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Traces of Colors V – Symbolic Meanings of Blue

Hello,

The new year is approaching, and it’s time for a new beginning. What color would you like the main color of this year to be? Purple, blue, white, yellow? Or perhaps a variety of colors like a rainbow. Imagine a huge bouquet composed of all the colors our eyes can perceive, and even those we cannot. It would be wonderful. Each color would find its place in our lives with its own meaning, effect, and beauty.

But today, let’s focus on a single color: blue. I’m curious about how it appears when you take a closer look. After all, the largest areas our eyes perceive are blue. The sea is blue, the sky is blue. It must have a significant impact on us and evoke powerful associations. How distinct is the meaning of blue across different cultures and times? Let’s take a look.

Blue

According to Merriam-Webster dictionary, the modern English word „blue“ is derived from Middle English „bleu“ or „blewe.“ The Turkish word for blue is „mavi“, which is borrowed from the Arabic word „māˀī“ or „māwī“ ماءى/ماوى, means „related to water, water-like, the color of water, blue.“ In Arabic, „māˀ ماء“ comes from the root „mwh,“ which means „water.“ Historically, many cultures around the world did not distinguish blue from green. For example, in the beginning, there was no specific Chinese word for blue; instead, „qing“ represented all shades from deep green to blue. The present-day Chinese word „lan-藍“ actually means „indigo,“ the color of simple work clothes. In Chinese, there are no distinct terms that separate „blue“ from „green“; „qing“ encompasses both. These words have both positive and negative connotations.

a) Positive Connotations: The most fundamental and prominent symbolic meaning of blue is its association with nature, as it is the color of the natural world. It holds symbolic significance in many religions due to its association with the sacredness of the sea and the sky. It is associated with the soul and the divine.

Whether celestial or oceanic, blue evokes thoughts of vast, open spaces and is linked to infinity and primal emptiness. The blue of the sky is associated with distance and the gods. In ancient Egypt, gods and pharaohs were often depicted with blue beards and wigs. The Hindu god Krishna was depicted as blue. It is the color of peace and purity, symbolizing the infinity of truth and God. In some cultures, it is believed that blue amulets ward off the evil eye. In English tradition, the term „blue-blooded“ is used to mean „aristocratic or socially superior.“ Yes, human blood is red, but in the 15th century, many Spanish aristocrats had fair skin that made their veins appear bluer than those of the darker-skinned Maqribi people. It was all about the visibility of veins. Additionally, blue is a popular color for all kinds of authorities, especially those representing stability and conservatism.

b) Negative Connotations: Blue is also associated with negative meanings. For instance, blue eyes have been associated with jealousy, and blue skin/body with death and illness. Depression, gloom, and profound sadness have also been linked to blue.

In Arab culture, blue carries similar meanings to black, acting as a semantic extension of it. It conveys meanings of death, sorrow, and illness. In English, it is the color of sadness and depression. From this perspective, it has been suggested that the meanings of blue are derived from the color of skin associated with illness and death.

Ancient China had an uncertain attitude towards color. In traditional art, creatures with blue faces were seen as demons or ghosts. The blue-faced god „Kui-hsing“ 魁星 was originally a scholar who failed in his ambitions and committed suicide. Blue was traditionally viewed as an angry color, as seen in phrases like „blue-faced“ 臉綠 and „bruised“ color. Even today, people use „black and blue“ 瘀青 to describe the bruise left after an injury. Blue represents the extremes of calm emotions, which is why it is often equated with depression – phrases like „feeling blue“ or having the „blues“ indicate this. It can also symbolize withdrawal, isolation, loneliness, and instability. In colloquial English, „out of the blue“ refers to events that happen suddenly and unexpectedly. „Once in a blue moon“ means very rarely. Blue has an important place in ancient tales as well.

The meanings of blue vary depending on the situation, culture, and time. I personally love blue in nature but don’t wear it often. Everyone has one – or a few – colors that suit them, right?

I hope to meet you next week in the most beautiful color. I saved the best for last.

Wishing you a colorful week.

References:

Agirel, S. (2009). Colour Symbolism in Turkish and Azeri Folk Literature Source: Folklore 120(1), pp. 92-101

Hasan, A. A., Al-Sammerai, N. S. M. & Abdul Kadir, F. A. B. (2011). How Colours are Semantically Construed in the Arabic and English Culture: A Comparative study. English Language Teaching, 4(3).

https://www.etimolojiturkce.com/kelime/mavi

Hui-Chih Yu. (2014). A Cross-Cultural Analysis of Symbolic Meanings of Color Chang Gung Journal of Humanities and Social Sciences, 7(1), pp. 49-74