agree that they shouldn't be buried in a small corner in the lower part of the article. Your contributions on this will be very welcome. Please put your additions about white in other cultures in the history and art section, either chronologically, or, if you think it makes more sense, as a separate sub-section.

I would ask you to please keep the order of main sections the same; it follows the format of the other major color articles (black, red, yellow, blue), and most of the other color articles, and, after battles with some editors who felt the article should be almost entirely about optics and wavelength, culture has won out and it's been stable now for several years. I hope we don't have to refight those battles. And, of course, please don't delete the work of other editors that is accurate and correctly sourced.

I look forward to seeing your contributions! SiefkinDR (talk) 08:44, 24 December 2014 (UTC)

Problem with the modified lead[edit]

There is a problem with the new definition of white that has been substituted for the original definition in the lead, that says: " "the color produced by the reflection by a material of all the wavelengths of light in the visible spectrum."[1][2]

It isn't completely accurate; some white that the eye sees is a reflection, but white light is also produced by various transmitters; the sun, light bulbs, computer screens, etc. You're not seeing a reflection, you're seeing the real thing. The two citations in the article refer to the original and classic definition, a combination of all the colors in the optical spectrum. I think the original definition, per the citations, should be restored. The more detailed description can be included in the section on optics. SiefkinDR (talk) 14:29, 16 February 2015 (UTC)

That's a common error, but an error nevertheless. There is no such thing as white light. There is only light that appears white to a given observer at a given time. Different types of light bulbs actually have different color spectra -- they only appear white to us because of the way our perceptual systems operate. White can be treated as a property of a surface, or as a type of human visual percept, but it can't be treated as a property of light per se. Looie496 (talk) 15:49, 16 February 2015 (UTC)
Thanks for the helpful clarification. You're quite right, and I agree with you, there's no white liight per se. I just wanted to note that not all light perceived as white is reflected, some of it is transmitted. I would like to replace that sentence in the lead with one that says simply, "white is the combination of all the colors in the visible spectrum" , which is a definition given in the Oxford English Dictionary and Webster's. I think the more detailed discussion of the optics of the color belongs in the optics section rather than the lead.SiefkinDR (talk) 16:03, 16 February 2015 (UTC)
Yep, you're right - I reverted to the wrong versin and have corrected myself. Cas Liber (talk · contribs) 18:54, 16 February 2015 (UTC)

I must say I am puzzled by the wish for a dictionary definition of white, not many other articles on wikipedia will get their first reference from a dictionary (and perhaps with good reason Wikipedia is not a dictionary). Thorseth (talk) 19:16, 4 April 2015 (UTC)

"...the color produced by the combination of all the colors of the visible spectrum."[edit]

As mentioned in the talk sections Talk:White#Flawed_definition... and Talk:White#Optics_and_more, white light is NOT, no matter how many cites are provided, "...the color produced by the combination of all the colors of the visible spectrum." Certainly, something like white can be created using all frequencies, and we see that from the sun.

But 1) by varying intensities of different parts of the spectrum, the same could be true of *any color you like*, and 2) even if the definition is clarified to add "at equal intensity", this does not distinguish the color from "grey" or indeed even from "black", and 3) it's just demonstrably categorically false anyway, since you can make the color white with only the barest tiny fraction of that spectrum. Specifically, the white background of this page is caused (on most displays) by only three very narrow color bands, Red, Green, and Blue.

So more correct definition might be "...a color which activates all three types of cone cell in the human eye at roughly the same intensity." But intensity is a really vague term there, and I'm not sure how that definition can be distinguished from a definition for "grey". Maybe by adding "... and is at least approximately the highest brightness available in the current (Scene? Environment? What? I'm not sure.)" or "and also significantly activates the rod cells (am I even right about this, or could a non-rod-triggering light still be white?)" But then... if snow is "white", is the snow in a crevasse white, when you are standing outside, looking in? I'd argue yes. Difficult.

The problem here is that the blatantly obviously WRONG definition, which we should not be promoting in any way here, is the definition with all the cites, and the dictionary definition. But the obviously right definition is very OR. How do we address this? DewiMorgan (talk) 20:20, 17 February 2015 (UTC)

Surely there has to be a decent definition in a secondary source somewhere? Cas Liber (talk · contribs) 01:52, 18 February 2015 (UTC)
The problem is not that it is hard to find a good definition, it's that there are lots of incorrect definitions in sources that meet all Wikipedia's criteria for reliability. Any valid definition needs to take into account the phenomenon of color constancy, and unfortunately, because the phenomenon operates below the level of conscious awareness, failure to understand it is very common. A correct definition would be something like this: the color white is the perceptual quality produced by sunlight falling on a surface that reflects all visible components of light with equal intensity. Looie496 (talk) 16:43, 18 February 2015 (UTC)
But the definition that you give above leaves out the white color that is produced by your computer screen, which is not reflected sunlight. You'll see that the first sentence has been changed to make it more accurate, but please keep in mind that the principal subjects of this article are white in history, art, culture and nature, not just about optics. A detailed discussion of the optics of white is found in the optics section of the article; it only needs to be summarized very briefly in the lead. SiefkinDR (talk) 10:03, 19 February 2015 (UTC)
The definition that I gave defines white as a perceptual quality, and specifies the canonical way of evoking that quality. It is not the only way -- in fact there are many other ways. Looie496 (talk) 14:55, 19 February 2015 (UTC)

I agree with DewiMorgan but I see the problem a bit differently. There are some scientifically correct definitions out there, for instance in Wyszecki and Stiles "Color Science" but they are not very accessible, and when I tried to formulate something more readable (see Talk:White#Better_lead) it was promptly reversed to the dictionary "definition" which seems mostly to be about the word white and really is just examples of white things, for example a light source emitting at all visible wavelengths. I don't think it's a definition if it just contains a bunch of examples (see Wikipedia is not a dictionary). I have neither the time or the patience for an edit war, so I can help with better references and with some more correct definitions, but if there is no consensus I will leave the article as is (including the misconception). I think it would be good to look at other sensory related articles such as Pain which contain both examples and a technical defintion by a organization working with the subject. Another example is Pitch (music) which has a technical defintion and then some elabotationg text. Would the people with strong opinions on the lead text agree to collaborate on this? Thorseth (talk) 18:56, 4 April 2015 (UTC)

Biology ...?[edit]

One sentence on white color in biology, that is not very impressive. Further more, I wonder why the gallery seems to suggest that the world of the living only consists of mammals, birds and ... pearls?

How about the birch or this little fellow Olm, not to mention insects, for instance the cabbage butterfly. Thorseth (talk) 20:01, 5 April 2015 (UTC)

Did your suggestion. Thanks a lot, Thorseth! Gonzales John (talk) 15:18, 24 April 2016 (UTC)

Could we model this article after the one on green[edit]

Green is the only one of the articles on colors that has a "good article" tag. I suggest we try to use the structure and style of that article. What do you say? Thorseth (talk) 20:30, 5 April 2015 (UTC)

That might be a suitable compromise, but it will make the lead much longer; the lead for green is very long because of the wide variety of subjects covered in the article.
The lead needs to be a brief summary of the main points of the article. In the white article, optics occupies nine lines my Macbook screen. Other topics under under science (nature, geology, etc.) occupy 48 lines. Etymology is four lines. History if 49 lines. Common associations occupy 89 lines, the largest section in the article. To reflect the content of the article, the large majority of the lead will be about history, culture, associations, and science, not just about optics.
I strongly feel that the first sentence of the lead should not be technical, but general, to reflect the article content. Let me come up some suggestions on that.
The second sentence can be a scientific definition with a citation. Can you suggest what that would say?
I'm sure we can find a suitable compromise between the cultural and scientific content, and have it be interesting to read. Looking forwards to your ideas. Best regards, SiefkinDR (talk) 11:59, 6 April 2015 (UTC)11:58, 6 April 2015 (UTC)
Thorseth sure, plenty of material to choose from. Be bold and have a go if you like. cheers, Cas Liber (talk · contribs) 13:00, 6 April 2015 (UTC)

Ok, thanks I will come up with some suggestions soon. Thorseth (talk) 14:07, 7 April 2015 (UTC)

Yeah, my optics isn't crash-hot - I was going to tweak this one to be like green but was unsure of the definition of white light compared with others, so had been meaning to look that one up, but you might be better at that...cheers, Cas Liber (talk · contribs) 14:28, 7 April 2015 (UTC)
I see the lead has got a new structure. I am sorry if I was unclear, but this was not what I meant by using the article on green as a model. I my perception the lead for the article on green has a structure like this:
[Technical definition] [examples of how to make it][etymological origin][occurrence in nature][cultural and symbolical meaning]...etc.
This is a structure I find very natural and one that is found in many (if not most) Wikipedia articles. My guess is that this organization of the content is also partly the reason for the "good article" ranking. Now the lead for white seems to be structured almost completely opposite, with the first sentences being on what some cultures associate with white. Imagine starting the articles on elephants or the number pi with a discussion on what different cultures associated with those things. This way of organizing the text is utterly confusing to me. So what I will do now is to add content to the science section so it can be used as input for whatever lead is there. But I will urge you to reconsider the current organization of the text. Kind regards Thorseth (talk) 19:26, 8 April 2015 (UTC)
Thanks for your constructive comments. I've redone the first paragraph to put the optical definition, taken from the article on light, first, and I hope this definition works better. I think the optics section needs some work; the text there is full of jargon and unexplained terms, not at all clear to non-specialists. As to the structure of color articles, there's a variety of structures, but most put the culture and history ahead of the science part. This is not an article about optics, but, like the other main color articles, primarily about art, history, culture and symbolism, and white in nature. By modeling the article on green, do you mean by putting the science and optics part first, and the culture, history, art and symbolism after that? If you really want an article to focus on white light, that would be an excellent subject for a separate article. I have the impression that he color group that gives ratings to articles works primarily on articles about color theory; they don't seem to be interested in art, history or culture. I welcome your suggestions and will do what I can so we can arrive at a balanced and good article.SiefkinDR (talk) 14:50, 9 April 2015 (UTC)

At what percentage does white reflect sunlight?[edit]

At what percentage does white reflect sunlight? (talk) 13:59, 30 November 2015 (UTC)

There is no specific percentage. A surface that looks white under some illumination conditions can look gray or even black under others. Looie496 (talk) 14:37, 30 November 2015 (UTC)

Achromatic color[edit]

The dictionary and literal definition of achromatic is "without color". Most everybody knows what a color is, but not many people understand what a hue is; I'm trying to keep the definition in simple and non-technical terms, as it was originally. I welcome your comments. SiefkinDR (talk) 08:44, 12 April 2016 (UTC)

One editor has reverted the meaning of achromatic back to "without hue", but I respectfully submit that that is not the best definition of "achromatic". The Oxford English dictionary defines achromatic as "without color". without reference to hue. Hue by definition is not the same as color. I think it should he reverted back to the definition origiinally given in the citation. SiefkinDR (talk) 12:20, 12 April 2016 (UTC)

Assessment comment[edit]

The comment(s) below were originally left at Talk:White/Comments, and are posted here for posterity. Following several discussions in past years, these subpages are now deprecated. The comments may be irrelevant or outdated; if so, please feel free to remove this section.

