rainbow: number of colours/colors

Discussion in 'All Languages' started by TitTornade, Nov 11, 2012.

  1. TitTornade

    TitTornade Senior Member

    According to Newton's studies, the tradition in France says that a rainbow is made of 7 colours :
    Fr. Violet, indigo, bleu, vert, jaune, orange, rouge (Eng. violet, indigo, blue, green, yellow, orange, red)

    Actually, the number of colours is infinite...

    My question : how many colours do you traditionnally see in a rainbow according to your language/culture ?
    I would like to know if the lack of a colour word (e.g. orange) could lead to rainbows with less colours or if your language possesses other specific colours that we could find in a rainbow with 8 or 9 or more colours.
  2. rusita preciosa

    rusita preciosa Modus forendi

    USA (Φιλαδέλφεια)
    Russian (Moscow)
    Russian: 7
    красный /krasnyi/ - red
    оранжевый /orangevyi/ - orange
    жёлтый /joltyi/ - yellow
    зелёный /zelenyi/ - green
    голубой /goluboy/ - light blue
    синий /sinyi/ - blue
    фиолетовый /fioletovyi/ - purple

    (interestingly, the French rainbow seems to start from the opposite side of the spectrum compared to the Russian one :D)
  3. merquiades

    merquiades Senior Member

    Lorraine in France
    English (US Northeast)
    I never thought of this before. I checked in English and it seems like it is the same as in French but starting with red, orange, yellow, green, blue... and ending with indigo and purple. I didn't know about the indigo stage. Personally looking at a rainbow I agree with Rusita that there is a sky blue and navy blue stage.
  4. ilocas2 Banned

    I don't think that in Czech there is a fixed list of colours of rainbow. So I'll only translate it.

    red - červená
    orange - oranžová
    yellow - žlutá
    green - zelená
    light blue - světle modrá
    blue - modrá
    purple - fialová
  5. rusita preciosa

    rusita preciosa Modus forendi

    USA (Φιλαδέλφεια)
    Russian (Moscow)
    The fact that there are languages where the list of colors is not fixed, surprised me.

    In Russian there is even a little mnemonic to remember the 7 colors in order - a sentense where each word starts with the same letter as the corresponding color: каждый охотник желает знать где сидит фазан (every hunter wishes to know where sits [the] pheasant).
  6. ilocas2 Banned

    I just looked at a site with Czech mnemonics and there are 4 about the order of colours in the rainbow. One is with 7 colours - red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, purple and 3 are with 6 colours - red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple.
  7. binary_death Member

    Galicia, Spain
    Spanish, Catalan
    In Catalan:

    red - vermell
    orange - taronja
    yellow - groc
    green - verd
    light blue - blau clar
    blue - blau fosc
    purple - porpra

    In Spanish:

    red - rojo
    orange - naranja
    yellow - amarillo
    green - verde
    light blue - azul claro
    blue - azul oscuro/marino
    purple - púrpura
  8. TitTornade

    TitTornade Senior Member

    Thank you for your information !

    Rusita : I never notice that the order between red and violet or between violet and red was important ! It is intersting to know that the mnemonic in russian is choosen for an order: from red to violet !
    In French, everyone wonders what this "indigo" colour is, because we can't really see it between violet and blue. The Czech, Spanish, Catalan and Russian are more clear by distinguishing blue and light blue !

    I'm very interested in the Czech version given by Ilocas, because it reduces the 7 colours from Newton to 6. Certainly because there is no specific word for "light blue" !

    Any other languages with different colours ?

    Actually, before Newton, some scientifics said that a rainbow was made of 4 or of 5 or of 6 colors, according to their point of view...
  9. Selyd Senior Member

    Ukrainian: 7
    червоний /chervonyi/ - red
    помаранчевий /pomaranchevyi/ - orange
    жовтий /jovtyi/ - yellow
    зелений /zelenyi/ - green
    блакитний /blakytnyi/ - light blue
    синій /synii/ - blue
    бузковий /buzkoovyi/ - purple
  10. Rallino Moderatoúrkos

    In Turkish: 7

    Mor - Purple
    Lacivert - Dark blue
    Mavi - Blue
    Yeşil - Green
    Sarı - Yellow
    Turuncu - Orange
    Kırmızı - Red

    I remember a mnemonic from my physics classes: MALIM YASTIK (The consonants give the initials in the right order, starting from the darkest colour.)
  11. apmoy70

    apmoy70 Senior Member

    In Greek the rainbow colours are also 7:

