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The surprising pattern behind color names around the world

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Why so many languages invented words for colors in the same order. Subscribe to our channel! http://goo.gl/0bsAjO In 1969, two Berkeley researchers, Paul Kay and Brent Berlin, published a book on a pretty groundbreaking idea: that every culture in history, when they developed their languages, invented words for colors in the exact same order. They claimed to know this based off of a simple color identification test, where 20 respondents identified 330 colored chips by name. If a language had six words, they were always black, white, red, green, yellow, and blue. If it had four terms, they were always black, white, red, and then either green or yellow. If it had only three, they were always black, white, and red , and so on. The theory was revolutionary — and it shaped our understanding of how color terminologies emerge. Read more on the research mentioned in this video: Cook, Kay, and Regier on the World Color Survey: goo.gl/MTUi9C Stephen C. Levinson on Yele color terms: goo.gl/CYDfvw John A. Lucy on Hanunó'o color terms: goo.gl/okcyC3 Loreto, Mukherjee, and Tria on color naming population simulations: goo.gl/rALO1S To learn more about how your language's color words can affect the way you think, check out this video lecture: goo.gl/WxYi1q Vox.com is a news website that helps you cut through the noise and understand what's really driving the events in the headlines. Check out http://www.vox.com to get up to speed on everything from Kurdistan to the Kim Kardashian app. Check out our full video catalog: http://goo.gl/IZONyE Follow Vox on Twitter: http://goo.gl/XFrZ5H Or on Facebook: http://goo.gl/U2g06o
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Text Comments (4678)
Austin Wang (1 day ago)
Blue is in god damn sky how is it rarer than red
That Mexican Guy (1 day ago)
México- spanish Rojo (ro-ho) red Naranja (na-nan-ha) orange Amarillo (a-mah-ee-yo) yellow Verde (ver-da) green Azul (a zool) blue Morado (moh-ra-do) purple Other colors: Gris (grease) gray Negro (ne-gro) black Blanco (blan-co) white Cafe (ca-fai) brown Turquesa (tour-ca-sah) turquoise Rosa (ro-sah) pink Marrón (mah-run) marroon Beige (besh) beige And many more (roughly pronounced, write for more colors/shades/hues/questions)
M Ilham (3 days ago)
I love the video
enes Cakir (3 days ago)
We turks have A LOT of basic color names
S thër (5 days ago)
if you would know that there is two word for red in hungarian... and there are some cases when you can't use both, only one is correct. despite the fact that we are talking about the SAME COLOR :D
Alexandro De Mojito (5 days ago)
0:36 france baybee !
٠٠٠ ٠٠٠ (6 days ago)
In Arabic we have a name for every color that exists and that's because we name the color by the most common thing that has the color. A light blue would be *SAMAWI* from the word *SAMA* whish means sky, a light green would be *TOFFAHI* from the word *TOFFAH* which means apple, A purple would be *BANAFSAJI* from the word *BANAFSAJ* which means violet, A grey would be *RAMADI* from the word *RAMAD* which means ash, A brown would be *BUNNI* from the word *BUNN* which means coffee, there are so many other examples.
Pu Du (6 days ago)
There are a lot of colors in mandarin. 黑白红黄绿蓝 are basic ones. We also have 赤 朱 褐 棕 铜 金 银 胭 绯 碧 苍 赭 栗 靛 粉 橙 青 紫, 9 of them are shades of red, 2 are yellow, 2 greens, 2 blues, 1 white.
Maxime Schinck (7 days ago)
The human eye sees three basic colors : blue, green... and red.
0:43 I’m Dutch and that is not how the country is anymore. Almost everyone has a phone and we do *not* wear those weird hats or those yellow shoes, ‘Klompen’ anymore.
Rajkumar Lakkimsetty (7 days ago)
this is what i loved about vox, it was more connecting the world together before, now its just polotics mostly
Nazi Zombie (7 days ago)
>purpurniy More like fioletoviy
Gina Chen (9 days ago)
At 1:30 they mention that blue is a basic color in Mandarin, but my parents told me that a lot of people just used the same word for blue and green until fairly recently (my dad still does this sometimes).
