Color Meaning: Meaning of The Color Yellow

This post is part of the Color Meaning Blog Series, detailing the meanings associated with colors such as red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, grey, black, white, brown, pink, turquoise, gold, silver, and beige.

Yellow, the color of sunshine, hope, and happiness, has conflicting associations. On one hand yellow stands for freshness, happiness, positivity, clarity, energy, optimism, enlightenment, remembrance, intellect, honor, loyalty, and joy, but on the other, it represents cowardice and deceit. A dull or dingy yellow may represent caution, sickness, and jealousy.

Studies show that the meaning of the color yellow can be warmth, cheerfulness, increased mental activity, increased muscle energy. The color yellow helps activate the memory, encourage communication, enhance vision, build confidence, and stimulate the nervous system.

Bright yellow is an attention getting color, and when used in combination with black, is creates one of the easiest color combinations to read and see from long distances. This is why school buses, taxi cabs, and traffic signs are painted yellow and black.

The color yellow is a spontaneous and unstable color. It is often associated with food and is highly used in children’s products and marketing advertisements aimed at children. Perceived as a childish color by men, yellow is not a color that should be used when marketing products to prestigious or wealthy men.

If yellow is overused, it can have a disturbing effect. For example, it is a proven fact that babies cry more in rooms painted yellow. Too much yellow causes loss of focus and makes it hard to complete a task. Too much yellow also can cause people to become critical and demanding. Too little yellow causes feelings of isolation and fear, insecurity, and low self-esteem. A lack of yellow can cause one to become rigid, cunning, possessive, or defensive.

Yellow gemstones are believed to aid in clarity for decision-making, boost concentration, increase energy, and offer relief from burnout, panic, nervousness, or exhaustion.

In different cultures yellow has different meanings. In some cultures, yellow represents peace. In Egypt yellow was worn to signify the dead. In Japan, yellow stands for courage. In India, yellow is the color of the merchants.

Other meanings associated with the color yellow:

  • Traditionally, yellow ribbons were worn as a sign of hope as women waited for their men to come home from war. Today, yellow ribbons are still used to welcome homes loved ones.
  • Calling someone “yellow” or “yellow-bellied” is the same as calling them a coward.
  • The term “mellow yellow” stands for laid and relaxation.
  • The phrase “yellow journalism” is in reference to bad or irresponsible reporting.

Additional words that represent different shades, tints, and values of the color yellow: Lemon, yellow ocher, golden, saffron, cream, mustard, mellow yellow.

About Jennifer Bourn

As Creative Director of Bourn Creative, Jennifer leads all consulting, strategy, and creative projects. She is an award-winning designer, specializing in custom WordPress theme design, brand design, Legos (Yes, Legos), and graphic design for small business.

Entrenched in the world of online business, Jennifer consults with clients around the world on branding, website planning, and marketing strategies that leverage the internet to generate leads, attract clients, and create opportunities. She speaks regularly at live events, conferences, and workshops around the country, as well as on radio shows, teleclases, webinars, and podcasts.

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