I have a question about the prism thing. I understand that the white light seperates into the different colors when passed through a prism, but what happens when you pass it through a second prism? I'd really like to know, can anyone help me out? Th3SpazzyKat (talk) 17:57, 10 December 2008 (UTC)

Last edited at 17:57, 10 December 2008 (UTC). Substituted at 10:30, 30 April 2016 (UTC)

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First sentence of lead needs re-writing[edit]

I believe beginning of the lead, needs to be re-written, or, in the case of the first sentence, deleted or moved to the section on optics. Per the Wikipedia Manual of Style, the beginning needs to be nontechnical, without jargon, and easily understandable to ordinary readers. The first sentence should summarize the notability of the subject, why it's important. Also, the first sentence, as its written now, has absolutely no connection or relation to the sources cited for it; they both use very simple and clear language. The optics of white are covered very well in the body of the article; the great majority of the article is about the history and uses of the color, and its appearances in nature, not about optics. I think the opening sentence of Black would be a good model to follow. Cordially, SiefkinDR (talk) 09:22, 27 September 2017 (UTC)

How would you prefer to word it? Looie496 (talk) 14:11, 27 September 2017 (UTC)
Fair points about being too technical, but it does seem to be consistent with the citations, "the achromatic object color of greatest lightness characteristically perceived to belong to objects that reflect diffusely nearly all incident energy throughout the visible spectrum ", and "Of the colour of milk or fresh snow, due to the reflection of all visible rays of light; the opposite of black."(edit-correction). One problem is that black is very easy to define since it merely corresponds to the absence of all visible light. White is not as easy because it is much more then the mere presence of light -- what makes a surface white is that it diffusely reflects *all* the light of *all* colors. Defining white light is even more difficult than defining a white surface, because there are many types (spectra) of "white" light, but a pure white surface merely reflects any and all spectra of light. QuoJar (talk) 14:28, 27 September 2017 (UTC)
Although we need to be as accessible as possible, accuracy has to trump accessibility if meaning is lost by converting into plainer English. Cas Liber (talk · contribs) 14:34, 27 September 2017 (UTC)
Okay, I've changed it to something that I think is in plainer English while still being accurate. QuoJar (talk) 14:45, 27 September 2017 (UTC)
The new first sentence is awkward and still too technical for an article which is primarily about associations, common occurrences and history of white. The short definition in the Oxford English Dictionary on line is "Of the colour of milk or fresh snow, due to the reflection of all visible rays of light; the opposite of black." I would propose we use a variation of that sentence, as the article on black does. The more detailed description of the optics of white light really belongs in the section on optics, not as the first sentence of the article. Please see the Manual of Style for their recommendations on opening sentences and paragraphs. SiefkinDR (talk) 15:19, 27 September 2017 (UTC)
You may view the topic of this article to be primarily that of associations, common occurrences and history of white, but there is no separate article for the color white as understood by color science, colorimetry, psychophysics, physics, chemistry, etc. White is a well-understood physical or psychophysical phenomenon that has important associations and history, but it is not correct to say that that white is its associations and history. I think the current first paragraph is quite understandable and is a good plain-English simplification of the more-thorough definition in Merriam-Webster. QuoJar (talk) 16:05, 27 September 2017 (UTC)
Also black's first sentence is consistent with a pure physics and color science definition (though simpler for reasons I explained above), and its second sentence is consistent with pure color science, colorimetry, psychophysical, human visual system, and color theory definition. Only in the third sentence does it say "It is often used symbolically or figuratively to represent ...."; note that this is not part of its definition, but rather an important statement about its symbolic associations. QuoJar (talk) 16:11, 27 September 2017 (UTC)
And not until the 2nd paragraph (4th sentence), does black give examples of black objects, which you are proposing to do here at the start of the first sentence here for white. As you know, we don't usually begin the lead of a WP article with examples of the article's topic. QuoJar (talk) 16:44, 27 September 2017 (UTC)
BTW, the sentence from Oxford may be appropriate for a dictionary but I believe it is inadequate for the beginning of an encyclopedic WP article. QuoJar (talk) 16:16, 27 September 2017 (UTC)
@QuoJar: this has been an ongoing issue, see the talk pages such as Talk:Blue#How_big_should_the_lead_section_be_and_what_should_be_in_it.3F, and old versions of leads such as this and this. SiefkinDR and I (and others) have differed on this approach elsewhere. Cas Liber (talk · contribs) 21:37, 27 September 2017 (UTC)
Please keep discussing here to find consensus instead of massive removals! I undid unilateral removal from the lead by SiefkinDR of almost all of the definition and notable facts about white as understood in color science, photometry, physics, visual perception, visual system, psychophysics, etc (all of which that user describes as "optics"). White is *not merely* another arbitrarily-named color like brown; it has a unique physical meaning and there is a unique physical way to know whether an object is white, regardless of color naming schemes. That user claimed that the 1st sentence didn't follow the reference, but in fact it did follow the Merriam Webster reference given, and in fact was further simplified it to more colloquial language at same user's request because the Merriam Webster definition itself was said to be overly-technical "optics". The Oxford definition is completely inadequate for such a fundamental, foundational concept in many fields of science and technology. QuoJar (talk) 17:51, 28 September 2017 (UTC)
Oh, I see the confusion about Webster definition; WP articles on a particular concept are usually described primarily as the concept itself, i.e. the color itself, which is a noun -- not the usage of the color name to modify another noun, i.e. an adjective. You may have been looking at the Merriam Webster adjective definition, as for example in "it is very white", or "it is much whiter than snow" or "that is one of the whitest dogs I've ever seen". This is not a good general approach for colors for many reasons -- for one thing most color names are not widely used as adjectives. You don't hear "that is very, very, cyan" very often. QuoJar (talk) 18:15, 28 September 2017 (UTC)
Dear QuoJar,
I really urge you to read the Wikipedia Manual of Style article on what should be in the lead of an article, and how the lead should be written, particularly the beginning of the lead. These current lead paragraphs repeat the problems that were in the earlier version; they're repetitive of what is directly below in the lead, bear little resemblance to what the citations say, and do not explain why the topic is notable, and do not adequately summarize the contents of the article. They focus too much on optics, whereas the article is much broader. There is plenty of space to discuss the physics of light in the section on that topic, but it should not dominate the first two paragraphs; it's just one part of an article on a much larger subject. This is not an article exclusively on physics. Please also note that the Oxford English Dictionary and other reliable sources commonly give examples, such as milk and snow. The lead should also generally match the leads of the other color articles. If you want to focus on technology, I would strongly urge you to start a new article on White Light; that seems to be the topic of the lead that you have written. There you can go into all the scientific detail that you wish, and this article can link to it. I think that's the simplest and best solution. Cordially, SiefkinDR (talk) 18:19, 28 September 2017 (UTC)
Here is the exact primary (#1) definition from Merriam Webster for the noun "white":
"white, noun. Definition of white: 1 :the achromatic object color of greatest lightness characteristically perceived to belong to objects that reflect diffusely nearly all incident energy throughout the visible spectrum"
Here is the Oxford definition as a noun:
"white, NOUN, 1. mass noun White colour or pigment."
Okay here they chose to define the noun in terms of the adjective, so here is their adjective definition:
"white, ADJECTIVE, 1. Of the colour of milk or fresh snow, due to the reflection of all visible rays of light; the opposite of black."
...which in my opinion is a colloquial definition that is totally inadequate for such a foundational concept in many academic fields, including the ones that study color itself, although I'm happy to combine it with the Merriam-Webster NOUN definition above, although this is what I had tried to do before.
QuoJar (talk) 18:34, 28 September 2017 (UTC)
The current first paragraph does not attempt to define "white light" at all. (The pre-existing second paragraph does, and frankly I'm happy to move it down below.) Read it again:
White is the color of objects that completely reflect (diffusely) all visible light of all colors, and is therefore the lightest color and the opposite of black (with shades of gray falling in between).[1] Fresh snow and many bleached fibers are white, or shades of white.[2] In many cultures white can signify purity, innocence, and figurative lightness, while black represents the symbolic opposite of these.
The first sentence there is a precise and literal definition of the the color white when used in the context of an object (or its surface) being white, not of light itself being white or "white light". No similarly-unique definition exists for so-called "white light" or "white light source" which actually have no single definition as we know from colorimetry (which is why there are dozens of "white" "standard illuminants" like the 2700K and 5000K light bulbs that you can buy for your home). Also no similarly-foundational definition exists for any other color, with the possible exception of black, which is described physically-completely in the first sentence of that article, but as it happens it takes very few words to do so because black is much simpler to define than white. That's just a fact about the special colors black and white. QuoJar (talk) 18:44, 28 September 2017 (UTC)


  1. ^ "Definition of white". Merriam-Webster. Retrieved 24 September 2017. 
  2. ^ "Definition of white". Oxford English Dictionary. Retrieved 24 September 2017. 