    «Κόκκινο» ['kocino] (coll.), «Ερυθρό» [eri'θro] (form.) --> red
    «Πορτοκαλί» [portoka'li] --> orange
    «Κίτρινο» ['citrino] --> yellow
    «Πράσινο» ['prasino] --> green
    «Γαλάζιο» [ɣa'lazi.o] --> light blue
    «Μπλε» [ble] (coll.), «Κυανό» [ci.a'no] (form.) --> blue
    «Μοβ» [mov] (coll.), «Ιώδες» [i'oðes] (form.) --> violet
  12. TitTornade

    TitTornade Senior Member

    Thank you for your contributions...
    I notice that most of the rainbows have 2 blue parts. Almost each language has a specific word for each blue, expect Czech and Spanish / Catalan that indicates light and dark blue (or something).

    Apmoy: the colloquial words for blue and violet look very French ("bleu" & "mauve", prononced something as "Μπλε" and "Μοβ")... Any connection ?
  13. ahmedcowon Senior Member

    In Arabic they are the same 7 colors:

    أحمر (Ahmar) - Red

    برتقالي (Bortuqali) - Orange

    أصفر (Asfar) - Yellow

    أخضر (Akhdar) - Green

    أزرق (Azraq) - Blue

    نيلي (Neeli) - Indigo

    بنفسجي (Banafseji) - Violet
  14. L'irlandais

    L'irlandais Senior Member

    Dreyeckland/Alsace region
    Ireland: English-speaking ♂
    Mnemonic in English - Richard of York gave battle in vain.

    Green Blue
    (Indigo) *must go, going, going, gone!

    *However now-a-days (21st Century) it is generally accepted (in scientific circles, ;) perhaps not yet by linguists :warning:) that indigo and violet are just different shades of one and the same colour.
    The spectrum now being divided up by precise waveband lenghts, rather than simply by eye.
    Last edited: Nov 14, 2012
  15. mataripis

    mataripis Senior Member

    In Tagalog it is called "balangaw" (General) or "Bahaghari" (in Katagalugan only). Most People are not aware about the exact numbers of colors in rainbow spectrum. Here are the Tagalog terms for colors. 1.) Red= Pula(h) 2.) Orange= Dalandan 3.) Yellow= Dilaw 4.) Green= Lunti/Luntian 5.) Blue= Bughaw 6.) Indigo= bulaw na lila(h) 7.) Violet= Lila(h)
  16. L'irlandais

    L'irlandais Senior Member

    Dreyeckland/Alsace region
    Ireland: English-speaking ♂
    En français, la concaténation de la première lettre de 7 couleurs de l’arc-en-ciel, (dans leur ordre spectral) forme le mot suivant : VIBUJOR

  17. apmoy70

    apmoy70 Senior Member

    Hi TitTornade I apologize for my late response, but you have guessed right, both «μπλε» and «μοβ» (which are colloquialisms) are French loan words and quite recent ones (early 20th c.). We've also "borrowed" «ροζ» [roz] from rose for pink, «μπορντό» [bor'do] from bordeaux for claret, and a few more :)
  18. bibax Senior Member

    Czech (Prague)
    English uses "violet" (hence ultraviolet - UV) for the spectral color, not "purple". Purple is a non-spectral color (it is a mixture of colors).

    Similarly other European languages: Spanish - violeta (not púrpuro), Czech - fialový, Ukrainian - фіолетовий, Hungarian - ibolya, Croatian - ljubičasta, Greek - Ιώδες, etc.

    All from the plant viola/violet (Viola odorata), = fialka in Czech (Russian, Ukrainian, ...), = ibolya in Hungarian, = ljubica in Croatian, = Ίον in Greek, etc.
    Last edited: Nov 16, 2012
  19. e2-e4 X Senior Member

    Sorry, I can't understand... Human's eye is not a spectroscope, all it can do is to generate a certain colour sensation out of a mixture of waves, which as well corresponds to the mixture of waves that consists of a single wave with a certain wavelength — that's why we can feel the colours on a computer's screen, a three-wave mixture gets into the eye, but we feel it like it was a single wave with a certain colour and intensity. At least, so do I understand the question.

