What does the color gray mean?

Gray is one of the least popular colors among people. We teach you its meaning and historical importance.

Last update: December 19, 2021

Gray is a color that most people associate with sadness and indifference. It is a color that we find in some animals (elephants, rhinos, wolves and others), clouds (especially cumulonimbus), ash, silver and lead. In the following lines we expose the meaning of the color gray and some curiosities about it.

From an optical point of view, gray is the result of the union of black and white. Indeed, the darkest tones are perceived close to black and the lighter ones to white. It is said to be an achromatic color, which also allows it to be classified as neutral. In English its use is recorded since 700 AD. C., while in Spanish from the twelfth century.

Gray color characteristics

Gray is not one of the most popular colors, but if used in its right measure it can be very attractive.

Although we often think that gray is a marginal color, in reality if we analyze a little we will discover the opposite. It is a color that is complemented by black and white, so that we will almost always see it together with these two. Grayish tones can also be obtained by combining orange and blue; red, green and blue and also by putting cyan, magenta, yellow and black together.

In general, experts usually catalog two types of gray: warm and cold. Of course, both have hundreds of shades that are considered as such. In certain contexts it is a color that is avoided to be used in infrastructures, since it has the ability to raise the surrounding temperature. We leave you with some curiosities of the gray color:

  • Hair turns gray as we age because the production of the pigment melanin stops. Starting the process, the hair turns gray and then turns white.
  • It is not a frequent color in vexillology. The flags that comprise it are counted, especially those of departments or regions within a State (in Colombia there are quite a few).
  • It has been used by both conservative and liberal parties, especially in Germany. It is a color that is associated with Francoism.
  • In general, clouds appear gray because of their depth, the shadow of other clouds, and because they are larger.
  • The gray color in the eyes is the rarest in the world. It is estimated that less than 1% of the planet has eyes of this color.
  • It is a color associated with communist architecture.
  • In black and white photos or videos, gray is the main color.
  • The gray matter of the brain is actually gray. There is also its other side: the white matter.
  • Different shades of gray have been essential in the fashion industry. Think about the importance of the gray business suit.
  • Many of the jewelry pieces are gray in color.
  • Some animals have gray fur to blend in with their surroundings. This usually changes to white during the winter (it happens with hares, foxes and others).

Although it is true that its prominence cannot be compared with that of primary colors, we cannot say that it is a color that goes unnoticed. We can say the same from the coordinates of psychology, which we will analyze in the next section.

Meaning of the color gray in psychology

Since it is a neutral color, the meaning of the color gray is not that impactful on people’s personality, behavior, or moods. At least it is not in contrast to other color groups. Researchers have found that the color gray is associated with passivity (inactivity) and in certain contexts with negative aspects.

Indeed, it seems that it is a color that captures the worst of black and white. This of course in a general way, since the tastes or particularities of each person can dictate their reception towards him. We leave you with the meaning of the color gray in psychology:

  • Using it in excess can convey a tasteless, lonely and empty feeling. By reception, people can feel this way when wearing it.
  • It can also be associated with a carefree style. Since it wanders between black and white, two colors with a formal tradition, it can convey an informal essence.
  • It is a color that tends to attract introverts. In this way they avoid attracting attention in everyday social contexts (extroverts prefer red, yellow or blue).
  • Many people can associate the color gray with old age.
  • In very general terms, and without the intention of falling into stereotypes, gray is considered too weak to be masculine and too rough to be feminine. This is why it is one of the least chosen colors when finding a favorite one..
  • Since many associate it with old age, it can also represent wisdom, experience, or authority.

All these relationships show that, in its proper measure, gray does have a psychological impact on people. Of course, it can also be associated with sadness or cold; partly because it is a color that is identified with the winter season.

Meaning of the color gray in different cultures

Due to its association with some natural phenomena, the color gray tends to be used in contexts of melancholy or reflection.

Although at this point we have already detailed almost everything relevant to the color gray, we leave you with some information that you may find relevant around this color:

  • In ancient times it was the color most used by the poor (they used undyed wool as clothing).
  • Some monks and friars used it as a symbol of humility.
  • In the Catholic religion, gray is a color that is associated with ashes, so it is a color of mourning.
  • Some Taoist priests often wear gray.
  • Some Buddhist monks in Japan wear gray or black robes.
  • It was a relatively fashionable color among painters beginning in the 17th century.
  • In Europe it was a women’s fashion color in the mid-18th century.
  • It was a color used in various armies around the world. The best example is the Confederate Army during the American Civil War.
  • It was the favorite color of industrialization after the Industrial Revolution.

We hope that the data we have mentioned has been of great interest to you, as it has brought you closer to the meaning of the color gray. It is not as transcendent as other colors, it is true, but this does not imply that it is a marginal color.

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