It's getting better...[edit]

It's a lot better, but it's still not quite there yet. As you're aware, this is not an academic or scientific article, as the MOS explains, and it's supposed to use terms understandable to the ordinary reader. More detailed explanations, which can include some technical terms, are given in the section relating to optics.
It should mention that white is an achromatic color, literally a color without hue. That's a fundamental part of it.
You don't need to say {diffusely) in the first sentence. The OED doesn't use the term in the lead, and it would have to be explained. That should be in the optics section.
There's no need to talk about "Shades of gray" in the lead of an article on white. They're not white.
There certainly should be no mention of "Shades of white." As I'm sure you know, by definition, white doesn't have any shades. The So-called "shades of white" in the link, like gray, light brown and light blue, and shades of those colors, not white. They don't belong in this article.
I don't see why you added "Some bleached fibers" to the examples given by the OED, or why you specified cow's milk; that's not in the definition.
You don't need to mention the common associations to purity, innocence, etc. here, because they're given in the para just below. The last part of the statement is awkward, and should be stated simply "It is the symbolic opposite of black.
Thanks for your work on this. It's getting close to done. Cordially, SiefkinDR (talk) 09:08, 29 September 2017 (UTC)
I beg to differ - any interior decorator, designer, clothier, or artist would regard shades of white as entirely legitimate and needing some mention or discussion. Cas Liber (talk · contribs) 10:38, 29 September 2017 (UTC)
Dear Casliber: I admit I'm a bit confused here. The article on shades of white lists many different colors, such as beige, cream, ivory, snow, vanilla, etc,. but the articles on those colors don't claim that they are "shades of white." Beige, for example, is described as a "pale yellow brown", or a "pale sandy fawn". Most of the colors in the article are pale shades of brown or yellow or a combination. By definition, white is an achromatic color, meaning it has no hue; all of the colors in the shades of white article have a hue added to them. Grey, even pale grey, is not considered to be a a shade of white. Is there a citation that calls these colors shades of white? I think the lead of the article should be just about white, not pale shades of other colors. They already have their own articles. Cordially, SiefkinDR (talk) 17:52, 29 September 2017 (UTC)

SiefkinDR, I believe that this is, among other things, a scientific topic (and thus article), as it does and should include an explanation of *literally* what it means to be white (i.e. scientific understanding). Even if all the nonscientific (though legitimate) parts of this article were somehow true of another color, say, orange, that wouldn't make it white :-) In any case, here are some responses to the specifics:
• it says shades of gray are *betwen* white and black (not that that they are white); isn't that a nontechnical way of saying white is among the achromatics? Isn't "achromatic" a relatively technical term mainly used by people who have studied specific disciplines (like visual arts, color science, optics, etc.), which I thought was what we were trying to avoid because they would have to be explained (in this case by "literally a color without hue").
• Without "(diffusely)" (parenthesized to indicate that it can be skipped initially in casual reading if you don't yet understand it), we've got "objects that completely reflect the full spectrum of visible light", which is a pretty good definition of a mirror, but not of a white object! How about "reflect and scatter"?
• Milk was a term that was already in the lead (not the first paragraph), but I don't like it anyway because different types of milk are in fact quite different shades of white. I think bleached fibers was a variant of something else already in the article, but I kinda like it, or better yet, "bleached materials", because it is a very broad example that covers familiar bleaching of fabrics as well as potentially paper and even white bread (bleached flour), and it is derived from the corresponding section about bleaching.
• The reason for "shades of white" is that none of the examples are purely white (reflecting literally *all* the light); in fact they are presumably not even the precisely the same shade of white. Practically all "white" objects and pigments in the real world are in fact shades of white at best -- if you want to call them shades of gray then there are no real white objects at all, so then let's merge those two "shades of" articles.
• "purity, innocence,..." were moved up from a deleted paragraph in the lead; I was trying to be conservative by not removing it completely (especially as that's not my expertise), and then based on your(?) comments moved it up to 1st para to try to balance the color-science bent of the first paragraph; I have no problem with it being removed.
• I'm not sure why we need to say twice that it's the opposite of black (in two specified ways). Isn't almost anything that's an unspecified "opposite" liable to be used figuratively or symbolically as an opposite?
• BTW, the names of the "Physics (optics)" and "Chemistry" sections are misnomers that don't match their content very well, but that's a separate issue...
• I do appreciate the cordiality. Best regards, QuoJar (talk) 13:37, 29 September 2017 (UTC)

Just about there...[edit]

The lead is greatly improved, and is just about there. I still have a couple of minor issues, though. First, "Neutral" and "achromatic" are not the same thing. "Neutral" includes beige, gray, pale pink, and other colors which are clearly not white. "Achromatic" means completely without color, and includes just white, black, and shades of gray. I think we can deal with this by saying that "white an achromatic color, literally a color without hue, and a neutral color." The achromatic part is cited in both the OED and Websters.

My other problem is with "bleached materials." By definition, white has no hue or color. "Approximately white" means it has some color, either gray or beige, yellow, brown, or some other light shades of different colors. The OED and other sources go with fresh snow and milk. Another example used in some online definitions is "the color of fresh snow or the margins of this page." What do you think of that? Otherwise, we can just say "fresh snow" and drop bleached materials, since the article is about white and not approximations of white. Cordially, SiefkinDR (talk) 08:30, 30 September 2017 (UTC)

In practice, every material is at best an approximation of white -- not pure white. Snow may be achromatic but it isn't even close to a true white -- maybe 80% reflectance if I recall. Almost any well-bleached material is whiter than snow. For example put a piece of any good white paper (i.e. well-bleached, like inkjet paper) on it and you'll see immediately that the snow is gray. For milk, it depends what kind -- skim cow's milk looks like a very light bluish-gray to me. In any case, check out the new version. I removed "opposite of black" -- isn't that obvious from the fact that white is the lightest and black is the darkest color? QuoJar (talk) 03:21, 1 October 2017 (UTC)

Getting better, but still problems[edit]

There are still some problems with the beginning of the lead; its very wordy and difficult to follow; the MOS says "the lead should be in a clear accessible style". particularly in this case, since the majority of the article is about history, art, culture and symbolism, and most readers don't have a technical background.

I'd suggest that we go with this for the first sentence, taken from the print version of the Oxford English Dictionary: White is the lightest color. It contains all the wavelengths of visible light without absorption, has maximum brightness, and does not have any hue or color. It is the opposite of black.[1]

It may be obvious to us that white is the opposite of black, but its a fundamental part of the definition in most sources, and it's described in detail in the article, so it should be mentioned here.

As for the use of chalk or bleached fabrics as examples of white, I haven't seen any definition of white that uses them. The examples most commonly used are fresh snow and milk. Do you have a source that cites chalk and and fabrics we can use them, but otherwise they should go.

Cordially, SiefkinDR (talk) 09:34, 1 October 2017 (UTC)

That begs the question, "how can a color (white) have no color". I know what you mean, you're using color in the more specific sense of hue, so let's just use hue or a similarly unambiguous term. And your proposal is conflating white as a color of objects, which is scientifically uniquely defined, with white as a color of light itself, which is not nearly as well-defined (just try shopping for "white" light bulbs and you'll see the choices from 2700K warm to 6500K cool, and those are just an arbitrary few). Light itself being "with" or "without" absorption makes no sense -- only an object/surface can absorb the light. Also, "lightest color" and "maximum brightness" are redundant. There's nothing special about one particular dictionary definition -- that's a tertiary source and as you know, secondary sources are preferred in WP anyway. But between those two dictionaries I think we should follow the merriam-webster definition more closely because it is clearly much more accurate and encyclopedic than the more-colloquial definition in oxford. Chalk was an example in the lead already (and follows content from a section of the article). I don't think the particular example of a white object we use needs to come from the same source; obviously we can find many sources that state that milk or chalk or snow is white, but chalk and any nice white paper are in fact much closer to true white (just look at them next to snow and milk to see). I'm okay using milk or snow so long as we more accurately call them shades of white rather than white. QuoJar (talk) 17:33, 1 October 2017 (UTC)

The problems unfortunately still remain. The first sentence is too long, and tries to combine every idea about white into one sentence. It's also confusing when it also throws in treys and black, which isn't necessary. It needs to be worded more gracefully, as it is in the cited works, otherwise you have to read it several times to make sense of it.

The more major problem is the use of bleach and paper as the sole examples. Can you cite a reliable source that defines white with those examples? Merriam-Webster, which you have cited, uses snow and milk, as does the OED. Everything in the article has to be verifiable with a solid source. It's not up to us to define the color, it has to be properly sourced. Cordially, SiefkinDR (talk) 18:22, 1 October 2017 (UTC)

Polar bear with young - ANWR.jpg Andalusian.jpg Delphinapterus leucas 2.jpg
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White is the color of objects that completely reflect (diffusely) all visible light of all colors, and is therefore the lightest color; it is the opposite of black among the achromatic colors.[2][3]

Light with a spectral composition that stimulates all three types of the color-sensitive cone cells of the human eye in nearly equal amounts appears white. White is one of the most common colors in nature, the color of sunlight, and the color of sunlight reflected by snow, milk, chalk, limestone and other common minerals. In many cultures white represents or signifies purity, innocence, and light, and is the symbolic opposite of black, or darkness. According to surveys in Europe and the United States, white is the color most often associated with perfection, the good, honesty, cleanliness, the beginning, the new, neutrality, and exactitude.[4]

In ancient Egypt and ancient Rome, priestesses wore white as a symbol of purity, and Romans wore a white toga as a symbol of citizenship. In the Middle Ages and Renaissance a white unicorn symbolized chastity, and a white lamb sacrifice and purity; the widows of kings dressed in white rather than black as the color of mourning. It sometimes symbolizes royalty; it was the color of the French kings (black being the color of the queens) and of the monarchist movement after the French Revolution as well as of the movement called the White Russians (not to be confounded with Belarus, literally "White Russia") who fought the Bolsheviks during the Russian Civil War (1917–1922). Greek and Roman temples were faced with white marble, and beginning in the 18th century, with the advent of neoclassical architecture, white became the most common color of new churches, capitols and other government buildings, especially in the United States. It was also widely used in 20th century modern architecture as a symbol of modernity, simplicity and strength.

