The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary







Green is a colour seen commonly in nature. Many plants are green mostly on behalf of a complex chemical known as chlorophyll. The light of the sun that we see from Earth because of our atmosphere and other various reasons is tinted green.

Green light has a wavelength of roughly 490-570 nm and is one of the additive primary colours, the complement of magenta. Many artists, however, continue to use a traditional colour theory in which the complement of green is considered to be red.

People who are red-green colour blind can often distinguish between the two colours but confuse them with other colours, e.g., bright green with yellow; dark green with brown.


Uses of the colour green

In the Middle Ages, green represented evil or demonic beings (including dragons) and sometimes love. Nowadays, however, ideas associated with this colour have shifted.

Green also symbolizes go because of its use in traffic signals. It is also the colour of information and direction signs.

In night vision goggles, the colour green is chosen because the human eye is most sensitive and able to discern the most shades in that colour.

In auto racing, a green flag signals the start or resumption of a race.

Because of its camouflage properties, green is typically used for the field uniforms for many military services. It is also used as the dress uniform for many land armies and marines.

Green is a symbol of Ireland, which is often referred to as "the Emerald Isle". The colour is particularly identified with the republican and nationalist traditions in modern times, and is used that way on the flag of the Republic of Ireland, in balance with the unionist orange.

Green also serves as a symbol of the Esperanto language. It is said that the colour was first suggested by an Irishman, Richard Henry Geoghegan , who apparently suggested it as it was the colour of his country, and because it is the colour of hope, hope being a strong theme in Esperanto culture. The colour is particularly associated with the green star , and is seen too on the Esperanto flag.

"Little Green Men " refers to the stereotypical portrayal of extraterrestrials with green skin, antennae and a generally human body plan (but with the number of a certain body part often changed).

Stephen King wrote a book called The Green Mile, referring to the last walk made by prisoners on death row and particularly to the color of the linoleum flooring of the corridor they walk.

Pink Floyd recorded a song called Green Is The Colour .

Kermit the Frog sang It's Not Easy Being Green , a tribute to all things green.

Green is the colour of the snooker ball which has a 3-point value, and also a common colour for the baize on a snooker table.

Green substances

Food colourings used for green include chlorophyll (E140 and E141), quinoline (E104) and, in countries where it is permitted, "Green S" (E142).

Colloquial expressions

  • Envy, one of the traditional Seven Deadly Sins is also called the green-eyed monster. A person suffering therefrom is said to be "green with envy".
  • Traditionally, someone who works well with plants is said to have a green thumb, or green fingers.
  • An inexperienced person is sometimes known as green, probably from its reference to unripe (i.e. unready, immature) fruit.

"Green" as a political ideology

The ecology movement uses green because of its common occurrence in nature. Greenpeace, an ecological group, uses green because of its association with life. Those who carry this into the political realm are called "Greens":

There are political parties known as "Green Parties" in over one hundred countries throughout the world (beginning in Europe, although the Green Party of the United States, many state parties and two prominent provincial parties in Canada - in Ontario and BC have taken root). The more generic term "green party" is used for parties that emphasize environmentalism, but it is increasingly out of favour as the Global Greens have succeeded in uniting almost all such parties under a Global Green Charter.

A "Green Party" (or Faction) also existed in the Byzantine Empire for a while, but of course it had nothing to do with modern Greens. Rather, it developed out of a kind of chariot racing fanclub whose drivers used the colour green to distinguish themselves from the opposing "Blue Party".

Green is the traditional colour of Islam, likewise because of its association with nature and the scarce and precious plant life of Arabia. Muhammad is reliably quoted in a hadith as saying that "water, greenery, and a beautiful face" were three universally good things.

For this reason, the flag of Libya is plain green, the only current national flag of a single colour.

Green is the colour of the back of U.S. currency, and thus carries a strong connotation to money, wealth, and capitalism. This is especially true in the U.S., but the status of the dollar worldwide makes it a wider symbol. This is illustrated by a joke told in the days of the Soviet Union: "Name something green, other than money", with the correct answer being "A ruble".

In North American stock markets, green is used to denote a rise in stock prices. In East Asian stock markets, however, green is used to denote a drop in stock prices.

Green is also the colour of supporters of Taiwan independence in opposition to the unification-leaning pan-blue coalition. The origin of this symbolism comes from Taiwan being a tropical island and is unrelated to environmentalism or the Green Party.

Distinguishing "blue" from "green" in language

The English language makes a distinction between blue and green, but some languages, such as Vietnamese or Tarahumara usually do not use separate words for green and refer to that colour using a word that can also refer to yellow or to blue. In Vietnamese, blue and green are denoted by xanh; blue is specifically described as "xanh like the sky" and green as "xanh like the leaves".

It is sometimes said that Japanese does not distinguish between blue and green either. Modern Japanese does have words for both green (緑 midori) and blue (青い aoi adj.; 青 ao n.). However, ancient Japanese did not have this distinction: the word midori only came into use in the Heian period, and at that time (and for a long time thereafter) midori was still considered a shade of ao. Only after World War II, during the Occupation, did educational materials distinguishing green and blue first come into use: thus, even though most Japanese consider them to be green, the word ao is still used to describe green traffic lights and vegetation. However, most other objects — a green car, a green sweater, and so forth — will generally be called midori.

Welsh has different boundaries than English regarding blue and green. The word glas is usually translated as 'blue'. It can also refer, variously, to the colour of the sea, of grass, or of silver. The word gwyrdd is the standard translation for 'green'. Glas (same spelling) is, comparably, the translation for "green" in Irish, with specific reference to plant hues of green; other shades would be referred to as uaine. In Irish, gorm is the word for "blue" – the first part (gor(m)) pronounced as in the Welsh gwyr(dd).

The Chinese language has the blue-green distinction; however, another word which predates the modern vernacular, qīng (青) is used. It can refer to either blue or green, or even (though much less frequently) to black, as in xunqīng (玄青).

In Kurdish the word "şn" (pronounced sheen), meaning "blue", is used for green things in nature like leaves, grass, and eyes. However, there is another word, "kesk", which is used for other green things, for instance in the Kurdish flag .

Pushto uses the same word 'shin' as in Kurdish to denote blue as well as green. There is no separate word for green, so when there is ambiguity, one is prone to ask, "blue as in sky?".

See also

Last updated: 10-14-2005 09:34:10
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