SakkoG (9 days ago)
You actually wouldn't say purpurnyy but serenewyy or fioletevyy
Kawaii Ghost ._. (10 days ago)
Yes, the three basic components of the conceivable universe... *Dark...* *Light...* *red?*
MrEmafon4 (10 days ago)
Spanish seems to have names for a looooot of colors, I don't even know half of them.
bloobeeblah (10 days ago)
God I miss these.
Nielsoboy1 (10 days ago)
Kaonashi Yakuza (11 days ago)
I'm too stupid for this
Isra Khawaja (12 days ago)
In classic Urdu and Persian poetry, I've noticed that many poets would often refer to the sky and the ground as the same colour (ie. Green) but on varying tones. Like really light green would be used for the sky, but dark green would be used for describing forests, grass, etc. Same would go for water, but in comparison to sky. They'd always be mindful of referencing the plants first, then they sky, and finally the water. Teh order for the water and sky could be reversed (it doesnt matter), but a reference to plants would always be there. Even when describing settings like the desert, where there are no plants at all, they'd somehow refer to plants for the sky. Although there is now a word for blue, it always struck me hard that they wouldn't use it, despite a few even more dated uses of the word for 'blue' around that time those classic poetries were written. Interesting.................
KalKyuLayTor (12 days ago)
So, Russia is more sophisticated with their Celeste?
kirsten minta (12 days ago)
I think the main colors are red blue yellow green black. I also feel like I am the only person who calls lighter blue light blue and darker blue dark blue.
ft ak (13 days ago)
what if they were not colour blind, but we are now colour blind
BalefulHead (13 days ago)
Great video - very educational and well presented. This summer I was doing research into colors in order to peg things right in an historical book and came across the pitfall of Blue not being usable and then struggling to figure out what to use in its place. [Hah - I wish I found this video when I was doing my research. Definitely goes into my 'favorites']
Ellie Swanson (13 days ago)
Dark, Light, red... it’s my laundry
john skin (13 days ago)
You spelt colour wrong :)
cathal meenagh (14 days ago)
Wait he said that blue was scarce??? The sky ?
rob93ification (14 days ago)
For people who know digital design, we call white #ffffff
Lelouch Vi Britannia (14 days ago)
Black/then/white are/all I see/in my infancy/red and yellow then came to be/
You forgot indigo in between blue and purple. 0:26
Omar Adame (16 days ago)
I've been wondering the same since a couple of years ago. In the RGB model, I find it weird that the three secondary colors (cyan, magenta and yellow) stablish what the tertiary colors will be, but some sides are more distinctable than others, for which there are no words or names that sound common... 1st level: RED - GREEN - BLUE - (RED AGAIN) 2nd level: RED - yellow - GREEN - cyan - BLUE - magenta - (RED AGAIN) 3rd level: RED - orange - YELLOW - yellowgreen? - GREEN - ????? - CYAN - ????? - BLUE - ????? - MAGENTA - deep pink? - (RED AGAIN) And what to say when you use different shades or tones of the spectrum? Like brown, pink, or one of my favorite "teams": purple, olive and teal, for which, by the way, there's no common word in Spanish. There is a couple of names for teal, which are "cerceta" or "trullo", but basically no one that I know uses any of those terms. People tend to call it "verde azul" or "azul verde" (which are "blue green" and "green blue"), or to put it in one word they would use something like "esmeralda" or "jade" (even if that's not the exact color). And something that I don't get is why in digital colors the pink color is lighter than light pink (?). I just don't get it. Why when you name a color, you don't base on the exact medium points (for example, deep pink is 255, 20, 147 in RGB, but then the color 255, 0, 128 has no name)?
Tenin Tolores (16 days ago)
The answer the video tried to provide wasn't very satisfying tbh.
Robert Pyrosthenes (16 days ago)
I wonder what effect colorblindness has on this. I'm red and green colorblind, so I would never make either a color.