White is an important color for almost all world religions. The Pope, the head of the Roman Catholic Church, has worn white since 1566, as a symbol of purity and sacrifice. In Islam, and in the Shinto religion of Japan, it is worn by pilgrims; and by the Brahmins in India. In Western cultures and in Japan, white is the most common color for wedding dresses, symbolizing purity and virginity. In many Asian cultures, white is also the color of mourning.[5]

The white color on television screens and computer monitors is created with the RGB color model by mixing red, green and blue light at equal intensities.[citation needed]

The white color on television screens and computer monitors is created with the RGB color model by combining red, green and blue lights (serving as additive primary colors) at their maximum brightnesses.[citation needed]

White is the lightest color, as white objects completely reflect (diffusely) the entire visible spectrum of light, and it is the opposite of black, with shades of gray falling in between.

When layers of colored filters (e.g., layers of low-scattering or non-pigment-based ink printed on white paper without side-by-side dithering or halftoning) are overlaid, each layer absorbs characteristic amounts of light at different wavelengths of the illuminating light . The result after each filter absorbs some of the light is therefore darker than any one of them alone, i.e. they are said to mix subtractively.


  1. ^ Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, 5th Edition (2002)
  2. ^ "Definition of white". Merriam-Webster. Retrieved 24 September 2017. 
  3. ^ "Definition of white". Oxford English Dictionary. Retrieved 24 September 2017. 
  4. ^ Eva Heller (2000), Psychologie de la couleur – effets ets symboliques, pp. 130–46
  5. ^ Eva Heller (2000), Psychologie de la couleur – effets ets symboliques, p. 137

Undid revision in 1st sentence[edit]

I undid revision by SiefkinDR that ignores the discussion we are having on the talk page (except his own contributions to it) & removes still-relevant citation because it doesn't match his prefererred text.

"Original" before the edit:

White is the lightest (brightest) color; it is the color of objects that reflect and scatter all visible wavelengths of light without absorbing any, so it imparts no hue to the light, meaning it is achromatic like black (it's opposite) and the grays.[1][2] It is the color of chalk and many bleached materials such as paper when they do not have added colorant.[citation needed]

"new edit" that I undid for the moment, pending continuation of discussion above:

White is the lightest and brightest color, due to the reflection of all the wavelengths of visible light. It is also, like gray and black, an achromatic color, literally meaning it has no color or hue, [3] In science and symbolism it is opposite of black.[4] It is the color of chalk and many bleached materials such as paper when they do not have added colorant.[citation needed]

I had made numerous small changes in order to incorporate the input from editor SiefkinDR, but not any further edits that moved it further away from his input.

Let's discuss further:QuoJar (talk) 15:25, 2 October 2017 (UTC)

My general thoughts are that symbolism should be left out of the lead, more rather than fewer examples of occurrences of the color white should be given, and "bleached" should be left out of that list. Symbolism merely concerns interpretation, there is no harm in listing several commonly known occurrences of white, and "bleached" unnecessarily complicates the list as it is an instance of the removal of color. Bus stop (talk) 15:27, 2 October 2017 (UTC)
Thanks for joining the discussion; I wasn’t comfortable with the two-way dialog. I agree about the symbolism. I'll add the snow and milk examples back in per your comment. To be fair, SiefkinDR has made many good points and I’ll try to incorporate some more of them as “uncontroversial” (so far) while we’re discussing the bigger changes. QuoJar (talk) 15:39, 2 October 2017 (UTC)
Made a couple of small changes that I think are at least in the direction of some of what SiefkenDR and Bus stop are advocating (outdented):

"text3": White is the lightest (brightest) color. It is the color of objects that fully reflect and scatter all visible wavelengths of light. Since it imparts no hue to the light, it is achromatic like black (it's opposite) and the grays.[5][6] It is the color of milk, snow, and chalk.

In my opinion, the beginning of the lead must state unambiguously what white *is* as a color (a noun), giving a precise and encyclopedic (yet not unnecessarily technical) definition. We know from color science that "white light" cannot be precisely and uniquely defined, so it is best to define white as a color of an object or its surface. The visual system, which is central to defining color in general, tries to identify the color of surfaces, not so much the "color of an illuminant" or "color of a light source" like the sun. In fact it tries very hard ignore the color of the illuminant when identifying the color of surfaces! Though dictionary definitions are tertiary and need not be followed, this is why merriam-webster defines it (the noun, not the adjective as in oxford) as:
  • white, noun, 1 : the achromatic object color of greatest lightness characteristically perceived to belong to objects that reflect diffusely nearly all incident energy throughout the visible spectrum
Here is my list of what the beginning of the lead should do:
  1. define it rigorously, which means define it as a color of an object (or surface) like merriam-webster, not try to define it as a color of light which is discussed later
  2. use a term like diffusely or scattering, or else the term "reflect" makes it a good definition of a mirror and a poor definition of white
  3. make it clear that it fully reflects/scatters all the light (if it reflects, say, half the light uniformly across the spectrum it is not white but gray).
  4. make it clear that it it does so for all wavelengths (or across the visible spectrum)
  5. "achromatic" is fine, and "hue" is fine because it is unambiguous, but don't say it is "without color" as this is using color in a somewhat different meaning of the word in the same paragraph (i.e. as synonym for hue) and is thus confusing (begs the question, how can a color (white) be literally without color?)
  6. it is preferable when we can connect the cause to the effect, which is why after "fully .... all visible wavelengths of light", the second part states achromatic as an effect of this, which is that the object therefore "imparts no hue to the light". Being the lightest color and being achromatic are not independent facts about white -- they both *result* from the complete reflection of all wavelengths.
  7. I think it's nice to point out that black and maybe gray[s] are other achromatic colors, but what do others think?
  8. If we're going to state that white is the opposite of black, let's just do so. It is the opposite in a very literal sense, so there is no need to qualify it with terms like "in science,...", much less "in symbolism..."
QuoJar (talk) 16:42, 2 October 2017 (UTC)


  1. ^ "Definition of white, Noun". Merriam-Webster. Retrieved 24 September 2017. white, noun. Definition of white: 1 :the achromatic object color of greatest lightness characteristically perceived to belong to objects that reflect diffusely nearly all incident energy throughout the visible spectrum 
  2. ^ "Definition of white, Adjective". Oxford English Dictionary. Retrieved 24 September 2017. white, adjective. 1. Of the colour of milk or fresh snow, due to the reflection of all visible rays of light; the opposite of black. 
  3. ^ Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, 5th Edition (2002); The Random House College Dictionary of the English Language, Revised Edition,(1980)
  4. ^ Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, 5th Edition (2002)
  5. ^ "Definition of white, Noun". Merriam-Webster. Retrieved 24 September 2017. white, noun. Definition of white: 1 :the achromatic object color of greatest lightness characteristically perceived to belong to objects that reflect diffusely nearly all incident energy throughout the visible spectrum 
  6. ^ "Definition of white, Adjective". Oxford English Dictionary. Retrieved 24 September 2017. white, adjective. 1. Of the colour of milk or fresh snow, due to the reflection of all visible rays of light; the opposite of black. 

The Lead- comments on comments[edit]

Interesting comments. We seem to be making some progress, little by little.

As the Wikipedia Manual of Style (MOS) says, the lead should be written as much as possible in non-technical language, for general readers, avoiding jargon, particularly for an article where most of the text is on a topic which is predominantly non-technical.

Here's the lead as it is now:

White is the lightest (brightest) color. It is the color of objects that fully reflect and scatter all visible wavelengths of light. Since it imparts no hue to the light, it is achromatic like black (it's opposite) and the grays.[1][2] It is the color of milk, snow, and chalk.

First, following the Manual of Style, the lead, especially for a largely non-technical article like this one, needs to be be written in non-technical language. The section the optics of light can be more technical, but not the lead.

1. "Brightness" and "Lightness" are different things, but the lead the way it's written now makes is sound like they're the same. This should be "lightest and brightest".

2. It should explain simply why it's the lightest and brightest color: because it reflects all the wavelengths. It should say something like: "White is the lightest and the brightest color, the result of the complete reflection of all the light in the visible spectrum", or something very similar.

3. The sentence about achromatic should be written in plain English; very people know what achromatic means, and it should be quickly defined: White is an achromatic color, literally a color without color or hue, like black and the grays. "

4. The present version writes: "it is achromatic, like black (it's opposite) or the grays." The phrase "achromatic like black {its opposite) seems to suggest that there's a connection between being achromatic and being opposite. These two should be separate.

5. Do you mean to have the apostrophe in "it's opposite"?" I think to be clearer you should say, "It is the symbolic opposite of black, so it's understood by ordinary readers what you mean. I'm not sure you need to mention "grays" at all, since this article doesn't talk about them.

6. The examples: to match the citation, it should say "fresh snow, milk, and chalk." Chalk is not mentioned in the citation, but we can put it outside the citation.

So the final lead could be something like: "White is the lightest and the brightest color, the color of fresh snow, milk and chalk. It is the result of the reflection and scattering of all colors of the visible spectrum. Like black and gray, it is an achromatic color, meaning literally a color without hue, and is the literal and symbolic opposite of black." All of that (Exceot maybe the chalk) falls within the current citations.

7. Footnotes: the current version cites the online version of the Oxford English Dictionary, but I prefer to cite the print edition; it's more complete and detailed, which is much The on-line version is a promotion for the the sale of the full version, which is sold by subscription.

On the broader subject of describing the symbolism of white in the lead: according to the Manual Style, the lead needs to briefly mention the major topics covered in the article, which include history, culture and symbolism. All of the major color articles follow a similar format, and devote a substantial amount of space to history and culture and he primary associations, so this one needs to as well.

Please note that the images in the montage of each of the color articles are chosen to illustrate aspects of the color mentioned in the lead.

if you really want to have an article that talks exclusively about science, I'd suggest you do a separate article on "White Light". There's no such article now, and it could be interesting. It could link to this one, and you can be as technical as you want.

