The symbolism of the colour green

The last time I spoke to you about the power of colours, I introduced you to the colour red. Today, let’s look at the symbolism of the colour green.

Green in history

Green was not a difficult colour to reproduce, as it could be obtained from many plants. The problem was to stabilise it. These dyes from leaves, roots or flowers did not hold up well on textiles, they quickly faded. It was the same struggle for paints: natural dyes wore out in the light. Later on, the same problem was encountered with photography: when you look at old photos from the 1960s and the colours are faded, it is always the volatile green that has gone first.

So green has become the colour of instability. That’s why today it represents change, variation, everything that moves and varies. It also includes gambling and chance, especially gambling.
In the Middle Ages, jesters and jugglers dressed in green. In the casinos of Venice in the 16th century, the card mats were green (the “green language” was the slang of the players). At the French court in the 17th century, people played on green tables.
Today, it is the colour of many playing fields, not only football pitches. Go Green!

By extension, green has become the colour of banking, of finance in general, and therefore of money. It is no coincidence that, around 1861, American printers chose the colour green for the first “In God we trust” dollar notes!

Another symbolism comes from the use of artificial materials, such as verdigris. When copper arsenate was first used to make green, its reputation took another hit: as the pigment contains arsenic, it was compared to a poison, and greens were poisonous, toxic! As a result, it also became the colour of bad luck as it brought bad luck…

encre verte diluée
Photo by engin akyurt on Unsplash

Green in the world

For everyone, green is the colour of nature, of spring.

In the East, it represents change, fertility and new beginnings. The other side of the coin is that it also symbolises infidelity: you don’t wear a green hat in China because it means being a cuckold!

Is this related to Britain and France, where green is also the colour of jealousy?

In Ireland, it is the emblematic colour of the country, of its magnificent green landscapes and of its emblem, the shamrock, the famous clover. In Ireland, it has to have four leaves to bring luck!

In the United States, as we have seen, green is the colour of money. For the Anglo-Saxons, it is also synonymous with prestige and ambition.

The Psychology of Green

In the symbolism of green, we find a very yin & yang side! Green represents luck (the four-leaf clover) but also bad luck (don’t wear green clothes on the theatre stage), budding love but also infidelity, immaturity (green fruit)… It has both negative and positive dimensions. Evil creatures in cartoons or films are often green. This is also how foul smells are represented in comics. Martians are green, of course, because they don’t want to make friends with us!

Green has a wavelength between 490 and 573 nm. It is considered to be one of the 3 primary colours (along with Red and Blue). It is considered that any other colour can be obtained by superimposing quantities of these colours (the famous RGB code).
On the colour wheel, green is located between blue and yellow. Green waves are the middle ground, the balance. The human eye does not have to make any effort to adjust to see them. It is therefore a very relaxing colour. This is why today, in addition to being representative of Mother Nature, it is associated with rest, well-being, organic food…

Unlike red which, as we have seen, accelerates the heart rate, it slows it down. It is therefore particularly recommended in cases of great stress. In a treatise from the end of the 18th century, Goethe recommended green for the interior of flats and particularly the bedroom because he found it to have soothing properties. Green also promotes slower, deeper breathing and concentration.
It is renewal and harmony, an invitation to contemplation.

However, the psychological impact of green will depend on the tone and intensity of the colour: a lime green is not relaxing, on the contrary, it gives energy.

Thus, chlorophyll green has become a guarantee of naturalness and freshness: ecology, cleanliness, well-being, health… Today, it is as hygienic as white! We have “green spaces”, “green classes” and even “green numbers”!

lampe et mur vert
Photo by David van Dijk on Unsplash

Green in decoration

For us, it is obvious that green is a mixture of blue and yellow, even a kindergarten kid knows that! However, this is a recent idea! Before the 17th century, no one would have thought of making green by mixing these two colours because it was possible to obtain it directly from nature! It was Newton’s discovery (the colour spectrum) which, by giving a different classification to colours, initiated this idea of mixing.

Emerald green, sage green, moss green, turquoise green, mint green… When it comes to green, there’s an embarrassment of riches to choose from, depending on the atmosphere you’re looking for: if you want freshness, opt for a minty green. Do you want to have some pep? Lemon green is for that. On the other hand, do you like a more intimate and cosy atmosphere? Then I would recommend a moss green or an emerald green.

Green is perfect for revitalising living rooms like your living room or even the kitchen. Since it facilitates concentration, it is also very suitable in an office. In the bedroom and bathroom, it invites relaxation and rest.

As we have seen, green loves red, its complementary colour.

Green also likes blue, with a welcome “oasis” effect to bring freshness and naturalness.

Green also likes browns, a very plant-like combination. Brown warms up green, which is considered a cold colour.

Grey, a neutral colour, can also be combined with a slightly brighter shade of green, with a yellow tinge.

Green in feng shui

In feng shui, green is the colour of the wood element, of the East and South East, of late spring and early summer. It is the colour of abundance, regeneration, vitality, health and healing.

So, if you need to nourish a wooden area, you can bring green in the form of applat (a wall painted green), furniture (a sofa, an armchair…) or accessories (bedspreads, tablecloth, cushions, decorative objects…). The saturation, hue or luminosity of the green colour is not important as long as it is indisputable that it is green and not a greenish blue or a verdigris.

Of course, green can also be provided in plant form with green plants, if possible with rounded, neat and healthy leaves.

plantes vertes dans un intérieur
Photo by Unknown Wong on Unsplash

Sources :
Le petit livre des couleurs – M. Pastoureau et D. Simonnet
DécoBook – Sophie Mouton-Brisse
Le Pouvoir des couleurs – Karen Haller  

la symbolique de la couleur verte

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