Sapientia et Virtus (17 days ago)
Tell me again why W.H.R. River's hypothesis about the natives of New Guinea is “racist”? It is well known that numerous variables in the environment cause a wide range of diversity when it comes to evolution. Although in itself, it is imprecise to convey evolutionary progression as a sort of systemized genetic ascension, it still does not fall within any description of racism. It was and is not uncommon for scientists to postulate such ideas, especially at the turn of the 20th century. The man was a renowned anthropologist and psychiatrist who helped shell-shocked soldiers from WWI, utilizing techniques that were ahead of their time, among the many other contributions he made to the world. Labeling his conjectures as racist is a culpable act of misinformation and does not belong in empirical commentary or any other venue intended for science, especially for major digital media companies like Vox.
fatima yahya (18 days ago)
WAS i the only one screaming, this is not blue, this is ultramarine blue? and the other colours...
Mario Marrufo (19 days ago)
"black then white are all I see in my infancy, red and yellow then came to be..." 🤔🤔🤔
RagingFruitSnac444 (19 days ago)
What if colorblind people see the actual colors and non colorblind people see colors wrong
StepUpYourGame (19 days ago)
but blue is the sky and the sea so I don't think so..
飛騨zip (19 days ago)
Here are some colors in Japanese. yellow kiiro(or yellow) blue ao(or blue) indigo-blue aiiro purple murasaki(or purple) pink pinku(or momoiro) red aka(or reddo) orange orange(or daidai) brown brown(or brown) black kuro(or blacku) gray haiiro(or grey) white shiro(or white) The vocabularies in our language are becoming more and more English. More and more languages are imported and vocabularies are replaced in Japanese. What we used to call "Keitai-denwa" are now "Smartphone(スマートフォン)". We don't have a original Japanese word for "card" So we just say card(カード) . We don't say "zubon" anymore. We say "pants". There are even words that were changed like paso-com(short for personal computer)and it's on the dictionary. "I bought pants at the department store with my credit card" will be like "デパートメントストアでパンツをクレジットカードで買った" "department store de pants wo credit card de katta" in english this will be like "department store at pants the credit card with bought" (yes everything is backwards) Pronunciations are different from that of in english, but I feel like we are abandoning our language. Maybe it's our nature to do so. We have 2 alphabets (and a bunch of Chinese characters) and one of it, which is called Katakana, is used to make a foreign word into Japanese. For example: Eng:pants→JP:パンツ(pronounsed pantsu) Why did I even write this here. Maybe I'm just tired. So longaybowser!
constantinos schinas (20 days ago)
*completely retarded, inaccurate video.* it's not naming, is classifying colours. Porfyro is Dark Saturated Red in Greek not Purple. Csantho is Blond not Yellow. *Woxrst channel in Youtube.*
Dennin Dalke Onório (20 days ago)
Why on the earth there wasn't anything in this video mentioning human eye anatomy? This was ridiculous! I felt like the video was cut in the half, neglecting completely something so important to the subject and so obvious to be compared to the other studies...
Hypernova (20 days ago)
English has more basic colours! Cyan, Lime, Magenta.
female.monster (22 days ago)
Almost everyone here is having a hard time contemplating the sentence _"Blue was a rare color before manufacturing"_ and bring up the sky and seas. Well, I myself also have thought of it like that before. But think of the sky and the seas. First, the sky. Does the sky only possess one color all throughout? No. It changes from day to night, and according to the weather. Yes, it's blue on clear days, but also white on cloudy days, grey when it rains, black when it's night, a vast spectrum of red (including yellow, and orange) during dawn/twilight. Plus, aside from the sky, there isn't much blue in nature. Why would early people bother to name a color when you can only witness it from the sky, a thing that cannot be possessed nor touched, and changes color from time to time? And the seas are the same. Water is clear, a body of water only reflects the colors around it. It can be brown from soil under, green from algae, red from natural chemicals, and blue, red, white or black according to the color of the sky. The sky and bodies of water aren't blue, we just learned to associate them with blue.