Cordially, SiefkinDR (talk) 18:41, 2 October 2017 (UTC)

Okay, great, I agree that we're making progress.
1. Now I'm the one who wants to be less technical. It's the lightest color. It's also the brightest color. Is it necessary that we state both of these explicitly in the 1st sentence?
2. I agree that "It should explain simply why it's the lightest and brightest color: because it reflects all the wavelengths." That's why we shouldn't separate the lightest/brightest statement from the reflects-all-wavelengths-completely statement by putting examples in between them as in your final proposal. Examples should come after definition. I like your "complete reflection", or maximum reflection, or fully reflect, etc. It isn't enough to reflect all colors -- it has to reflect each one *completely* rather than partially (i.e. absorbing some of it). This isn't in your final proposal.
5.etc. I still agree with Bus stop that "symbolic" is unnecessary in the first para. The 1st para should start by stating what the color "white" literally is, not how it is used in culture, symbolism, etc. And no, we aren't going to have a separate article white (color science) that would take only a scientific point of view -- that's not how WP works unless it's really a distinct topic. (And certainly not "white light" since this has no unique precise definition whatsoever in color science as I keep pointing out.) White is a color perceived by humans or other animals in response to certain stimuli, most notably a object's surface that diffusively reflects all light -- not one specific type of light per se. And even if orange had all the cultural, symbolic, and historical associations that white does, it still wouldn't be white.
6. It isn't necessary that every word in the lead be directly tied to a citation -- it summarizes the body of the article which already states that chalk is white (and why). We can use multiple examples of white objects without all of them coming from the same citation, or each from a citation that is specifically a written as a recommended definition of white itself using those specific examples. So long as reliable sources say that chalk is white (do you doubt this?), we can use it as an example of white. Oxford or Merriam Webster does not write our sentences for us.
[Edit:] We shouldn't talk about reflection without mentioning that we are talking about reflection from an object (or its surface). What is it that's white in this definition? The light? No! The reflection, like in a mirror? No. It's the object or surface that is perceived as white, and so by definition is what we mean by white, when it doesn't absorb any light (for a wide variety of light sources or their spectral composition). If our visual system worked differently -- where it might perceive the color of light itself rather than what it actually does which is primarily inferring (though imperfectly) the color of objects (like predators, prey, paintings, etc.) then the definition of white would be different.
Would some other editors please weigh in so it isn't mostly a two-way dialog? QuoJar (talk) 19:38, 2 October 2017 (UTC)
Just to mention again, it's not up to us to come up with a definition of white; we need to cite a reliable source. Any definition that's not properly sourced is not acceptable and can be deleted. Cordially, SiefkinDR (talk) 20:00, 2 October 2017 (UTC)
Most people would see lightest and brightest as so close in meaning as to appear repetitive if both mentioned. I'd not mention both. Agree on not having a separate scientific article. This is not Simple Wikipedia. Citations should not be used in the lead unless a really extraordinary statement...but this is a colour so pretty innocuous I would have thought. I am not a fan of saying a colour is like the colour of chalk or snow or whatever. Cas Liber (talk · contribs) 20:37, 2 October 2017 (UTC)
Furthermore, although we try to be as accessible as possible, accuracy trumps accessibility. meaning cannot be lost. Cas Liber (talk · contribs) 20:53, 2 October 2017 (UTC)
I agree , let's just go with lightest. QuoJar (talk) 21:12, 2 October 2017 (UTC)
SeifkinDR, I think you're misstating the policy. Claims need to be sourced (though often in the article instead), but there is no rule against beginning the article with sentences that we compose in order to combine several of the most notable, reliable statements about what the color white is (and perhaps that serve to exclude things that are not white, like grays, mirrors, etc.). There is no rule that says that the entire first paragraph or sentence needs to represent the complete definition of the topic from one single source, especially since that source is then likely to be tertiary (like a dictionary), and we don't usually simply reproduce a dictionary or external encyclopedia definition as the start of a lead. The citations we have serve to show reliable sources that say that some of the statements we have as part of the text are true, but citing them doesn't exclude the possibility of incorporating additional words or statements (with additional citations only if needed).
BTW you'll see I put in a few changes that I *think* are in the direction of parts of your undone change, or addressing your points, but feel free to tweak or reverse some of them if I went off the rails. QuoJar (talk) 21:12, 2 October 2017 (UTC)
Currently we have:
["text4":] White is the lightest color, and is achromatic (has no hue), because it fully reflects and scatters all visible wavelengths of light.[3][4] It is the color of milk, snow, and chalk. ...
But I think the parentheses around "has no hue" are distracting (my bad).
More importantly, "it fully reflects" does not make it clear exactly what is doing the reflecting; gramatically it is implicitly "white" itself that fully reflects, but I see this as a shorthand for saying that white objects or surfaces fully reflect (or it could be misinterpreted as saying that white light fully reflects something, which it can't). An abstract color in itself is not the physical object or surface that could literally reflect something, and as I've mentioned before, it's important to distinguish a white object (which can very precisely define the color, ultimately stemming from the fact that the visual system primarily infers and thus perceives colors of objects, via color constancy, not colors of illumination/light) from "white light" which is a fatally-slippery concept that has no unique definition because one can never state precisely what combination of how much of each wavelength would make light "white".
In any case, what do other editors think of one the following?
["text5":] White is the lightest color, and it is achromatic, having no hue, all because white objects fully reflect and scatter all visible wavelengths of light.[5][6] It is the color of milk, snow, and chalk. ...
QuoJar (talk) 16:02, 3 October 2017 (UTC)
["text7":] White is the lightest color and is achromatic, lacking hue, which are due to the complete reflection and scattering by white objects of all visible wavelengths of light.[7][8] It is the color of milk, snow, and chalk. ...
Where the words "which are" are needed only in order to make it unambiguous, by being plural, that it is not just achromatic (lacking hue) that is "due to", but also "lightest color" that is "due to".QuoJar (talk) 16:41, 3 October 2017 (UTC)
Rather than respond to above, SiefkinDR changed 1st para in the direction of his own preference in the name of more closely matching one particular dictionary definition (Oxford, and btw to the exclusion of Merriam-Webster defn. which was more complete and literal definition of the color). That editor's new version was:
["text8":] White is the lightest color, the color of fresh snow, chalk or milk. [9] It is achromatic (literally having no hue or color} because it fully reflects and scatters all the visible wavelengths of light.[10][11] It is the opposite of black.[12]
This separates "lightest color", but not "achromatic", from the reason for both, which is illogical. It is not merely the reason for achromatic but for both. Also this version inserted arbitrary, illustrative examples of white objects in the middle of the definition! The fact that one tertiary work (Oxford) chooses to do so in its dictionary definition does not mean that another tertiary work (WP) is required to do so (especially as an encyclopedic first paragraph, not even a dictionary definition), even if we have Oxford as one of our citations to help support some of the statements we make in our paragraph. As editors we should write a complete and logical encyclopedic introductory paragraph, not necessarily the one that "best matches" a particular dictionary definition (Oxford, whose overly-colloquial definition and specific examples are, by the way, being treated as superior to the more complete, precise, and literal definition in Merriam-Webster, even though both are cited). For some reason that editor is trying to push further down any literal or precise definition of the color white, a definition which has been well-established and proven (since the 1st half of 20th century) by color science (a multidisciplinary field which that editor dismisses as "physics" or "optics", which is then said to be qualified to define only white light rather than the color white, whereas in fact no field is able to precisely define "white light"). I've largely undone this change (tried to leave a couple of other aspects of it) to make it:
["text9":] White is the lightest color and is achromatic (having no hue), because it fully reflects and scatters all the visible wavelengths of light; it is the color of fresh snow, chalk or milk, and the opposite of black.[13][14]
Again, please don't separate either lightness or achromatic from their "because" clause until we can reach some consensus here. I think it would make even more sense to move the arbitrary, illustrative examples to appear after the more objective statement "opposite of black", but this isn't as important as having the examples at least after the main definition as it is here.
And please don't confuse the reader by telling them that white is a color that is "literally a color without color", a completely unecessary if amusing "pun" based on conflating two meanings of "color". It is a color in one sense while it is "without color" in another sense (the sense of "hue"). Using the word "literally", especially without a comma following it, makes it even more misleading because it seems to suggest that both uses of "color" might be in the same "literal" sense, whereas in fact it refers to the fact that it is merely the literal linguistic/etymological expansion of the root word and prefix of "achromatic" being "without color", although this is not precisely what it in fact means except when misleadingly using the ambiguous term "color" as a synonym for the unambiguous term "hue".
I still think my suggestions like "text7" above are better than this, but I won't unilaterally implement any such change like that without some consensus. QuoJar (talk) 15:12, 4 October 2017 (UTC)
Oh, and a third editor weighed in (Bus stop) with the view that the illustrative examples shouldn't even be there at all, which is another reason at least not to instead move the examples closer to the beginning of the sentence, in the middle of the definition where it separates a stated effect from its stated cause.
Again, during this discussion I've been trying to make only edits that I believe are neutral with respect to this discussion or in fact being in the direction of compromise, away from my previous changes or preferences and towards the preferences of other editors. If I do make any changes towards only my stated preference in this discussion without it being a majority/consensus, feel free to undo it as necessary.
QuoJar (talk) 15:24, 4 October 2017 (UTC)
Dear QuoJar:

Can I ask if you've written any other articles for Wikipedia? Forgive me for asking, but I think you have some misconceptions about how it works. This article (and the lead) have been in place for a bit over five years now, with no major changes. The original version was worded a little differently, because it was based on the print edition of the Oxford English Diectionary, and the wording is slightly different than in the much shorter on-line version. If the lead of an article has been in place for such a long time, it's very unusual for an editor to come along and completely replace it. if this were a new article, this kind of debate about basic terms would be useful, but this is not a new article, and this endless debate about the wording is not helpful.

You also need to remember that your opinion or mine aren't isn't what matters here, it's that the definition is based on a reliable source (Like the OED, for instance). Unless you provide a better source, it's the normal rule in Wikipedia that you don't change something.

Also, please remember, as I think I've mentioned before, this article not not primarily a technical article bout the physical qualities of white. Everybody reading this article knows what white is, and most people have a general idea that it's a mix of the other colors. The great majority of this article is about the history, culture and symbolism of the color. If you've read the Wikipedia Manual of Style, you know that the lead of an article of this kind should be in the most non-technical terms possible; the scientific parts can, of course, use more technical language.

You'll also see that the leads of all the basic color articles follow the same standard group of information, and all have quite short, not highly technical leads, and devote devote most of their space to culture and history.

In short, unless you find something that's clearly wrong in the lead of a long-established article, you shouldn't feel that it's necessary to re-write it completely.

