White is an achromatic color that is usually contrasted with black to be the exact opposite: it is absolute clarity or the absence of darkness.
But that’s not just the case, because beyond what is technically the target is the impact it has on the human mind. An impact modulated by the culture in which we live and by the system of symbols whose reality is experienced, of course, and which is linked to a series of sensations and concepts that evoke the vision of us.
In this article we will see what white means in different societies and cultures, Focusing mostly on western countries.
What does white mean in different cultures?
It should be noted that there is no universal meaning of the color white, but it it has always intervened by the cultural context in which we were educated and that influences us on a daily basis. So let’s see what concepts and sensations white evokes by distinguishing by cultural blocks.
As we will see, in Western countries, the balnco is associated with a certain number of concepts associated with a fragile and momentary equilibrium, a state in which there is neither antagonisms nor stridences. Somehow these place the target in a position of closeness to the spiritual, which has traditionally been considered beyond matter and not subject to the imperfections of the earthly.
1. Purity and naivety
The paradox of white is that, although it is the combination of all the colors present in the rainbow, it represents purity. This has been the meaning of white most associated with white, comprising out of purity, normally, that which has not been corrupted, so it has clear moral connotations.
Perhaps this is because the color white is seen as something of precarious existence, which can fade when another element comes in contact with it; the pristine spots when the white is overrun with dirt from other elements.
For a similar reason, in Western countries white signifies innocence, because it is linked to childhood, which did not have time to be corrupted. It is a fatalistic perception of the cycle of life which is embodied in our way of attributing meanings to this color. In addition, the concept of naivety is also linked to white.
On the other hand, as white is purity, it is also widely used in ceremonies related to the sacred, because it is said that before the divine one must present oneself without spot. Wedding dresses are the clearest example.
2. How clean
In addition, white represents clean, sterilized, also related to purity. For that, it is widely used in hospitality and healthcare, To reassure people and convey a sense of calm.
Another of the meanings of white is that of peace, which is often symbolized by the figure of a white dove. In fact, also for that it is linked to the flag of capitulations and to those used to call for a truce.
The reason why white signifies peace may have to do with the fact that it goes beyond the typical chromatic compositions of the flags and emblems of the clans that face each other in battles.
While the rest of the colors are usually present in specific figures which serve to distinguish the sides, white is seen as something with its own entity, being the union of all colors, and therefore is beyond logic. frontist based on division.
From what we have seen, white too represents the absence of matter, the void. This representation of nothingness makes it possible to situate the target in the concept of what exists “by default”, independently of everything else.
An empty space is there without anything having to fill it, since the white is nothing, and it will become full when we add something to it. Perhaps it has to do with the sense of purity, which leads us to think of this color as if it were an element to which nothing has affected it yet, and to which everything is to be added.
Interestingly, in China white is traditionally symbolized death and bad luck. In weddings, instead of white, the color red was used.
In Indian culture, white symbolizes the contemplative and remote life from the rest of society, something related to the Western notion of purity, but with more social and isolating connotations. This is why widows usually turn white and not black.
- Plochere color system. Kenneth L. Kelly and Deanne B. Judd. (1976): “Color: Universal Language and Dictionary of Names”, National Bureau of Standards, Spec. Publication 440
- Heller, Eva (2012). Psychology of color. Barcelona: Gustavo Gili.