Traces of Colors VI – The Color of the Sun: Yellow

Greetings from a sunny day. After a week of overcast skies, it’s a great feeling to see the color of the sun and soak in its warmth, even if the weather is cold. I took a walk by the river and fed the ducks. The river, bathed in the yellow of the sun, had a pleasant color.

It started like the beginning of a pastoral story, but no, I’m just giving a tribute to the color we’ll try to understand this week: yellow. My favorite color 🙂


According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the English word “yellow” is derived from Old English “geolu,” which is similar to the Old High German word “gelo.” The color resembles ripe lemons or sunflowers. Yellow in Turkish is “sarı” and it is first recorded in history in the Orkhon Inscriptions as “sarık,” meaning “yellow color.” It is derived from the root *saŕ, with the suffix +Ig.

When it comes to yellow, associations can be divided into positive and negative.

a) Positive Associations:

Like all primary colors, the first meaning of yellow comes from nature. Yellow is the color of the sun, autumn, and, as in the deserts of Arab lands, it is the color of nature. The first abstract meaning is positive, reminiscent of gold. Both in Arabic and English, natural yellow is associated with gold and autumn. For example, the yellowing of plants in autumn is considered a sign of new life beginning.

Yellow is associated with the sun and its life-giving, productive powers. In many cultures, the sun was worshipped as a god. According to Greek mythology, the sun god Helios wore a yellow garment while riding in a golden chariot drawn by four fiery horses across the sky. The bright yellow light of the sun personified divine wisdom. In Mexican cosmology, golden yellow was the color of the Earth’s new skin before it turned green again at the beginning of the rainy season, so yellow is associated with the mystery of renewal. In China, yellow is associated with the center of the universe. A creation myth tells how the first humans were made from yellow clay. Yellow was the sacred color of the Yellow Emperor. The term “Huangpao jia shen” (literally “to have the yellow robe added” by one’s supporters) means to be made or declared an emperor. In Buddhism, yellow represents humility, so it is used in the saffron robes of monks.

b) Negative Associations:

Both Arabic and English have many common negative meanings for yellow. In both languages, it can signify sickness, weakness, envy, lies, and more. Yellow heralds old age and approaching death. According to Tewa Pueblo Native Americans, it is the color of the west, associated with one direction of the underworld. For the Chinese, black and yellow were the colors of the “yellow springs,” 黃泉, the subterranean chasms leading to the kingdom of the dead. In Chinese symbolism, yellow is born from black, just as the world emerged from primordial waters. In English, yellow can be a sign of a disease affecting the liver, especially jaundice. In Chinese opera traditions, actors paint their faces yellow as a sign of cruelty, deceit, and mockery. In the West, a yellow flag was used to symbolize sickness and quarantine.

Despite the many negative connotations assigned to yellow, it remains my favorite color. For me, it symbolizes the sun and warmth. Even on these cloudy, cold, and gloomy winter days, it still appeals to me, despite the numerous negative associations from different cultures.

These positive and negative meanings have developed based on people’s experiences with the color “yellow” throughout history. In other words, it is a result of the etymological effects or influences on the language and culture of human behavior. In fact, there has never been complete consistency in the use and meanings of colors across cultures. While yellow may symbolize “deceit” and “cowardice” in Northern Europe, it is the color of royalty in China, represents “humility” and “surrender” in Buddhist tradition, and is associated with the West in the Maya civilization of Central America.

If I were to summarize the last three parts of this series, firstly, the broadened and additional abstract meanings assigned to colors are developed through people’s experiences with these terms. Additionally, these extended, broadened, or abstract meanings of colors often extend beyond their original or natural meanings. This is due to the fact that people, regardless of their cultural languages and histories, often understand color terms and experiences similarly.

Now we are familiar with yellow. I’ve made plenty of room for it in my wardrobe. I’ve also completed the meanings of colors with this piece.

Wishing you a day, week, month, and year filled with the warmth of yellow.


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).


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