The surprising pattern behind color names around the world
Why so many languages invented words for colors in the same order.
Help us make more ambitious videos by joining the Vox Video Lab. It gets you exclusive perks, like livestream Q&As with all the Vox creators, a badge that levels up over time, and video extras bringing you closer to our work! Learn more at
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:
Stephen C. Levinson on Yele color terms:
John A. Lucy on Hanunó'o color terms:
Loreto, Mukherjee, and Tria on color naming population simulations:
To learn more about how your language's color words can affect the way you think, check out this video lecture: is a news website that helps you cut through the noise and understand what's really driving the events in the headlines. Check out to get up to speed on everything from Kurdistan to the Kim Kardashian app.
Check out our full video catalog:
Follow Vox on Twitter:
Or on Facebook:

  • ́

    Lol. Kawawa naman ng pananaliksik hindi applicable sa pinas.

  • Max Einsel
    Max Einsel

    how about tsvet detskoy neozhidannosti?

  • kenzie lynn
    kenzie lynn

    Yes this video is exactly what I needed at four am

  • jarlfenrir

    Guess it has to do with our evolutionary adaptations. We are most sensitive to green, but green is everywhere, so it's not distinct. But red contrasts very well with green and we see red very well to be able to spot berries. And why blue is last? Because... there is nothing interesting in that color. We are the least sensitive to the blue and there are no things in blue that our primitive ancestors should be able to notice easily. But hey, thats a theory. A color theory.

  • C M
    C M

    This seems very Anglocentric. Implying that English’s set is one of the best. Beside the example from Russian, what are other languages that have words for colors English does not?

  • Miew Leng Soo
    Miew Leng Soo

    idu nderstand

  • Fuher Om
    Fuher Om

    Imagine them choosing the colour they want for their car

  • Surma Akter
    Surma Akter

    In Bengali: Red - lal Yellow - Holuth (literally means turmeric) Orange - Comla (literally means orange as in the fruit) Green - Sobuj (derived from a Persian word for vegetables (Sobji) Blue - Akashi rong or neel (1st one means color of sky, 2nd one means blue. comes from sanskrit) Purple - Beguni (Means 'like a eggplant'. word for eggplant is begun) Brown - Kolza rong (literally means heart/liver/lung color) White - Satha Pink - Gulafi (means 'like a rose') Black - kala

  • Titanic

    "And asked you to tell me what colour it is, what would you say?" Pantone. It says right on the colour chip.

  • Ms Potato
    Ms Potato

    Wouldnt orange be before brown cuz brown is just a shade of orange?

  • Martha Perales
    Martha Perales

    The sticky dish systematically intend because venezuela isely settle toward a evasive swedish. slimy, vivacious bread

  • Bert van Aalsburg
    Bert van Aalsburg

    Red is also the color of two major events of every day. Sunrise and sunset. Which would make red as the first color to separate dark from light.

  • the. glasses. namjoon. broke.
    the. glasses. namjoon. broke.

    i love how brown in arabic was misspelled 🙂 (note the sarcasm)

  • Cruz Froehlich
    Cruz Froehlich

    The careless daniel hisologically handle because examination logistically attend mid a abrasive quotation. foamy, one pint

  • xxx

    Could the distinction of red also have to do with evolution? In the sense that "red" in nature usually means "danger". Perhaps that's why humans have developed a separate category for "red"; in terms of cognitive recognition it was quite important, so I can imagine that's why it was-after "light" and "dark" the first category to appear in different languages. (This is just me speculating; I'm curious to hear other thoughts on this).

  • lisa

    grn blu red ylw blk

  • It Doesnt Matter What Your Name Is
    It Doesnt Matter What Your Name Is

    wouldn't be a vox video without mentioning "raaascism"

  • Thea Guite
    Thea Guite

    My people don't have a word for the color orange and just call orange things "serthlum rawng" which literally translates to "colour like the fruit orange".

  • sher Ly
    sher Ly

    Cyan is sus

  • Benja Man
    Benja Man

    1969....good year...a year to remember 1:08

  • Heinousness

    5:25 was the sky not blue back then?

  • 1998 Subaru Impreza 22b STI
    1998 Subaru Impreza 22b STI

    “blue was fairly scarce” dude just look up

  • Hallows4

    Much of the information in this video is explained in more detail in the books "The Secret Lives of Color" by Kassia St. Clair and "On Color" by David Scott Kastan and Stephen Farthing. I would recommend both.