Cordially, SiefkinDR (talk) 16:46, 4 October 2017 (UTC)

I understand your point about not making large changes to the lead without first discussing it, but it's a bit late now, after you and I (and sometimes others) have literally exchanged thousands of words on this talk page, apparently converging (sometimes intermittently) on an agreement about what that first paragraph should contain, with many revisions by me and you in the direction of points you've made, and you repeatedly encouraging and continuing this process in a positive way by thanking me and adding positive comments and even sections like #It's getting better... and #Just about there.... After all of that, it hardly makes sense for you to "take back" all of that and say that I (but not you?) shouldn't have made significant changes to the intro to begin with. And the recent changes you have been making are not primarily restoring it to what it was before I began, but rather to some combination of your input and mine, with very little input from others, despite the fact that I've repeated tried to solicit input from other editors. So it would be more accurate to say that we have together engaged in an extensive discussion and repeated revisions that leave the intro quite different from what it was before, both in the most recent form you prefer, and the most recent form I prefer.
Before I made any changes at all, this article began with this paragraph:
White is an achromatic color, a color without hue.[15]
Which only stated one fact about white, which was equally true of black, or any shade of gray in between, so was obviously inadequate. It appeared to be based on a definition in Oxford, but in fact the citation was merely that of "achromatic" rather than that of "white"! So I found a much more complete definition in Merriam-Webster -- a definition of the noun "white" rather than merely the definition of the word "achromatic", namely:
"white, noun. Definition of white: 1 :the achromatic object color of greatest lightness characteristically perceived to belong to objects that reflect diffusely nearly all incident energy throughout the visible spectrum"
and I changed the paragraph to something based in part on that:
White is the color that is characteristic of surfaces that fully and diffusely reflect all incident light throughout the visible spectrum; it is the lightest color (has the greatest relative luminance), and is the opposite of black among the colors whose hue is neutral.[16][17]
After I made that one change, which could have easily been reverted if anyone thought that the pre-existing paragraph was really better, you began a good discussion on the talk page in which you pointed out specific problems with the paragraph I'd added and making making some good points, many of which were certainly not addressed by the tiny previous paragraph any more than they were addressed by my change. In fact you proposed changing it to something entirely different from both the previous version and my change: something based on the first paragraph of black, only part of which was similar to the original (mis-sourced) version prior to mine. Users Looie496 and Cas Liber weighed in to ask you "How would you prefer to word it?" and to counter your point about "use very simple and clear language" by saying "Although we need to be as accessible as possible, accuracy has to trump accessibility if meaning is lost by converting into plainer English". Neither they nor you proposed that we go back to the way it was before I changed it, nor in fact anything resembling that. So we we seemed to be in collaborative editing and discussion mode between four editors at that point. Although I made most of the (small) changes, they were almost all intended to acommodate some of your points rather than ignore them, in spite of those other two editors' counterpoints to your points. I actually made it less like the thorough Merriam Webster noun definition that I cited and preferred in order to make it simpler and less technical as you preferred, although still closer to that definition than to the Oxford definition of adjective white (which wasn't even there until I'd added it myself and used part of it) and and we continued this process iteratively.
I also removed the beginning of the second paragraph of the lead, which was about white light, rather than the color white as a color of objects just as in that editor's preferred examples of milk or snow (from oxford dict). White light has no precise/unique/literal definition, and anyway it fell more under "optics" which that editor wanted to be relegated to the subsection on white in physics, so this was certainly in that direction and I presume not what is being complained about (I'm including that original first para as well):
["text0" for reference:]
White is an achromatic color, a color without hue.[18]
Light with a spectral composition that stimulates all three types of the color-sensitive cone cells of the human eye in nearly equal amounts appears white.
In addition to this latter sentence being inconsistent with the cited definitions in the new first paragraph (from both dictionaries), it was very vague (what precisely does "nearly equal amounts" mean? how nearly? if the light becomes extremely dim, is it still "white", or when does it become "gray" or even "black"?), which it turns out is the fundamental flaw in trying to define the color white in terms of "white light" in general.
Now we're at the point where there is a small difference between SiefkinDR's latest version and mine (largely rearrangement), and a fairly large difference between either of them and the original nine-word paragraph that we apparently both consider inadequate, and was based on a citation of a definition of "achromatic" rather than those of "white" which I had added.
But SiefkinDR's response now is that the original text had "been in place for a bit over five years now, with no major changes" and that I myself had thus inappropriately "replaced it" due to my lack of experience.
So, yes, one possibility is to revert to the way it was before I first changed it ("text0" etc.), but we haven't heard from any editor who feels that this is better.
Instead let's work with the three very-similar latest versions up above ("text7", "text8", and "text9") and make something better than "text0"
QuoJar (talk) 18:59, 4 October 2017 (UTC)
The length of time that a wording has been in place is irrelevant.And now we have such a lengthy wall of text on the talk page here that one's eyes glaze over trying to follow it....Cas Liber (talk · contribs) 11:10, 6 October 2017 (UTC)
FYI @QuoJar: See Talk:Blue#How_big_should_the_lead_section_be_and_what_should_be_in_it.3F for a discussion that echoes this one at blue a couple of years ago. Cas Liber (talk · contribs) 11:13, 6 October 2017 (UTC)


  1. ^ "Definition of white, Noun". Merriam-Webster. Retrieved 24 September 2017. white, noun. Definition of white: 1 :the achromatic object color of greatest lightness characteristically perceived to belong to objects that reflect diffusely nearly all incident energy throughout the visible spectrum 
  2. ^ "Definition of white, Adjective". Oxford English Dictionary. Retrieved 24 September 2017. white, adjective. 1. Of the colour of milk or fresh snow, due to the reflection of all visible rays of light; the opposite of black. 
  3. ^ "Definition of white, Noun". Merriam-Webster. Retrieved 24 September 2017. white, noun. Definition of white: 1 :the achromatic object color of greatest lightness characteristically perceived to belong to objects that reflect diffusely nearly all incident energy throughout the visible spectrum 
  4. ^ "Definition of white, Adjective". Oxford English Dictionary. Retrieved 24 September 2017. white, adjective. 1. Of the colour of milk or fresh snow, due to the reflection of all visible rays of light; the opposite of black. 
  5. ^ "Definition of white, Noun". Merriam-Webster. Retrieved 24 September 2017. white, noun. Definition of white: 1 :the achromatic object color of greatest lightness characteristically perceived to belong to objects that reflect diffusely nearly all incident energy throughout the visible spectrum 
  6. ^ "Definition of white, Adjective". Oxford English Dictionary. Retrieved 24 September 2017. white, adjective. 1. Of the colour of milk or fresh snow, due to the reflection of all visible rays of light; the opposite of black. 
  7. ^ "Definition of white, Noun". Merriam-Webster. Retrieved 24 September 2017. white, noun. Definition of white: 1 :the achromatic object color of greatest lightness characteristically perceived to belong to objects that reflect diffusely nearly all incident energy throughout the visible spectrum 
  8. ^ "Definition of white, Adjective". Oxford English Dictionary. Retrieved 24 September 2017. white, adjective. 1. Of the colour of milk or fresh snow, due to the reflection of all visible rays of light; the opposite of black. 
  9. ^ "Definition of white, Adjective". Oxford English Dictionary. Retrieved 24 September 2017. white, adjective. 1. Of the colour of milk or fresh snow, and chalk, due to the reflection of all visible rays of light; the opposite of black. 
  10. ^ "Definition of white, Noun". Merriam-Webster. Retrieved 24 September 2017. white, noun. Definition of white: 1 :the achromatic object color of greatest lightness characteristically perceived to belong to objects that reflect diffusely nearly all incident energy throughout the visible spectrum 
  11. ^ "Definition of white, Adjective". Oxford English Dictionary. Retrieved 24 September 2017. white, adjective. 1. Of the colour of milk or fresh snow, due to the reflection of all visible rays of light; the opposite of black. 
  12. ^ "Definition of white, Adjective". Oxford English Dictionary. Retrieved 24 September 2017. white, adjective. 1. Of the colour of milk or fresh snow, and chalk, due to the reflection of all visible rays of light; the opposite of black. 
  13. ^ "Definition of white, Noun". Merriam-Webster. Retrieved 24 September 2017. white, noun. Definition of white: 1 :the achromatic object color of greatest lightness characteristically perceived to belong to objects that reflect diffusely nearly all incident energy throughout the visible spectrum 
  14. ^ "Definition of white, Adjective". Oxford English Dictionary. Retrieved 24 September 2017. white, adjective. 1. Of the colour of milk or fresh snow, due to the reflection of all visible rays of light; the opposite of black. 
  15. ^ "Definition of achromatic". Oxford English Dictionary. Retrieved 12 April 2016. 
  16. ^ "Definition of white". Merriam-Webster. Retrieved 24 September 2017. 
  17. ^ "Definition of white". Oxford English Dictionary. Retrieved 24 September 2017. 
  18. ^ "Definition of achromatic". Oxford English Dictionary. Retrieved 12 April 2016. 


