This article is about the color. For other uses, see White (disambiguation).
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White is the lightestcolor and is achromatic (having no hue), because it fully reflects and scatters all the visible wavelengths of light. It is the color of fresh snow, chalk and milk, and is the opposite of black.
In ancient Egypt and ancient Rome, priestesses wore white as a symbol of purity, and Romans wore a white toga as a symbol of citizenship. In the Middle Ages and Renaissance a white unicorn symbolized chastity, and a white lamb sacrifice and purity. It was the royal color of the Kings of France, and of the monarchist movement that opposed the Bolsheviks during the Russian Civil War (1917–1922). Greek and Roman temples were faced with white marble, and beginning in the 18th century, with the advent of neoclassical architecture, white became the most common color of new churches, capitols and other government buildings, especially in the United States. It was also widely used in 20th century modern architecture as a symbol of modernity and simplicity.
According to surveys in Europe and the United States, white is the color most often associated with perfection, the good, honesty, cleanliness, the beginning, the new, neutrality, and exactitude. White is an important color for almost all world religions. The Pope, the head of the Roman Catholic Church, has worn white since 1566, as a symbol of purity and sacrifice. In Islam, and in the Shinto religion of Japan, it is worn by pilgrims; and by the Brahmins in India. In Western cultures and in Japan, white is the most common color for wedding dresses, symbolizing purity and virginity. In many Asian cultures, white is also the color of mourning.
The word white continues Old Englishhwīt, ultimately from a Common Germanic*χwītaz also reflected in OHG(h)wîz, ONhvítr, Goth.ƕeits. The root is ultimately from Proto-Indo-European language*kwid-, surviving also in Sanskritśveta "to be white or bright" and Slavonic světŭ "light". The Icelandic word for white, hvítur, is directly derived from the Old Norse form of the word hvítr. Common Germanic also had the word *blankaz ("white, bright, blinding"), borrowed into Late Latin as *blancus, which provided the source for Romance words for "white" (Catalan, Occitan and French blanc, Spanish blanco, Italian bianco, Galician-Portuguese branco, etc.). The antonym of white is black.
Some non-European languages have a wide variety of terms for white. The Inuit language has seven different words for seven different nuances of white. Sanskrit has specific words for bright white, the white of teeth, the white of sandalwood, the white of the autumn moon, the white of silver, the white of cow's milk, the white of pearls, the white of a ray of sunlight, and the white of stars. Japanese has six different words, depending upon brilliance or dullness, or if the color is inert or dynamic.
History and art
White was one of the first colors used in art. The Lascaux Cave in France contains drawings of bulls and other animals drawn by paleolithic artists between 18,000 and 17,000 years ago. Paleolithic artists used calcite or chalk; they sometimes as a background, sometimes as a highlight, along with charcoal and red and yellow ochre in their vivid cave paintings.
In ancient Egypt, white was connected with the goddess Isis. The priests and priestesses of Isis dressed only in white linen, and it was used to wrap mummies.
In Greece and other ancient civilizations, white was often associated with mother's milk. In Greek mythology, the chief god Zeus was nourished at the breast of the nymph Amalthea. In the Talmud, milk was one of four sacred substances, along with wine, honey, and the rose.
The ancient Greeks saw the world in terms of darkness and light, so white was a fundamental color. According to Pliny the Elder in his Natural History, Apelles (4th century BC) and the other famous painters of ancient Greece used only four colors in their paintings; white, red, yellow and black; For painting, the Greeks used lead white, made by a long and laborious process.
A plain white toga, known as a toga virilis, was worn for ceremonial occasions by all Roman citizens over the age of 14–18. Magistrates and certain priests wore a toga praetexta, with a broad purple stripe. In the time of the Emperor Augustus, no Roman man was allowed to appear in the Roman forum without a toga.
The ancient Romans had two words for white; albus, a plain white, (the source of the word albino); and candidus, a brighter white. A man who wanted public office in Rome wore a white toga brightened with chalk, called a toga candida, the origin of the word candidate. The Latin word candere meant to shine, to be bright. It was the origin of the words candle and candid.
In ancient Rome, the priestesses of the goddess Vesta dressed in white linen robes, a white palla or shawl, and a white veil. They protected the sacred fire and the penates of Rome. White symbolized their purity, loyalty, and chastity.
Prehistoric paintings in Chauvet Cave, France (30,000 to 32,000 BC)
Painting of the goddess Isis (1380–1385 BC). The priests of her cult wore white linen.
Paintings of women in white from a tomb (1448–1422 BC).
