Green Color Meaning and Symbolism

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Being the color of nature, green is literally all around us. This is one color that people find vitalizing and inspiring in all it’s different hues and is extremely popular all over the world. Green remains one of the most meaningful and symbolic colors. Here’s a look at its many layers of meaning and what it means to different cultures.

What Does the Color Green Symbolize?

Green fields nature

Green is a color that symbolizes harmony, freshness, fertility and growth, considered to be the easiest color on the eyes. Certain surveys have shown that the color is mostly associated with calmness, agreeability and tolerance.

Green is for permission and safety. The color green is used in traffic lights to indicate that it’s safe to proceed and is the opposing color of red. When advertising medical products and drugs, green is used to indicate safety and can also be used for promoting ‘green products’.

Green-eyed monster? Green is usually associated with envy and jealousy. The famous expression ‘green-eyed monster’ was first mentioned by the English playwright William Shakespeare in ‘Othello’. Saying that someone is green with envy means that the person is extremely envious or jealous.

Green represents strength and good luck. In folk tales, films and legends, there are many green colored animals, each with a different meaning behind it. For example, Chinese dragons are green, and they are symbolic of power, strength and good luck. The Chinese Emperor used the dragon to symbolize his imperial strength and power and to this day the dragon remains a popular and mandatory feature of Chinese festivals. In the middle ages, the devil was depicted as red, black or green and in Irish folklore, the leprechaun (a type of fairy) is portrayed wearing a green colored suit.

Green is for poison and sickness.  While green is associated with good health by Americans and Europeans, it’s also the color commonly associated with poison and toxicity. A greenish tinge in one’s skin can also be associated with sickness and nausea.

Symbolism of Green in Different Cultures

Green in Ireland
  • In Ireland green is one of the three important colors present on the national flag. Ireland is known as the Emerald Isle, a reference to its verdant green landscapes. It’s also the color associated with Irish festivals, like St. Patrick’s Day, Irish symbols like the shamrock and Irish mythical creatures, like leprechauns.
  • In the Islamic religion, green has several traditional associations. According to the Quran, the color is associated with paradise. In the 12th century, green was selected as the dynastic color by the Fatimids. The banner of Prophet Muhammad was also green and the color can be seen in almost all Islamic countries.
  • American and European countries associated the color green with nature, health, youth, hope, envy, life and spring. At times it also represents poor health and toxicity. It’s also indicative of permission. For example, a green card permits people to obtain permanent residence in the US.
  • In China and most parts of Asia, green is a very positive color that symbolizes happiness and fertility. It’s also associated with sunrise, life, growth and the east.
  • In Egypt, green was symbolic of rebirth and regeneration as well as the agricultural opportunities that were made possible by the yearly flooding of the river Nile. The color had positive associations. Even Osiris, the god of the underworld, is depicted with a green face because the color was a symbol of good health.
  • The Romans consider green to be of great importance since it was the color of the goddess Venus.
  • In Thailand, green is thought to be an auspicious color for those born on Wednesdays.

Personality Color Green – What It Means

Girl wearing green dress

According to color psychology, having green as a favorite color can say a lot about a person. There are several common character traits among people who love green (or people who have personality color greens) and while it isn’t likely that you’d exhibit all of them, you’re sure to notice some that are applicable to you. Let’s check out some of the most common characteristics of personality color greens.

  • People who love green are practical and down-to-earth. They also tend to love nature.
  • Having a personality color green means that you’re generous, kind and compassionate. On the downside, you unknowingly neglect your own needs since you’re so focussed on nurturing and caring for others.
  • You have a strong need to love and be loved.
  • You’re an open book and tend to wear your heart on your sleeve.
  • Those who love green are faithful partners and loyal friends.
  • You are strong-willed and don’t like being told what to do.
  • You love to gossip which has a connection to you need to belong.
  • People who love green are great at counseling others since they’re good listeners and have the ability to look at others problems with clarity and empathy.

