What does the color white mean?

White is the color of peace, purity and innocence. We show you how it has been interpreted in different cultures, its significance and influence on psychology.

Last update: December 10, 2021

White is an achromatic color that is contrasted with black. It is built through the photoreception of intense light constituted by the visible frequency of wave light. White objects scatter the light that reaches them (like a bounce effect), which makes them work like a panel. Today we will talk about the meaning of the color white and we will show you some of its curiosities.

In Spanish the term blanco derives from vulgar Latin blancus, which in turn derives from the Germanic blank, and this one from Proto-Germanic blangkaz. In these languages ​​it referred to something dazzling or brilliant. The original root is found in Proto-Indo-European bhel. We show you everything you should know about this color.

Characteristics of the white color

White is a color that we often appreciate in nature. Snow, clouds, limestone, and white quartz are just a few places where we can find it. The color is capable of refracting more than 99.9% of the wavelength, so it is a tone devoid of hue. That is, it does not absorb light, but scatters it.



The best example of this is found in the ice caps in the Arctic. These are capable of reflecting up to 80% of the sun’s rays back into space. Clouds do it around 70%. To give you an idea, the blue of the oceans reflects on average only 5%. This property is scientifically known as albedo. We leave you with other curiosities of the white color:

  • Clouds are white because water and the ice crystals that make them up refract light.
  • White chalk is a type of limestone that originated with the ancient deposit of microorganisms known as coccolithophores.
  • The whitening of the garments is achieved because the products attack the chromophores, a section of the molecule that absorbs light. The formula works by breaking the bonds that make them up.
  • In nature, many animals change their fur during the winter to camouflage themselves. Some species of rabbits and foxes do (among others).
  • In much of the world, women wear white at their wedding as a sign of purity and innocence.
  • It is a main color in many flags: the United States, the Netherlands, Ireland, South Korea, Japan and others.
  • The white flag is the international symbol of surrender or truce.
  • The term white lie it is used to allude to an innocent lie, often expressed out of courtesy.
  • Temples and churches have been white in color since ancient times. Government buildings and other places associated with the nation, too. This is a tradition that is preserved today.
  • In most countries, white is the color of peace (it is usually represented in the form of a white dove).
  • From the 4th century BC. C. the bright white unicorn is symbolized (today it is the national animal of Scotland).
  • Since it is associated with cleaning (we will see it in detail below) it is used in products or positions related to hygiene: detergents, lab coats, hospitals and others.
  • It was a color traditionally associated with the monarchy.

As you can see, white is an essential color in the way humans relate to their environment. Their relationship is more explicit when we approach color from the postulates of psychology.

Meaning of the color white in psychology

The color white is often perceived as something positive, regardless of culture.

Some experts have found that white makes information retrieval and acquisition easier. Studies and research have shown the positive effects of white light on people. Improves your mood, facilitates your concentration, regulates your circadian rhythm and enhances your visual ability.



The meaning of the color white can vary according to age and context. For example, a study published in Journal of Pediatric Nursing in 2013 found that children are most fearful when nurses wear white uniforms. Their stress levels decrease when they wear blue, pink or blue uniforms. oranges.

Researchers have pointed out that people often establish a direct relationship between morality with the color white and immorality with the color black. This has multiple implications in real life (how a politician, a company, a product or a cause is valued by the color they wear). Let’s look at other examples of the meaning of the color white:

  • When overused, the color white conveys a feeling of loneliness or coldness (think of a room painted entirely white).
  • People value white places as safer, more formal and cleaner.
  • Some people can become obsessed with white. For example, those who suffer from blancorexia.
  • Since white can calm down, it is often used in conflict resolution.

The fact that it is an achromatic color does not imply that its influence is less on people. Keep in mind that not everyone responds with the same reactions, so the above is subject to nuances.

Meaning of the color white in different cultures

Due to the abundance of the color white in nature, its importance was always enormous in various cultures.

So that today you become an expert in the meaning of the color white, we leave you with some curiosities from a cultural point of view. These complement what has already been discussed about color:

  • Along with red and black it was one of the most used colors in the pictorial representations of the first men.
  • In ancient times it was customary to sacrifice white animals (such as lambs) to atone for sins.
  • The Egyptians associated color with the goddess Isis (their priests wore only white).
  • The Greeks associated the color of breast milk. There are dozens of Greek myths in which milk is a capital substance. The name of our galaxy, Milky Way, was created after one of them.
  • Historically, people with albinism (a disease in which there is no melanin production) have been rejected by most societies. This behavior is also common in animals.
  • Until the 16th century, the widows of the kings of France wore white as a sign of mourning.
  • Pilgrims who travel to Mecca usually do so in white (the Great Mosque of Mecca is predominantly white).
  • The popes of the Catholic Church have dressed in white since 1556.
  • The practice of burying the dead wrapped in a white shroud is believed to have led to the association of color with ghosts.
  • In China, Korea, and other Asian countries, a specific shade of white is used as a symbol of mourning.
  • Members of the Ku Klux Klan usually wear white robes and hoods.

With this last appreciation we finalize our multiple meanings of the color white. Surely now you have a different idea regarding this color. Use it taking into account everything you have learned in the previous lines.

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