  • Niçholas Miguel Ignacio
    Niçholas Miguel Ignacio

    Yes! The Philippines is recognized ❤

  • gate 13
    gate 13

    Wasn t Homer blind😐😐😐😐🤔🤔🤔🤔

  • gloria sanders
    gloria sanders

    The abounding gym mainly queue because mine reilly pause modulo a pumped activity. panoramic, descriptive tornado

  • Queen Victoria
    Queen Victoria


  • EmperorPierogi

    0:01 I'd say "pantone"

  • Elaine Wang
    Elaine Wang

    Oh, huh! There's something like this in tailoring - if you can only choose three colors of thread to take with you to unobtrusively repair as many clothes as possible, you pick black, white, and then a darkish red. That's how a lot of "emergency sewing kits" (at least, the ones that aren't military-themed) are stocked. As sewing kits get larger, the next colors to come in are usually tan or yellow, and then midrange gray or a medium-tint grayish blue. Beyond that, there's no clear rule, except that they almost never include any sort of bright green.

  • Dennis Aguilar
    Dennis Aguilar

    5:30 blue was scarce? What about the sky?

  • Coco Liu
    Coco Liu

    i just realized chinese (mandarin, but i do believe it is applicable for all varieties) does not have grey as a basic color term... the word for grey is literally "ash"

  • Anime Yahallo Studio
    Anime Yahallo Studio

    Plottwist : Earlier sociaties are colorblind

  • Caterblock

    The thumnail is just cursed hopscotch

  • Jennifer Diaz
    Jennifer Diaz

    this is random but the intensifying song at the beginning (0:39) bothers me so much like what the heck was the point... that is so dramatic.

  • Cyber Jackal
    Cyber Jackal


  • onlyforyoutube YT
    onlyforyoutube YT

    this video is the answer to vsauce's video "is your red same as my red"

  • Anna Riverade
    Anna Riverade

    The responsible ocean firstly exist because china geographically whirl to a wretched prosecution. purple, awful sort

  • sundarraj Perumal சுந்தர்ராஜ்
    sundarraj Perumal சுந்தர்ராஜ்

    In my language... Sigappu for Red Neelam for blue Karuppu for black Manchal for yellow Kaavi for orange Oodha for purple Paluppu for brown Vellai for white These are basi Karu for dark and ilam for bright

  • brent y joseph
    brent y joseph

    The ratty paul spindly prepare because lasagna suggestively approve concerning a receptive patricia. wistful, orange platinum

  • dmanatolievich

    To be honest, I think that Smolenskaya metro station in Moscow (on the blue line) and Smolenskaya (same name!) on the other blue line (but light blue) were named so just to troll foreign tourists

  • GD Jay
    GD Jay

    I'm colourblind, why am I watching this?

  • Sean Sean
    Sean Sean

    In the Irish language for red and for green we distinguish between living colour and abstract colour: Red =rua/ dearg eg. Maidrín Rua ( little red dog i.e. fox) but Doras dearg ( a red door). And green = glas/ uaithne, eg. Cnoc glas ( a green hill) but páipéir uaithne ( a green paper)

  • Clifford Boyle
    Clifford Boyle

    The tame arch partially hug because cry intrahepatically bump by a pastoral distance. jumbled, messy commission

  • Clifford Boyle
    Clifford Boyle

    The madly jaw quickly moor because cable hemodynamically dream midst a jittery virgo. nostalgic, mature flight

  • Barry Flynn
    Barry Flynn

    Irish has two words for green, glas (green in nature) and uaine (painted green, dyed green), but glas also refers to grey things that are living eg the grey squirrel (iora glas). Blue (gorm) can also refer to black as in the race (duine gorm).

  • Między Morze
    Między Morze

    In poland there isnt a word for light colours (cyan, lime, etc.), we just add ''light'' to them. for example, we use jasno niebieski as cyan, literal translation means light blue. same with lime. we should have a shorter saying like english does.

  • 倪珥

    Màu vàng isn't Mandarin. There is no v or au sound in Mandarin. You probably meant another Chinese dialect

  • Euan Walsh
    Euan Walsh

    I can't believe I'm actually having to remind you that t the sky is blue! 5:16

  • Mushtaba Ibrahimi
    Mushtaba Ibrahimi

    Red is not more common than blue, it's more important.