Positive and Negative Aspects of the Color Green

Dining table setup in a green field

Green has many positive aspects, one of them being that it can alleviate anxiety, nervousness and depression. It’s said to have healing powers and can even improve vision and reading ability. Some people claim that the color also helps them to concentrate, calm down and feel more relaxed. It’s a color that impacts the mind and body in a positive way rather than in a harmful way like some colors such as black or blue may.

It’s possible that the calming effects this color has on people can be due to its association with nature which people find refreshing and relaxing which is why green is often used for decorating purposes. On the negative side, green can be perceived as a color that’s too bland if it’s incorrectly used.

Variations of the Color Green

Let’s take a quick look at some of the most commonly used variations of the color green and what they symbolize.

  • Lime green: this color symbolizes playfulness, naivety and youthfulness. It’s generally liked by younger people and is said to clear the mine of all negativity.
  • Pale green: since this is the color of new growth that’s seen in plants, it’s indicative of immaturity, inexperience and youthfulness.
  • Jade green: this symbolizes trust, confidentiality, diplomacy and tact. The color indicates generosity and increases wisdom and understanding.
  • Emerald green: this color is uplifting and inspiring while also suggesting wealth and abundance.
  • Aqua: aqua is a calming shade of green that offers healing and protection for emotions.
  • Grass green: the color of money, grass green is self-confident, natural and healthy and it occurs abundantly in nature.
  • Yellow green: this color suggests conflict, fear and cowardice.
  • Olive green: olive green traditionally symbolizes peace, ‘offering an olive branch’. It can also represent treachery, deceit and putting the blame on others.

The Use of Green in Fashion and Jewelry

Green color in fashion

Green is a popular color that looks great on most complexions. Emerald green generally gives a rich look to the wearer and is a much sought-after color in fashion and jewelry.

Green is now highly popular for weddings and many brides opt to have a green wedding dress on their special day. Green wedding dresses have a unique look and are just as gorgeous and glamorous as white gowns.

However, when it comes to fashion, some people find it difficult to pair green clothing with other clothing items. If you’re struggling with this problem, look up a color wheel that will help you find the colors that go best with green.

Wearing too much green can give you a drab appearance but this usually depends on the shade. Also, some people find that green clothing makes them look ‘bulky’ unlike black which has a slimming effect.

Emerald and diamond engagement ring

Green is also a favorite color when it comes to jewelry and gemstones, especially in engagement rings. Here’s a list of the most popular green gemstones:

  • Green Diamond – Extremely rare and exclusive, natural green diamonds are highly valuable. For most of us, synthetic green diamonds are often the best way to go about it, as they’re more affordable.
  • Green Sapphire – These are highly durable gemstones, which historically haven’t been very popular, but are not starting to increase in popularity. Green sapphire ranges in color from pale to vivid, with most stones on the market being heat treated.
  • Emerald – The quintessential green gemstone, emeralds have been valued for millennia for their stunning color. Most emeralds are fragile, brittle stones and are commonly treated.
  • Jade – tough, compact and valuable, green jade is highly sought-after in Asian countries. It has a waxy to vitreous luster and is ideal for cabochons, carvings and faceted shapes.
  • Green Agate – An affordable green gemstone, green agate has medium hardness and is often enhanced.
  • Tsavorite Garnet – A more expensive variety of garnet, tsavorite garnets are quite rare and stunning to look at.
  • Peridot – Pronounced peri-doh, these stones are known for their unique lime-green color. They’re reasonably priced and have good durability.
  • Malachite – Known for its bright, opaque green color, malachite mixed with azurite offers some of the most stunning natural patterns in the gemstone world.

Use of Green Throughout History

Green in Egypt

Now that we’ve had a detailed look at the color green and its symbolism, let’s take a look at the use of this color throughout history.