The early Christian church adopted the Roman symbolism of white as the color of purity, sacrifice and virtue. It became the color worn by priests during Mass, the color worn by monks of the Cistercian Order, and, under Pope Pius V, a former monk of the Dominican Order, it became the official color worn by the pope himself. Monks of the Order of Saint Benedict dressed in the white or gray of natural undyed wool, but later changed to black, the color of humility and penitence.
Postclassical history art, the white lamb became the symbol of the sacrifice of Christ on behalf of mankind. John the Baptist described Christ as the lamb of God, who took the sins of the world upon himself. The white lamb was the center of one of the most famous paintings of the Medieval period, the Ghent Altarpiece by Jan van Eyck.
White was also the symbolic color of the transfiguration. The Gospel of Saint Mark describes Jesus' clothing in this event as "shining, exceeding white as snow." Artists such as Fra Angelico used their greatest skill to capture the whiteness of his garments. In his painting of the transfiguration at the Convent of Saint Mark in Florence, Fra Angelico emphasized the white garment by using a light gold background, placed in an almond-shaped halo.
The white unicorn was a common subject of Postclassical history manuscripts, paintings and tapestries. It was a symbol of purity, chastity and grace, which could only be captured by a virgin. It was often portrayed in the lap of the Virgin Mary.
During the Postclassical history, painters rarely ever mixed colors; but in the Renaissance, the influential humanist and scholar Leon Battista Alberti encouraged artists to add white to their colors to make them lighter, brighter, and to add hilaritas, or gaiety. Many painters followed his advice, and the palette of the Renaissance was considerably brighter.
Early Modern Era
In the Early Modern Era, white was commonly worn by widows as a color of mourning. The widows of the kings of France wore white until Anne of Brittany in the 16th century. A white tunic was also worn by many knights, along with a red cloak, which showed the knights were willing to give their blood for the king or Church.
Late Modern Era
18th and 19th centuries
White was the dominant color of architectural interiors in the Baroque period and especially the Rococo style that followed it in the 18th century. Church interiors were designed to show the power, glory and wealth of the church. They seemed to be alive, filled with curves, asymmetry, mirrors, gilding, statuary and reliefs, unified by white.
White was also a fashionable color for both men and women in the 18th century. Men in the aristocracy and upper classes wore powdered white wigs and white stockings, and women wore elaborate embroidered white and pastel gowns.
After the French Revolution, a more austere white (blanc cassé) became the most fashionable color in women's costumes which were modeled after the outfits of Ancient Greece and Republican Rome. Because of the rather revealing design of these dresses, the ladies wearing them were called les merveilleuses (the marvellous) by French men of that era. The Empire style under Emperor Napoléon I was modeled after the more conservative outfits of Ancient Imperial Rome. The dresses were high in fashion but low in warmth considering the more severe weather conditions of northern France; in 1814 the former wife of Napoleon, Joséphine de Beauharnais, caught pneumonia and died after taking a walk in the cold night air with Tsar Alexander I of Russia.
White was the universal color of both men and women's underwear and of sheets in the 18th and 19th centuries. It was unthinkable to have sheets or underwear of any other color. The reason was simple; the manner of washing linen in boiling water caused colors to fade. When linen was worn out, it was collected and turned into high-quality paper.
The 19th-century American painter James McNeill Whistler (1834–1903), working at the same time as the French impressionists, created a series of paintings with musical titles where he used color to create moods, the way composers used music. His painting "Symphony in White No. 1 – The White Girl", which used his mistress Joanna Hiffernan as a model, used delicate colors to portray innocence and fragility, and a moment of uncertainty.
20th and 21st centuries
The White movement was the opposition that formed against the Bolsheviks during the Russian Civil War, which followed the Russian Revolution in 1917. It was finally defeated by the Bolsheviks in 1921–22, and many of its members emigrated to Europe.
At the end of the 19th century, lead white was still the most popular pigment; but between 1916 and 1918, chemical companies in Norway and the United States began to produce titanium white, made from titanium oxide. It had first been identified in the 18th century by the German chemist Martin Klaproth, who also discovered uranium. It had twice the covering power of lead white, and was the brightest white pigment known. By 1945, 80 percent of the white pigments sold were titanium white.
The absoluteness of white appealed to modernist painters. It was used in its simplest form by the Russian suprematist painter Kazimir Malevich in his 1917 painting 'the white square,' the companion to his earlier 'black square.' It was also used by the Dutch modernist painter Piet Mondrian. His most famous paintings consisted of a pure white canvas with grid of vertical and horizontal black lines and rectangles of primary colors.
