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What does the color red mean?

By Catalogs Editorial Staff

Is the meaning of the color red universal?

Is the meaning of the color red universal?

When people communicate, they don’t only use words. They use symbols, body language, clothing style, song, artwork and yes an occasional rude hand gesture.

Whether you realize it or not, we also use color for communicating. For instance, purple is often used to represent royalty. Green is frequently used to express life and a respect for the environment. Black is often used to represent death, evil or something equally unpleasant. There is one color, however, that is arguably the most used and the most important of all colors in terms of communication. Red.

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Using Red


If it’s so important then, what does the color red mean? Well, it depends. Red actually conveys different meanings not only from culture to culture or from era to era, but within our own culture and time. Many of these meanings though, come from one single source: blood.


Blood is the most important factor for determining what the color red means to us. Very often the color red represents danger. The most basic meaning behind this is that if you are in danger, you might bleed and you want to avoid things that make you bleed. Because of this, you see red used in things like stop signs and stop lights. It’s also the color of the red circle and slash that means no. For instance, a store that doesn’t want you to have food and drinks may have a red circle and slash in front of a graphic of a cup and burger that means No food or drinks. Although that’s a far cry from blood, the original reason for it is still the same. So red is used in order to warn people off.


Red Hot


Another meaning for red is hot and its counterpart for cold is blue. Just as with danger the original meaning behind this is blood. When a person is alive, blood that has been infused with oxygen pumps through his arteries. When blood is full of oxygen, it turns red. Although the red color of blood has nothing at all to do with temperature, they are associated because the other main thing that happens when blood is pumping through the veins is that it gets warm due to the friction of moving through the body.


The Passion Color


Yet another meaning that is ascribed to the color red is passion. This can refer to love or anger but is probably more associated with love. Yet again the reason for this is blood. When a person becomes passionate, his heart rate goes up and his skin flushes as blood is pushed outward to the surface. This causes the entire body to become more reddish. Love is also associated with the heart, which of course is red and full of blood. The heart is the very thing that moves the blood through our body and is the one organ most closely associated with it. Because a person’s skin becomes reddish when enflamed in the throes of passion, red is associated with passion, anger and love.


So now you know the answer to the question What does the color red mean? You know that it is associated with danger, heat and passion because of our blood. Given this knowledge I’ll leave you with this final question to ponder: Would the stop signs on Mr. Spock’s home planet of Vulcan be green?


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