Green in Prehistory

While it’s not possible to say exactly when the use of the color green emerged, we can guess from what the evidence shows. Although green was not to be found in Neolithic cave paintings, the Neolithic people who lived in northern Europe did make and use a green dye for their clothing and this seems to be the earliest known evidence of its use. They made it from the leaves of birch trees. The dye was very low in quality, looking more brownish than green.  

Ancient Mesopotamian cave paintings depict people wearing vibrant green clothes, but no one actually knows how the color was produced. It’s suspected that they made the pigments and dyes from plants, vegetables and fruits but the actual method they used hasn’t been discovered yet.

Green in Egypt

The ancient Egyptians used Malachite, a type of green colored mineral that was mined in the eastern desert and in Sinai to paint on the walls of the tombs or on papyrus scrolls. They were also quite creative in that they mixed together blue azurite and yellow ochre to make the color. They dyed their clothes by first coloring them with yellow dye which was made from saffron and then they soaked them in blue dye made from the woad plant. Together, the result of these primary colors was green.

Green in Europe

Green was a color commonly linked with merchants, wealth, bankers and gentry during the post-classical period in Europe. However, it wasn’t used by Royalty or the Upper Classes, and wasn’t considered a color of significance.

Green in Greece

At times, the ancient Greeks (700-480 BC) considered blue and green the same color. Green wasn’t included in the four classic colors used in Greek paintings which were red, black, white and yellow. Therefore, green was hardly ever used in Greek art.

Green in Rome

Green was commonly used in Rome, considered an important color and appreciated greatly by the Romans, unlike the Europeans and Greeks. The Romans created a fine, green earth pigment which was used extensively in wall paintings of Vaison-la-Romaine, Herculaneum and Pompeii as well as many other cities in Rome.

The Romans hung copper plates over hot vinegar inside a sealed pot which caused the copper to weather over time resulting in the formation of green crust on the copper. This was how verdigris was created, a green pigment that’s rarely sold today for artwork since it was found to have toxic properties. Up until the 19th century however, it was a very popular green pigment and the most vibrant one available.

By the dawn of the 2nd century AD, green was widely used in Roman art, glass and mosaics and there were even 10 different Latin words for various types of green.

Green in the Middle Ages and Renaissance

During the Middle Ages and the Renaissance period, the color of a person’s clothes showed their profession and social rank. Green was considered a color of lower rank whereas only red was worn by the nobility.

All the vegetable green dyes available at that time were of poor quality and faded when washed or exposed to sunlight. These dyes were made from all kinds of plants and berries including ferns, nettles, leeks, plantains and buckthorn berries. It was only later in the 16th century that a higher quality green dye was discovered.

Green in the 18th and 19th Centuries

In the 18th and 19th centuries, various synthetic green dyes and pigments were being created and these quickly replaced the earlier vegetable and mineral ones that had been used. The new dyes were more brilliant and less prone to fading than the vegetable ones but some of them were banned eventually since they contained high levels of arsenic.

Goethe, the German philosopher and poet, declared the color green to be the most restful color, appropriate for decorating people’s bedrooms and it was after this that the popularity of the color began to increase. Famous painters began to depict lush green forests and landscapes and later on, in the latter half of the 19th century, the color was being used in art to create certain specific emotions rather than to mimic nature.

In the 19th century, green and red were both standardized as colors of the international railroad signals and the very first traffic light used gas lamps in both colors just in front of the Parliament Houses in London. Unfortunately, the light exploded a year after it was installed leaving the policeman who operated it severely injured.

Green in Modern Times

Green environment symbol

Green became a political symbol in the 1980s used by the Green Party in Germany as well as in several other European countries. It was also symbolic of the environmental movement which included conservation and green politics. Today, green packaging is used to signal healthier, organic or natural products.

In Brief

Green is a cooling, refreshing color that has continued to gain popularity over the years. The meaning of the color can change depending on religion and culture, but its beauty and classic look remains a favorite of many people around the globe.

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