One question has been the use of the words hue or color in describing achromatic. Color is ambiguous but hue might not be familiar. Another term is colorfulness, or a related term, chroma (though not in the sense of chroma (video)). So we could use one of these or similar:

  1. achromatic (non-colorful)
  2. achromatic (having no hue or colorfulness)
  3. achromatic (having no chroma, or colorfulness)
  4. achromatic (literally, non-colorful) [added: edit]

[edit:] I don't think we need the "literally" but if we do I think it should have a comma because it isn't that achromatic means "literally non-colorful" but rather that achromatic's literal meaning is "non-colorful".
Just some ideas... QuoJar (talk) 22:01, 4 October 2017 (UTC)

The standard non-technical definition in the OED is "without color" (exactly the definition that was here before). That's what I would use. There is also a technical definition, but it's not appropriate here, because all the terms would have to be explained. A detailed explanation of achromatic belongs in the section on optics, not in the lead. Once again, we don't have to come up with a completely new definition of white, we need to use existing definitions with citations. SiefkinDR (talk) 07:57, 5 October 2017 (UTC)
The history page shows that you are incorrect. Again, (please read above) the original version was not "color without color", nor anything like that, until you yourself changed it to that last week! It was "a color without hue" and it had remained precisely that, apparently without any changes, going back at least to some time in 2015 (with an inline Oxford dictionary citation that says "1. Relating to, using, or denoting lenses that transmit light without separating it into constituent colours." and has a second definition, perhaps the one you are referring to, qualified as a figurative, "literary" sense of "without colour", with example usage being "the achromatic gloom", which certainly does not mention any sense of a "color without color", nor any color such as white being "without color".) Again, the text of the first paragraph was the following from some time in 2015 until last week:
White is an achromatic color, a color without hue.[1]
So according to your advice to me above, you shouldn't replace the longstanding text using "hue" with a different phrase when "the lead of an article has been in place for such a long time", especially when you are apparently the only editor in favor of this change.
In fact, it seems that you are the only editor who has seen fit to change it to any such paradoxical pun on the word "color", such as "a color without color", "meaning it has no color", "literally meaning it has no color or hue", "a color without hue or color", or "it is literally a color without color", or similar variations. You yourself are the one who made such a change in at least the following revisions by you that I noticed: [[3]], [[4]], [[5]], [[6]], [[7]].
If you feel that using the technical term "achromatic" in the lead requires a technical or confusing definition of that term (embedded within the sentence giving the definition of "white" itself), then perhaps we shouldn't use the term "achromatic" in the first sentence at all. You keep saying we should avoid non-colloquial technical language in the lead or its first sentence, so how about
  • ... and is "non-colorful" (achromatic)",
where colorfulness has an article to link it to, as it is in fact rigorous technical term that's been used in this sense in color science for many decades, but that nonetheless even a child can immediately understand better than "achromatic", especially since you removed the link to achromatic color (perhaps because it is a redirect because it lacks its own article).
In summary, let's either remove the word "achromatic", or leave it described using the word "hue", as it has been since some time in 2015, or use "colorfulness" in some form (with or without "hue") if we can come to a consensus on adding "colorfulness".
QuoJar (talk) 14:25, 5 October 2017 (UTC)
About 99% of the time the word "literally" is redundant, so should almost never be used. Cas Liber (talk · contribs) 23:29, 5 October 2017 (UTC)


  1. ^ "Definition of achromatic". Oxford English Dictionary. Retrieved 12 April 2016. 

Comments on the suggested lead[edit]

"Colorfulness" doesn't belong here. It's not mentioned in any citation. For ordinary readers like me, it suggests a measure of folk festivals or tourist destinations.
I think "Achromatic" should stay, since it's in the citation and it's a fundamental aspect of the color, but until there's a specific article it should be left without a link. . It should be explained for ordinary readers as "a color without hue or color. I include "color" because a great many people have no idea what "hue" means, The word "Color" makes more sense here, because while white s not a color in optics, it's common used as a term throughout the article, as in "the color of the Pope's costume" or the "color of purity." :::By the way, the definition of white being a color "literally without color or hue" is found in the print edition of the Oxford English Dictionary, and was in the article until the citation was changed to the shorter on=line edition. However, it's not essential. I'm just trying to reduce the amount of technical jargon in a largely non-technical article.

Second, the whole sentence needs to be broken into separate phrases, like the definitions of other major colors, and not be connected by a "because." Right now it reads as though white is achromatic only because it reflects or scatters all of the visible wavelengths of light, but that's not the only reason. The phrase "reflects all the visible waves of light" refers to the color white is general, not just to the fact it's achromatic.

Third, the term "scatters" should be dropped. It's not mentioned in either of the two citations. It's enough to say that it "fully reflects" the light.
So I think the complete opening of the lead should be:
"White is the lightest color, resulting from the complete reflection of all of the visible wavelengths of light. It is an achromatic color, meaning it has no color or hue, and is the opposite of black. It is the color of fresh snow, milk and chalk." [1][2]

Cordially, SiefkinDR (talk) 16:33, 5 October 2017 (UTC)

I have no problem with splitting the sentence in multiple sentences per se. What I don't want to see is repeating the same citations multiple times, at the end of each sentence that partly reflects what's in the same citation. How about if we put all the references at the end of the paragraph, instead of at the end of various sentences, to avoid this situation?
But it is absolutely true (and notable!) that anything that "completely reflects or scatters all of the visible wavelengths of light" is therefore both achromatic and brighter than any other color. If you want to know precisely why each of those two facts (achromatic and brightest) follow from it separately, we would have to break it down into more detail -- perhaps more than we should in the first paragraph. But here goes. Because the color white completely (i.e. 100%!) reflects/scatters every wavelength, that of course implies that it equally reflects/scatters every wavelengths (100% = 100% = 100% = ... i.e. equally for all wavelengths), and the color white (not "white light") is achromatic precisely "only because" of this fact. If you want to be that explicit or technical about it, we can certainly say "equally and completely" (instead of just completely), where equally happens to be precisely the only reason it is achromatic, and completely happens to be precisely the only reason that it is the lightest color. That might a good idea to add "equally" to address your point and to avoid begging the same question in the minds of some readers.
It is extremely poor and confusing exposition to use the word "color" twice in the same sentence or phrase with different meaning, without clarifying that the meaning is different or how it is different. If it had exactly the same meaning then saying, directly or indirectly, that "white is a color that literally has no color" would be an obvious logical contradiction that might, and probably should, perplex the average reader. The first "color" there is in the same sense as "white is a color" or "color of the Pope's costume" and almost every other usage of color in this article; in this sense white, gray, and black are different "colors" -- do you agree? The second occurrence of "color" in there obviously can't mean the same thing but instead is used in a sense in which white, gray, and black are the same "color", i.e. are all achromatic, meaning they have the same (i.e. zero/none/undefined/whatever) chroma, hue, saturation, colorfulness, chromaticity, or other terms that are less ambiguous than simply repurposing the word "color" in this context.
I certainly did not say "white is not a color" (in optics or anywhere else) -- that is your misunderstanding. I said specifically that white is primarily a very precisely defined color of an object (milk, snow, titanium dioxide pigment, etc.). But "white" as a color of light itself is different and can't be uniquely defined, so we shouldn't use any term like "white light" or "color of light" in the beginning of the lead.
With the word "reflect" but without a word like "diffusely" or "scatter", you have literally defined a mirror, not a white object -- is the distinction between a a white object and a mirror unimportant or "too scientific"? An object is white and not merely having a mirror-like surface precisely and specifically because it reflects diffusely or scatters the light rather than simply reflecting it like a mirror does. This is why the word "diffuse" is in the Merriam-Webster definition -- it's critical, regardless of whether other dictionaries may have omitted it. This isn't an article about how the word "white" is used by the average person -- that might be what you find in some dictionaries. It's an article about what the color "white" actually is and means etc., to experts who have studied it, including many in the visual arts, perceptual psychology, pscychophysics, international color standards organizations, visual system physiologists, colorimetrists, and others, which is well understood even if not by the philologists of the English language at Oxford. I have several non-tertiary citations that specifically use the term "diffusely" or "scatter" if you really want to take the position that this is not true or important because it isn't in Oxford.
How about something like these. It shows the cause of "lightest color" and "achromatic" separately
["text11":] "White is the lightest color, resulting from its complete reflection and scattering of all light. It is achromatic, meaning it has no particular color, because it reflects all visible wavelengths equally. It is the opposite of black. It is the color of milk, fresh snow, and chalk.[1][2]
I changed your "the reflection" to "its reflection" because it's important to know that the reflection isn't just happening (passive), but rather the color itself (technically an object of that color) is doing the reflection (active). I put back in "scattering" so we aren't defining a mirror instead. I added the qualifier to color: "particular color" to indicate that we mean a different or more specific sense of color, i.e. we don't simply mean a color that has no color (except its own color?). And just as being the lightest color is "resulting from" something, being achromatic is "resulting from" something as well. But "no particular color, resulting from" sounded like it might be the "particular color" that would be "resulting from...", rather than the lack of particular color, so I changed it to "no particular color, because...". I put milk before fresh only because it could have otherwise have been interpreted as fresh snow and fresh milk.
Or a variation like:
["text12":] "White is the lightest color, due to its complete reflection of all visible light (diffusely). Like its opposite, black, it is achromatic, which means it has no color in particular because it reflects all wavelengths equally. It is the color of milk, fresh snow, and chalk.[1][2]
What do you think? If we're both going to repeat the same arguments then let's just try to get input from other editors instead.QuoJar (talk) 19:12, 5 October 2017 (UTC)
I hate the milk/snow/chalk bit but otherwise am happy. I have removed all the references - NONE of the points are controversial so none should need a reference in the lead (see Wikipedia:Manual_of_Style/Lead_section#Citations). All should be refenreced in the body of text however. Cas Liber (talk · contribs) 23:29, 5 October 2017 (UTC)

I have also removed the US Survey from the lead - it really is trivial compared with the rest. Undue weight. Cas Liber (talk · contribs) 23:29, 5 October 2017 (UTC)

@QuoJar: The other thing that I would put in the lead is some science/nature examples - e.g. see White#White_objects - maybe something on why snow and clouds appear white. I find this is also a more sophisticated way of introducing the whiteness of clouds without saying "clouds are white" (which invites, "well, stormclouds certainly aren't!!"). A sentence or two after the chalk/snow sentence would slot in nicely... Cas Liber (talk · contribs)

Citations in the Lead[edit]

Citations are very much needed in the lead of this article, as the last week of disputes and challenges of information that has long been in the article has clearly shown.

Please quote precisely which longstanding sentences you are referring to in the lead, that have been challenged or removed in the last week(s), that you think should remain or be re-instated as they were.
Per above discussion, the longstanding (since mid-2015) first paragraph of the lead was precisely this: White is an achromatic color, a color without hue.[1], which has been incorporated in the present paragraph, and my recent proposed update to it, which both begin (the parenthesized style having been added most recently by you): "White is the lightest color and is achromatic (having no hue), ... " QuoJar (talk) 16:00, 6 October 2017 (UTC)


  1. ^ "Definition of achromatic". Oxford English Dictionary. Retrieved 12 April 2016. 

The Wikipedia Manual of Style says:

"The lead must conform to verifiability, biographies of living persons, and other policies. The verifiability policy advises that material that is challenged or likely to be challenged, and direct quotations, should be supported by an inline citation. Any statements about living persons that are challenged or likely to be challenged must have an inline citation every time they are mentioned, including within the lead.