Normal name (22 days ago)
for anyone that wants to learn more about colors checkout vsauce 2 "how we invented blue"
charlierw (22 days ago)
There's a great Radiolab about this
toni (22 days ago)
Well... I guess, the name of the colors you've dropped from the Philippines may have came from other dialect. We, Filipinos, have so many dialects and each dialect has their own naming for a color.
takineko (23 days ago)
I don't understand how a tribal group can have a word for red but no word for green or blue when they're surrounded by plants and sky???
Brother Andy (23 days ago)
If the pixels in the eyes see red, then you see food (meat) and you see disease and death (blood). Blue and green are constants and don't evoke danger. Red is also on the beaks of many birds who feed their young by regurgitation. Also notable is how in races/counties who have primarily blue eyes traditionally use colors differently than countries/races who have primarily dark eyes. South Africans and Mexicans use reds, yellows and oranges, while Scandinavians, US and Europeans use blues, browns, and greens. Older people tend to use cooler colors while younger people use warm colors.
Blue was scarce before manufacturing. *looks at the sky* *looks at a body of water*
SandburgNounouRs (23 days ago)
In order of apparition, sensors of eyes are : blue, green, red. It's in the opposite order of vocabulary apparition… strange.
AwesomeAndrhhg ٤٩٢ (24 days ago)
3:41 aparently lebanon is industrialized...
Gratia Erasmus (24 days ago)
Life changing stuff <3
Steven Prime (24 days ago)
One thing not mentioned in the video that might be another possibility is the nature of our photoreceptors in the eye that are responsive to different wavelengths of light, the cones. There are more so-called "red" cones than "blue" cones, the special cells in the eye that receives light information and send signals to the brain. Perhaps that is another reason why red is more prominent in the naming systems - our eyes are just constructed in a way that is more sensitive to those wavelengths. Same explanation can be said for green vs blue. According to this video green is often higher in the naming hierarchy than blue and it turns out there are more "green" cones than blue cones. Maybe someone else left a similar comment but I am not going to search through over 4000 comments to see. This is just my two cents.
Insiya Ali (25 days ago)
doesn’t the colour orange come from the fruit orange lol
Dustin James (26 days ago)
Black and white are all I see in my infancy Red and yellow then came to be
Krasipol (26 days ago)
Videos like these are the reason i love your Channel. I never thought about this topic as this interesting. Keep going with the amazing Contents.
Joan (26 days ago)
5:25 blue wasnt that common ? excuse me wtf ?? the sky ?
Sonic Mania (27 days ago)
I thought to my self, 'How and why did people name the colours of the colours these names?' so I searched it up and this video came up, so that's why I'm here.
Newbielim (27 days ago)
The moment you realise that you can’t imagine a new colour...
First (28 days ago)
Alex Prodan (28 days ago)
VSauce made a video on this
XCHDragox115 (28 days ago)
If you look at ancient civilizations, the colour if their pottery also points toward the advancement of there empire. First black figure pottery, then red figure pottery. More advanced civilizations will have blue as their third jump and after that it would be the rest of the colours
nano bot27 (29 days ago)
Waaait, purpurnie isn't basic, fioletoviy is basic, and it's kinda deeper and darker
subbadoro (29 days ago)
Can you see different italian color please: https://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lista_dei_colori
Grace W (30 days ago)
i love this video - so aesthetically satisfying and the sound effects of everything are so good
Rizaldi Fauzi (30 days ago)
in regions of indonesian. old people are difficult to differetiate blue and green.
Yggdrasil Tree Of Life (30 days ago)
I can’t believe the English language is missing the prettiest colour?! Where’s turquoise?!?
Glitter Pig (30 days ago)
This made no sense at all lol. I may just be stupid
Thanks but I still don't get it
Dylan Phaneuf (1 month ago)
arcross4682 (1 month ago)
I speak chinese/mandarin and there's definitely way more than just 6 basic colour terms.