    Therefore, there are no non-spectral colours, and the division of the spectrum may be arbitrary in different languages. So, in some languages the purple may as well make a part of the spectrum division, just like any other colour range may.
    Last edited: Nov 16, 2012
  20. merquiades

    merquiades Senior Member

    Lorraine in France
    English (US Northeast)
    Well, let's not mix scientific precision and linguistic habits. Violet is obviously more precise than purple, that's why it's used in all the science documents regarding rainbows, etc. etc. Hence ultraviolet ray... Yet in common English people refer to violet colour as purple. Violet is rather technical, you can also see it in fashion magazines too. They would say golden, violet and azure tones rather than yellow, purple and blue colours, for example. As far as our rainbows I can see both being correct in their appropriate contexts. But people obviously understand both when they hear them.
    In Spanish and French for example, the opposite occurs... violeta/violet is much more commonly used when speaking than púrpura/pourpre, in most contexts I would venture to say.
    Last edited: Nov 17, 2012
  21. bibax Senior Member

    Czech (Prague)
    However, the established terminology is that violet is a spectral color existing in the spectrum, while purple is a combination of two spectral colors (red and blue). Seeing purple you can see a similar color like violet, but it is not violet (i.e. spectral color). Pure violet cannot be exactly reproduced by a RGB color system. In any RGB system violet only can be approximated by mixing blue and red. The (normal) human eye is able to detect a difference.

    Interestingly the word for the spectral color violet is etymologically related to the plant viola/violet in most European languages.
  22. Yondlivend Senior Member

    American English
    Even though the English rainbow has already been posted (and as in post #14, we tend to start with "red," not "violet") I figured I'd mention that growing up I didn't learn a phrase using the first letters of each color. Rather, the first letters formed a name:

    Roy G. Biv (/ɹɔɪ ʤiː bɪv/)

    People have even made up stories about this character, but I can't remember any at the moment.
  23. origumi Senior Member

    Two observation about Hebrew:

    * In Hebrew there are no commonly used words for purple vs. violet vs. indigo. Lacking a way to directly describe these colors changes the way we grasp them. It's difficult for me as a native Hebrew to intuitively understand the discussion above about the differences. For us a color in this family is either red (adom), blue (kakhol), purple (sagol, 1:1 red and blue), or a fuzzy mixture.

    * Although Hebrew and Arabic are of the same language family and have usually many cognates, non of the seven colors listed above for Arabic has a similar name in Hebrew.
  24. rusita preciosa

    rusita preciosa Modus forendi

    USA (Φιλαδέλφεια)
    Russian (Moscow)
    I also am not sure I understand your point. May be this is a question of "false friends" between English and other European languages and not the question of technical terminology? In Russian фиолетовый /fioletovyi/ (cognate of "violet") is a "generic" name for a range of colors between red and blue. In English such "generic" name is "purple". If you ask me to translate "фиолетовое платье" into English I'd say "purple dress", not "violet dress".
  25. e2-e4 X Senior Member

    Thank you for the point. :) Yes, this one looks to be a false friend. For example, in Russian, on the contrary, we only use «фиолетовый» in everyday life, while «пурпурный» is reserved for the high style of the old books. The question is, whether in English violet and purple are really different colours, or the difference is entirely stylistic. As for Russian, I don't know.
    Last edited: Nov 17, 2012
  26. bibax Senior Member

    Czech (Prague)
    Rusita, you are right. Real objects (like your dress) are purple, not violet. But you have used the term "purple" in connection with rainbow. I wanted to point out that in this context English uses "violet" (at least in physics), i.e. the spectral color of the shortest wavelengths of visible light.

    Most colours we are able to see are non-existent in the spectrum. They are non-spectral (extraspectral) as they are combinations of spectral colours (white is the most prominent example). On the other side some spectral colours like violet (emitted by a monochromatic light source) cannot be accurately reproduced by any combination of red, green, blue.
    Last edited: Nov 17, 2012
  27. OneStroke Senior Member

    Hong Kong, China
    Chinese - Cantonese (HK)
    In Hong Kong Cantonese, the 'layman's' colours are: 紅 [hung4, red]、橙 [caang2, orange]、黃 [wong4, yellow]、綠 [luk9, green]、青 [cing1(formal)/ceng1(informal), light green (in modern Chinese) or blue (in older Chinese)]、藍 [laam4, blue]、紫 [zi2, violet] (I don't know if this is the case in other dialects).

    The odd one out is obviously 青, which, aside from not being included in the 'official' spectrum of 紅橙黃綠藍靛紫 (red orange yellow green blue indigo violet), is also not very clear semantically.
  28. ilocas2 Banned


    6 or 7 colours (i.e. one or two kinds of blue)

    crvena - red
    narančasta - orange
    žuta - yellow
    zelena - green
    plava - blue, svijetloplava - light blue
    (modra - dark blue, indigo - indigo, modroplava, indigoplava, tamnoplava - dark blue)
    ljubičasta - violet

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