Because the lead will usually repeat information that is in the body, editors should balance the desire to avoid redundant citations in the lead with the desire to aid readers in locating sources for challengeable material. Leads are usually written at a greater level of generality than the body, and information in the lead section of non-controversial subjects is less likely to be challenged and less likely to require a source; there is not, however, an exception to citation requirements specific to leads. The necessity for citations in a lead should be determined on a case-by-case basis by editorial consensus. Complex, current, or controversial subjects may require many citations; others, few or none. The presence of citations in the introduction is neither required in every article nor prohibited in any article.

There is no consensus yet here on the definition of white; the definition needs to be clearly sourced to a reliable source.

Second, the text on most common associations needs to be restored to where it was, with the citation. There's a very good reason for this. In the no-so-distant past, before this section had a citation, editors added a long list of what they felt were the common associations of white, without citations at all. This sentence limited them to an objective standard, listing only those which scored the highest in surveys. Without that, there will be a flood of new associations.

The lead news to represent the range of contents of the article, not be entirely devoted to the scientific definition.

Cordially, SiefkinDR (talk) 12:24, 6 October 2017 (UTC)

The only reason this lead has been the same is that you've camped on colour articles and other people have not been interested. That doesn't make it right. Tell me which part of this lead is controversial? The definition is being fine-tuned but is not controversial. Cas Liber (talk · contribs) 12:29, 6 October 2017 (UTC)

Citations needed[edit]

The definition in the lead is obviously controversial, or we wouldn't have had so many days and pages of discussion, which still haven't ended with a common opinion. Almost all the color articles have in-line citations in the leads, the exceptions being blue and green, which are defined simply by their position on the spectrum. When there is dispute or difference of opinion, we are asked by the Manual of Style to have a citation. This also avoids future editors coming in and inserting their own definition, without any source, which unfortunately happens frequently.
Every major color article has a list of the most common associations, citing the Heller survey. Before this citation was placed there, editors frequently put in their own ideas of associations, without any sources, and the list was based entirely on the imagination of editors and was nearly endless.

As to the placement of the citations, I don't have any problem with putting the citation at the end of each individual paragraph within the lead, as long nothing is inserted in that paragraph which isn't in the citation. I just want to make sure that nothing in the lead lacks a reliable, verifiable source. SiefkinDR (talk) 15:56, 6 October 2017 (UTC) SiefkinDR (talk) 15:56, 6 October 2017 (UTC)

Not every word or every sentence of the lead needs to be directly sourced from an inline citation -- especially not from a colloquial dictionary definition of the adjective "white".
The meaning of the color white is fundamental to understanding the concept of color across many disciplines, and is one of the only colors that can be defined objectively rather than in an arbitrary or culture-specific way, so this article need not begin in the same way as every other named-color article, like, say, "orange" or "chartreuse".
You state that "Citations are very much needed in the lead of this article, as the last week of disputes and challenges of information that has long been in the article has clearly shown." If so, please quote precisely which sentences you are referring to in the lead, that have "long been in the article" and have been challenged (or removed) in the last week(s), that you think should remain or be re-instated.
Per above discussion, the longstanding (since mid-2015) first paragraph of the lead was precisely this: White is an achromatic color, a color without hue.[1], which has been incorporated in the present paragraph, and also my recent proposed update to it, which both begin (the parenthesized style having been added most recently by you): "White is the lightest color and is achromatic (having no hue), ... " QuoJar (talk) 16:32, 6 October 2017 (UTC)


  1. ^ "Definition of achromatic". Oxford English Dictionary. Retrieved 12 April 2016. 

Proposal with three words {appearing in braces}[edit]

SiefkinDR, does this "almost" capture a reasonable variant of your proposal (to within minor grammatical & link differences), aside from the three words I feel are important and you might oppose {which appear in braces}?

["text14" for reference:]
White is the lightest color, completely reflecting {and scattering} light. It is an achromatic color, meaning it has no {particular} color or hue, reflecting all the visible wavelengths equally. It is the opposite of black. It is the color of milk, fresh snow, and chalk.

I believe that without "and scattering" (or "diffusely reflecting"), the use of "reflecting" by itself defines a mirror and not a white object. The word "particular" is needed in order to mitigate your/Oxford's amusing but confusing apparent paradox of white being a color that has no color (with two senses of the same unqualified word "color", where the second one is being used to mean hue and/or chroma).

What do others think? QuoJar (talk) 03:57, 7 October 2017 (UTC)

I don't think this is a bad definition, but it could be a little clearer. I would leave out "scattering". I don't see the word used in the OED, Cambridge, Merriam-Webster, or any other on-line dictionary; they use reflecting only. I would also leave out "particular" in front of color or hue. It's redundant and serves no purpose.
Grammatically I think it's clearer if you say: "White is the lightest color, which equally reflects all the colors of the visible spectrum of light. It is an achromatic color, meaning it has no hue. It is the color of fresh milk, snow, and chalk."
I would strongly urge that you put a citation with it, to either or both Merriam-Webster or both. If you don't put a citation, I can guarantee you, from my past experience on this topic, that other editors will come in and rewrite this a dozen times. SiefkinDR (talk) 18:19, 7 October 2017 (UTC)
Okay, sounds like you at least like it better than what's in the article currently.
Merriam-Webster defines white (the noun) as "the achromatic object color of greatest lightness characteristically perceived to belong to objects that reflect diffusely nearly all incident energy throughout the visible spectrum" (my emphasis). The fact that other dictionaries drop "diffusely" doesn't make it correct to do so. This is WP, not wiktionary. I've added an explanation of mirror vs white surface in the appropriate section of the article; if you want to challenge it, I'll add citations there (not from a dictionary!).
I like "meaning it has no hue" in your version. But you've removed "completely" which is the only thing that makes it white (the lightest color) rather than gray! "Lightest" results from "completely" reflecting, so these are together in one sentence, while "achromatic" results from "equally" so these are together in the other sentence. You're the one who rightly pointed out that lightest and achromatic don't both follow directly from "completely reflects".
QuoJar (talk) 22:00, 7 October 2017 (UTC)
Ok, so "completely" needs to be in then. On sourcing, Wikipedia has this to say about secondary and tertiary sources - hence secondary trumps tertiary sources. I find tertiary sources like the OED are good for simple word meanings but founder quickly with imprecision. Cas Liber (talk · contribs) 22:33, 7 October 2017 (UTC)
Agree. Merriam-Webster has a surprisingly-complete definition of the color white as a noun, shown above, but it's still a tertiary reference.
In any case, I've just added five or six citations (none tertiary) in the "White objects" subsection down below, including some showing why either "scatter" or "diffuse" is needed in order to distinguish a white object from a mirror, and some showing that achromatic is defined as a color without hue (as opposed to a color without color as in OED). QuoJar (talk) 21:00, 8 October 2017 (UTC)
Sigh. All right, let's go with the first part of the lead as it is, without a citation. I'm afraid that, based on past experience, other people will soon re-write it in their own ways, since it has no citation to protect it. SiefkinDR (talk) 08:24, 9 October 2017 (UTC)
The only people that usually mess with things like this are vandals, who ignore inline citations anyway. Cas Liber (talk · contribs) 10:32, 9 October 2017 (UTC)


Okay let's open this up then. Which items in the lead of white need an inline citation? Cas Liber (talk · contribs) 12:33, 6 October 2017 (UTC)

For background, an editor has added multiple citations of dictionary definitions of the adjective "white", in the middle of 1st sentence, & deleted uncontroversial phrases (& citations) that help to define the color white, on the basis that "this is not a technical article" but rather is or should be "primarily about the culture and history and symbolism". QuoJar (talk) 15:01, 6 October 2017 (UTC) [edit] QuoJar (talk) 16:54, 6 October 2017 (UTC)


  • none as none of the points in the lead are in the least controversial, and many are mundane. Cas Liber (talk · contribs) 12:34, 6 October 2017 (UTC)
  • none, especially not tertiary dictionary definitions of the word "white" (BTW, if it happens to be decided that any inline citations are needed in the lead, I suggest putting them all at the ends of paragraphs so they don't break up the flow.) QuoJar (talk) 16:54, 6 October 2017 (UTC)
  • Each of paragraphs in the lead needs a citation, since their content has been disputed this past week, and text has been deleted, changed and rewritten multiple times without any citations given. One paragraph, listing the most important cultural associations, which was fully footnoted, was simply deleted by one of the editors above, without any explanation. That paragraph needs to be restored, with citation. This article should match the leads of the other color articles in style and format, and we need to follow the Manual of Style. Respectfully, SiefkinDR (talk) 20:16, 6 October 2017 (UTC)
  • The bit about symbolism in architecture: ie the end of the second paragraph. This could easily be taken as an opinion, and therefore removed. Most people who have walked down a reasonably modern street will recognise it to be true, but even so, some sort of reference should be provided. I would possibly look to explain how the colour white makes them simplistic/modern, but that is not by any means a necessity. Sb2001 18:45, 19 October 2017 (UTC)

achromatic results from reflecting equally[edit]

Currently we have this:

White is the lightest color and is achromatic (having no hue), because it fully reflects and scatters all the visible wavelengths of light; it is the color of fresh snow, chalk or milk, and is the opposite of black.

How about changing it to something like this? This would keep each "characteristic" with its "cause": "lightest" with "completely" and "achromatic" with "equally", as explained in the section "White objects". Also this splits off the last part as a separate sentence for readability:

White is the lightest color, completely reflecting and scattering light. It is an achromatic color (having no hue), reflecting all the visible wavelengths equally. It is the color of fresh snow, chalk or milk, and is the opposite of black.

QuoJar (talk) 13:54, 10 October 2017 (UTC)

Looks ok to me Cas Liber (talk · contribs) 14:34, 10 October 2017 (UTC)

Black is the opposite of white[edit]

We have the assertion in the opening sentence that black is the opposite of white. I know that this is the common sense understanding, but in an encyclopaedia we need a little more precision. In neither wave theory, nor optics, nor the biology of human sight can a colour be described as the opposite of another. Would it not be better expressed as "Black is colloquially regarded as the opposite of white" ?  Velella  Velella Talk   19:20, 21 November 2017 (UTC)