Cohan Dora (1 month ago)
Mr. Bodymassagemachine (1 month ago)
Jordan Schneider (1 month ago)
beautiful video
Benson Harlan (1 month ago)
Isn’t homer just straight up blind
Carmele TAHA (1 month ago)
Oh My Frezhkajsking good they talk about my contryyy '' Côte d'Ivoire aka Ivory Coast'' I love it 😭😍
Azure Wing (1 month ago)
The Japanese have a word called *ao* that substitutes for green and blue. But when green got a word called midori,it was not widely used. Due to a mistranslation,most Japanese roadlights are blue.
Lucas Prieto (1 month ago)
I love how he says industrialized societies and no Southamericab countries appear :) a proud Peruvian I am :)
SwigtimeFoxy (1 month ago)
I’ve misread Pantone as Pantene
Simran Johal (1 month ago)
blue was scarce before manufacturing.... wtf just look up! these arguments are illogical
cao (1 month ago)
yeah but mandarin has words for light green, pink, purple, blue, brown and orange just to name a few this is inaccurate
Estée Opolis (1 month ago)
In Māori, 'puru' is the transliteration of 'blue'. The traditional word is 'kahurangi'.
oscar75722 (1 month ago)
This was surprisingly the most fascinating thing I have heard all day.
Nev (1 month ago)
Wagen Low Yi Khang (1 month ago)
In Chinese we have 14 colors, I think so 红/朱/赤,橙/橘,黄,绿/青,青/蓝,靛, 紫,黑/墨,白,灰,米,褐/棕,银,金 Red, Orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, purple, black, white, gray, peach, brown, silver, gold.
Mary (1 month ago)
I thought i was color blind for a second when they said blue purple and brown. i forgot my blue light filter was on and saw green and two different shades of brown
gex (1 month ago)
Is this a reused thumbnail I see?
BookwormLi (1 month ago)
Fun fact: blue and green are actually closer on the color spectrum than violet and indigo. Weird how so many languages have distinct words for the former, but lump the latter into "purple".
Keep it Short (1 month ago)
Sadly they never studied the treasure chest : Indian Cultures, where there are names for all primary colors as well as colors relatable with objects. Ex: Primary ( using only Hindi) Laal : Red Hara : Green Neela : Blue Kaala : Black Safed : White Bhura : Brown etc Peela : Yellow Relatable ; Santrila : Orange ( Santra- fruit ) Kesariya : Saffron ( Kesar-plant ) Aasmani : Sky Blue ( Aasman-Sky ) Gehua : Wheatish - Yellow Brown ( Gehu - Wheat ) etc And this is only one language
zounaVFX (1 month ago)
0:36 -> sinine valkone punane
Prot Eus (1 month ago)
I would like to know the references to the greek colors at 2:25. Normally, πορφυρός means deep red. It comes near purple territory but definitely not that purple. Also κυανός does not mean indigo, but a blue closer to cyan. The swatches are not very indicative of the ancient greek color names I (strongly) believe.
Stevie Darling (1 month ago)
1:01 chartreuse
Bruce Leroy (1 month ago)
Don't act like we don't have a word for turquoise, lightblue, baby blue, sky blue, aqua, Pink and Rose.
dacealksne (1 month ago)
Alperen Aydin (1 month ago)
An interesting fact, the first three football teams in my country literally followed the list of the colors in this video for their team colors, the first black-white (it was red-white at the beginning which is close but then changed to the black-white), the second is red-yellow, and the third is yellow-blue(dark). Kinda interesting to see that they literally followed the natural order of the color identification.
Marcel Huchwajda (1 month ago)
Red is a beautiful color
Harris Hartman (1 month ago)
Well, it tells us that despite our many differences across cultures and societies... There is something universal about how humans try to make sense of the world.
Sommanker (1 month ago)
"Blue was relatively scarce" Umm What about the sky?
la solitude (1 month ago)
3:42 oh, look at brazil
Tori G (1 month ago)
that extra Russian color is light blue and it's not considered a separate color, it's a shade of blue. in Russia and in the US. no difference

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