What is the symbolism of red?

Bullfighting: Can a Bull actually see "Red?"

What is the symbolism of red?

Hello: I was a student at Parsons in the 1970s. I've been writing a book about color meanings around the world-  Global Graphics, Color. Here are a couple of other books that can: 1) When Blue Meant Yellow, which is about how colors got their names, and 2: The Color Compendium, which is an encyclopedia of color.

In the meantime, I can tell you that from what I've discovered, there are lots of different meanings for red in almost every culture. It always means "blood" but even then it can be either blood shed heroically or the blood of a victim. In Asia, red is almost always good luck. The main point you'll need to focus on is that red (as with all colors) means different things depending upon the context in which it is used. In Japan, red ink is a traditional method of writing a letter than ends a relationship (like a dear john, or a pink slip). A red sportscar in the US might be thought of as a fun and "sexy" car, but if a middle-aged bald guy is driving it, it's seen as a pathetic display of male menopause. In most cultures, red is used to get attention. It's been a banner of revolution since the French Revolution (and probably before) and as a flag has become a symbol of populist, usually communist, revolts. I could go on, but the two books I mentioned are a good place to start. You might also check the library at the Museum of Natural History, the works of Faber Birren (a 20th century color expert; he's good but sometimes gets a little carried away with his magicy, new agey, alchemist angle), the work by two anthropologists named Berlin & Kay, who studied the evolution of the language of color worledwide. I don't know the name of their book, though. Good luck with the project, and buy my book when it's out in the spring!

See A Guide to Color Symbolism and Global Grapics: Clues and Taboos by the author of Color Matters. PDFs ...You can download them immediately

jamie chou
I guess I need to explain this since I posted the question. Take Chinese for example, there are more than 30 single characters describing different kinds of red. Red of wine, red of silk, red of wood, red of meat.... And even more phrase are used to descirbe different levels of red. All these are not just about words, but how the meaning of colors evolves from daily life, not just for a single color RED. At least, we can know when is not a right time to use a color with right meaning (wedding in Japanese uses white, while in Chinese is red.) At lease, this is what I am trying to explore now- knowing the meaning of colors in different cultures through language.

Color People, I'm confused. I've seen people looking at color and writing about it. Many are diligently investigating color - it's supposed meanings - associations - bla bla bla - in various cultures, in different corners of the globe...etc. But to what end? Where does the investigation lead to? If I took the word Red (or perhaps the word 'water'...any word) and looked at it in a dozen...a 100 different languages, I'd come up with the just as many different results. Red...in English, in French, in German, in Hopi, in Binary, in Octal, in any language, in any form. So (?) here I sit with mounds of paper ... Red in 100 languages. Even Red as spoken by some bleeding cave man that said "gRrEDdh" or some other gutteral grunting word. A bunch of guys on one dirt mound mumbled for a thousand years and poof...the French language popped up. (It's phonetically beautiful isn't it?)

Another bunch of guys on another dirt heap yacked away and came up with English...and another recently started chatting in binary. All of the systems work fairly well. (All of them even include the word Red...how lovely.) And now I've compiled them all... But to what end? If I created 5 new cultures or found 7 new civilizations for you to investigate...and you compiled all of their colorassociations and 'meanings' what would that add to your work? Would it bring you closer to somegoal? Any thoughts about all this effort? What is really being sought here? Anything? Mac

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Mac, are you familiar with the work by Berlin and Kay, on Language and color identification? the text is: Berlin, B. and Kay, P. BASIC COLOR TERMA: their universality and evaluation. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1969. I've only seen some notes and charts, but it is very interesting, about "color terms," etc. I'd be interested to know what you think. bj.

color symbolism pro

Bullfighting: Can a Bull actually see "Red"?

Question: Is the "red" cape at a bullfight for the bull to see, or the crowd? Does the "red" color of the cape infuriate the bull or is it the motion of the cape that pisses him off? If a bull can actually see the color "red" or not, is the easy part of this problem. Now here is the hard part, unless you're a bull, how can you prove what a bull visualizes (in 100 words or less)? Dan Petrie

I do not know how they actually figured this out, but while I was researching bullfighting I read that bulls are colored blind. It is the moving of the cape that actually atracts the bull to charge. Leah Shipley

Bulls don't care what you're wearing,they don't appreciate any kind of fashion statement made by humans. They don't care for us period. Get in a pasture with them and they will show you the way out-no cape needed.

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