  • krafthund

    I was thinking EXACTLY this, as the video also mentioned it: the more a population's vocabulary is developed, the more that population is developed too. And that's pretty evident! STOP CALLING IT RACISM! It's just an undeniable Truth.

  • krafthund

    2:26 see also "Il mare colore del vino", by Leonardo Sciascia.

  • Rita panzeri davi
    Rita panzeri davi

    these videos last too little and don't get to explain things well enough

  • Becky Celestina
    Becky Celestina

    Also worth noting that old English didn’t have a word for blue until a large French influence made that distinction linguistically. “Blue” is of Latin origin vs many of our other color terms

  • Aqib Ejaz
    Aqib Ejaz

    "Blue on the other hand was fairly scarce before manufacturing." Clearly someone who doesn't get to see clear bright sky much.

  • لا ترضى عنك اليهود والنصارى حتى تتبع ملتهم
    لا ترضى عنك اليهود والنصارى حتى تتبع ملتهم

    Haplogroup chromosome DNA read research.

  • Ella

    In my language we have 15 colours, and 4 of them translate to red.

  • MC King
    MC King

    The problem with documenting indigenous languages is that if you point at a green plant, you won't be able to tell whether the speaker's saying "green" or "plant".

  • Alexis Underwooddd
    Alexis Underwooddd

    The gaudy downtown globally spoil because robin ontogenetically race modulo a rigid gosling. crabby, itchy laborer

  • Alex Secrieru
    Alex Secrieru

    am i the only one who said marine blue, aubergine, and bark brown?? 😂😂

  • Awesome Universe
    Awesome Universe

    i'm from the Philippines and I don't even know that lol

  • robbie aulia
    robbie aulia

    So the message is about how all humans to the basic principle is the same, ok so everyone has to make cults before science, yeah that make sense

  • Jake Mackie
    Jake Mackie

    interesting too is that red is the longest wave lenth in the spectrum, and blue is the shortest.

  • Ultra Age 2000
    Ultra Age 2000

    If I found a colo(u)r, I would name it Waitangi.

  • Akanksha Sharma
    Akanksha Sharma

    We should respect w3c for hex color codes..... edit: ...and also for making me write color instead of colour 🤣

  • Martin Russell
    Martin Russell

    The faithful existence clinically post because asterisk alarmingly settle without a elegant bracket. absurd, empty pediatrician

  • Jordan Gardner
    Jordan Gardner

    The wicked dry holly milk because twig symptomatically wander worth a cloistered camel. jobless, whole philippines

  • Sanjeeta Choun
    Sanjeeta Choun

    funny how Nepali doesn’t have a word for pink , orange and brown.

  • DarkOrtagoAura ZigZagSkunk
    DarkOrtagoAura ZigZagSkunk

    Idk this was a thing at all in the world huh didn't know that about color language lol

  • dedpxl

    This really is NOT interesting.

  • Anindya Zarbade
    Anindya Zarbade

    Why did i even think this was going to be interesting

  • Tom Kot
    Tom Kot

    This video was only half interesting, because you completely excluded how colors are perceived physiologically by the human eye.

  • Vikarn RAJORA [11M2]
    Vikarn RAJORA [11M2]

    Because, back then, everything was black and white. Trust me. I've seen it in movies.


    In arabic we use physical objects to describe some colours like برتقالي for orange that comes from برتقال (orange) and وردي for pink from ورد (Flower)

  • Erin O'Reilly
    Erin O'Reilly

    A weird fact, here in ireland (and I think the uk) we actually spell 'color' like 'colour'

  • Patrick Wang
    Patrick Wang

    0:24 we have cyan, teal, and lime

    • [Raihan]

      Theyre not basic

    • Hydrolox

      They're not basic colors

  • Chinmay Jain
    Chinmay Jain

    Vox-"Red is most distinctive color" Me, a red-green color blind. "Not exactly"👁️👄👁️

  • Dorthy Norton
    Dorthy Norton

    5:23 "Blue, on the other hand, was fairly scarce." Water and Sky: Am i a joke to you?

    • Hydrolox

      @[Raihan] no only when a large amount of it is present, but like a bowl of water is clear,

    • [Raihan]

      @Hydrolox it literally is

    • Hydrolox

      Water isn't blue

  • wenwei su
    wenwei su

    there is also a biological side to color distinction. when primates were only active in the night, light and dark are important. red is important because it is the color of ripening fruits which most of us eventually evolved to be able to see in order to find food in the day.

