What does the color red mean?

The color red is very present in our society, although sometimes we do not take it into account. We teach you some historical and current meanings.

Last update: December 11, 2021

The meaning of the color red can be interpreted in many ways. For most people it is a color that evokes heat (fire), passion, eroticism, sexuality and of course war. It was one of the first colors to be used in pictorial art, as well as one of the most frequent in nature (insects, fruits and plants).

This color corresponds to the wavelength frequencies ranging from 618 to 780 nanometers. In the Newtonian spectrum (and therefore also in the rainbow) it occupies the first place. It is the color with the longest range in length, and values ​​below those mentioned are called infrared. These cannot be appreciated by the human eye.

Characteristics of the color red

The color red is easy to find in nature, which has inspired its use in various cultural representations.

Red is a primary color; This means that it does not require the combination of other colors to generate. Within color theory it is also labeled as a warm color along with yellow and orange. We can etymologically trace the word back to Proto-Indo-European, although its use to name color is relatively new.



Indeed, and at least in Spanish, the word Red it began to be used almost exclusively from the 15th century. Before it was more common to use words such as red or red to refer to this color tone. We leave you with some interesting curiosities about him:

  • Experts use the term aposematism to describe the quality of some animals to warn their toxicity through color. Insects, amphibians, and reptiles use the color red as a sign of danger.
  • People who have the inability to see the color red are called protanomalies.
  • Blood is red due to the presence of oxygenated hemoglobin (this is why the tone of arterial blood is more intense than that of venous blood).
  • Traditionally it has been used as a sign of danger. Think of yourself in terms Red alert, code red, Red button Y red flags (We usually see them on the beaches).
  • Since the Soviet Union, the color red has been associated with communism (practically all movements in its name have raised a flag of this color).
  • It is a color that we frequently find on flags around the world. For example, it is part of the People’s Republic of China, Albania, Peru, Canada, Morocco, Tunisia and Venezuela, among others.
  • It has been used for several centuries to make explicit different political parties.
  • Red is used in the Catholic religion to refer to the blood shed in the Gospel and to the Holy Spirit (this is why popes wear red).
  • According to the researchers, only 2% of people worldwide are redheads.
  • Bulls cannot distinguish the color red, since like many animals they have dichromacy. The red of the cape is to hide possible blood stains and draw the attention of the public.
  • A phenomenon known as Rayleigh scattering causes some sunrises and sunrises to appear red.
  • The planet Mars in our Solar System is also known as Red planet.

These are just some curiosities related to this color. We can cite thousands of relationships, but these serve as a reference to show that it is a color that is very present in everyday life. We can also think about the meaning of the color red from a psychological point of view. We will talk about this in the next section.

Meaning of the color red in psychology

There is a discipline or branch of psychology known as color psychology. This studies the possible influence of colors on behavior, thought or moods of people. According to some researchers, the color red triggers predominantly negative reactions such as avoidance, threat, or danger.



Other experts have found that people who empathize with the color red tend to think and act more hostilely. We leave you with some interesting reflections regarding the meaning of the color red in psychology:

  • The color red is associated with increased passion or arousal (many lingerie items are red for this reason).
  • Exposure to shades of red usually causes fury, energy, or excitement. There is evidence that red increases the heart rate.
  • Contrary to what happens with the color blue, and according to studies, the color red stimulates the appetite. This is why it is used in restaurants, food wrappers, and so on.
  • The color red can arouse feelings of aggression or anger.
  • It can also convey the feeling of power or domination (that is why it is used in boxing, wrestling and similar sports garments).
  • Given the cultural relationship, people associate color with love. This is why it can enhance romantic situations and thus the secretion of hormones.

The meaning of the color red acquires a different interpretation from psychology. We highlight the ambivalent nature that it can have: awaken loving feelings and at the same time encourage anger or hatred. This makes it one of the most particular colors that exist.

The color red in different cultures

Some people prefer to wear red clothes to arouse certain emotions in others.

We cannot dismiss this post without first pointing out the meaning of color from the point of view of other cultures. Although we have already done it partially in previous lines, here are other characteristics of interest:

  • The color red is the most used in the pictorial art of the first humans. For this they used ocher, hematite powder and other compositions.
  • The color red has been used as a cosmetic since the Egyptians. The women used ocher to redden their cheeks and lips (there is evidence that they also painted their nails and dyed their hair).
  • In the Old Testament it is associated with sin or evil: “Although your sins are as scarlet, they will be white as snow” is read in the Book of Isaiah. Remember the popular association of devil or hell with this color.
  • In chariot races in the late Roman Empire, one of the two drivers wore red.
  • It was a predominant color in Renaissance paintings.
  • During the French Revolution, the Jacobins raised the red flag and garments of this color.
  • Prostitutes have traditionally dressed in red to differentiate themselves. This holds true to this day (think De Wallen in Amsterdam, also known as Red light district).
  • In China the color red has a positive interpretation. This is why we see it frequently in different manifestations of its culture..
  • In India, red is the traditional color for wedding dresses.

May these examples help you to verify the prominence and variety of interpretations that the color red has in the history of mankind. The variety of tones available in its spectrum regulate the psychological factors that we have presented in the corresponding section.

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