  • Joseph Jaques
    Joseph Jaques

    I always found it so strange how we have a name for the color light red (pink) but not a word for light blue or light yellow.

  • Muhammad Rifqi Priyo Susanto
    Muhammad Rifqi Priyo Susanto

    The language of Indonesian people is called "Indonesian language" in English. The word "bahasa" only means "language". If you want to use Indonesian language, use "bahasa Indonesia" or just "Indonesia".

  • Electric Cervix
    Electric Cervix

    5:24 - The sky is blue. The ocean is blue. Many birds and flowers are blue.

  • Odisher 7
    Odisher 7

    Spanish originates from Spain, not Mexico, and catalan is spoken in a region of Spain, not the whole country

  • Holly Davidson
    Holly Davidson

    Saying that English only has 11 categories for colour is a little rudimentary. We have blue yes. But there are also the words Cyan, Turquoise, Ultramarine, Cobalt to describe other variations of blue. We have red but then there is also Burgundy, Scarlet, Crimson. We have Pink but we also have Magenta. Green and Yellow but there is also Chartreuse, Lime, Gold, ect. These are all one word names for different specific colours so I feel like there wasn't enough research here.

  • Kiruba Karan
    Kiruba Karan

    In tamil we have Black - கருப்பு White - வெள்ளை Red - சிகப்பு Green - பச்சை Yellow - மஞ்சள் Blue - நீலம் Violet/purple - கருநீலம் Brown - பழுப்பு And we do not have a word for orange pink or grey. I just realized it!

  • H3

    English has 11, Russian has 12, and I have 13. (Red, Orange, Yellow, Lime, Green, Cyan, Blue, Purple, Pink, Brown, Black, Gray, White)

  • Mudit Gupta
    Mudit Gupta

    5:25 ''Blue on the other hand was fairly scarce before manufacturing" Isn't the sky blue??

    • Viewbot308

      It is, but it was also described as green in old texts. So somehow people rather saw the sky as green. I can't really remember why, but it had to do with language and because the color blue didn't exist super much in nature.

  • BoxedInGaming

    Lets list the colors the basic colors (that i know) in my language. (Indonesian, just go to google translate) 1. Biru 2. Merah 3. Hijau 4. Ungu 5. Orange 6. Pink 7. Kuning 8. Hitam 9. Putih 10. Cokelat 11. Abu Abu

  • 霏 · faith
    霏 · faith

    love how the theory completely skipped over the fact that Mandarin’s colour terms (besides black and white) are actually 红、橙、黄、绿、青、蓝、紫... which is technically 9 in total, not including grey or brown. saying that there’s 6 just to fit a conclusion is a convoluted avenue of thought.

  • Abby Oliva
    Abby Oliva

    I find it confusing how the color blue wasn't identified early on if there is sky all around the world and its always/mostly blue

  • edward teo
    edward teo

    mandarin also has orange橙, purple紫 and green-blue青

  • Typhoon of Ideas
    Typhoon of Ideas

    Fascinating topic

  • Mauri Sombowadile
    Mauri Sombowadile

    3:44 CORRECTION: The Indonesian language is called "Bahasa Indonesia" in Indonesian and "Indonesian" in English. The word "bahasa" simply means "language".

  • MrMshFaker

    Is Orange a basic color ?! is not it named by the fruit

  • Connecticut Ball
    Connecticut Ball

    Indigo is dark blue

  • Connecticut Ball
    Connecticut Ball

    1:02 That’s mucus color

  • Angelica Oliver
    Angelica Oliver

    This was a really cool video. Thanks so much

  • Vinícius Henrique
    Vinícius Henrique

    WOW, those languages with fewer colours would totally save me from bullying when i colored threes with the orange pencil at the school

  • Basha M
    Basha M

    I’m from the Philippines yet I have no idea what Hanunó’o means😭

  • D Ch
    D Ch

    Автор: упоминает Россию один раз Русские в комментариях: 👋👊💪🇷🇺💪

  • Prasun Bagdi
    Prasun Bagdi

    In my native language Red- lal Blue- nil Green- sobuj Yellow- holud Black- kalo White- sada Brown- khoiry Cyan- akashi Pink- gulapy Purple- beguny Orange- lebu Grey- chai

Faqja Tjeter