Black and white also appealed to modernist architects, such as Le Corbusier (1887–1965). He said a house was "a machine for living in" and called for a "calm and powerful architecture" built of reinforced concrete and steel, without any ornament or frills. Almost all the buildings of contemporary architect Richard Meier, such as his museum in Rome to house the ancient Roman Ara Pacis, or Altar of Peace, are stark white, in the tradition of Le Corbusier.
Scientific understanding (Color science)
Light is perceived by the human visual system as white when the incoming light to the eye stimulates all three types of color sensitive cone cells in the eye in roughly equal amounts. Materials that do not emit light themselves appear white if their surfaces reflect back most of the light that strikes them in a diffuse way.
In 1666, Isaac Newton demonstrated that white light could be broken up into its composite colors by passing it through a prism, then using a second prism to reassemble them. Before Newton, most scientists believed that white was the fundamental color of light.
White light can be generated by the sun, by stars, or by earthbound sources such as fluorescent lamps, white LEDs and incandescent bulbs. On the screen of a color television or computer, white is produced by mixing the primary colors of light: red, green and blue (RGB) at full intensity, a process called additive mixing (see image below). White light can be fabricated using light with only two wavelengths, for instance by mixing light from a red and cyan laser or yellow and blue lasers. This light will however have very few practical applications since color rendering of objects will be greatly distorted.
The fact that light sources with vastly different spectral power distributions can result in a similar sensory experience is due to the way the light is processed by the visual system. One color that arise from two different spectral power distributions is called a metamerism.
Many of the light sources that emit white light emit light at almost all visible wavelengths (sun light, incandescent lamps of various Color temperatures). This has led to the notion that white light can be defined as a mixture of "all colors" or "all visible wavelengths". This widespread idea is a misconception, and might originally stem from the fact that Newton discovered that sunlight is composed of light with wavelengths across the visible spectrum. Concluding that since "all colors" produce white light then white must be made up of "all colors" is a common logical error called affirming the consequent, which might be the cause of the misunderstanding.
A range of spectral distributions of light sources can be perceived as white—there is no single, unique specification of "white light". For example, when you buy a "white" light bulb, you might buy one labeled 2700K, 6000K, etc., which produce light having very different spectral distributions, and yet this will not prevent you from identifying the color of objects that they illuminate.
Color vision allows us to distinguish different objects by their color. In order to do so, color constancy can keep the perceived color of an object relatively unchanged when the illumination changes among various broad (whitish) spectral distributions of light.
The same principle is used in photography and cinematography where the choice of white point determines a transformation of all other color stimuli. Changes in or manipulation of the white point can be used to explain some optical illusions such as The dress.
While there is no single, unique specification of "white light", there is indeed a unique specification of "white object", or, more specifically, "white surface". A perfectly white surface diffusely reflects (scatters) all visible light that strikes it, without absorbing any, irrespective of the light's wavelength or spectral distribution. Since it does not absorb any of the incident light, white is the lightest possible color. If the reflection is not diffuse but rather specular, this describes a mirror rather than a white surface.
Reflection of 100% of incident light at all wavelengths is a form of uniform reflectance, so white is an achromatic color, meaning a color without hue. The color stimulus produced by the perfect diffuser is usually considered to be an achromatic stimulus for all illuminants, except for those whose light sources appear to be highly chromatic.
Color constancy is achieved by chromatic adaptation. The International Commission on Illumination defines white (adapted) as "a color stimulus that an observer who is [chromatically] adapted to the viewing environment would judge to be perfectly achromatic and to have a luminance factor of unity. The color stimulus that is considered to be the adapted white may be different at different locations within a scene.
Why snow, clouds and beaches are white
Snow is a mixture of air and tiny ice crystals. When white sunlight enters snow, very little of the spectrum is absorbed; almost all of the light is reflected or scattered by the air and water molecules, so the snow appears to be the color of sunlight, white. Sometimes the light bounces around inside the ice crystals before being scattered, making the snow seem to sparkle.
In the case of glaciers, the ice is more tightly pressed together and contains little air. As sunlight enters the ice, more light of the red spectrum is absorbed, so the light scattered will be bluish.
Clouds are white for the same reason as ice. They are composed of water droplets or ice crystals mixed with air, very little light that strikes them is absorbed, and most of the light is scattered, appearing to the eye as white. Shadows of other clouds above can make clouds look gray, and some clouds have their own shadow on the bottom of the cloud.
Many mountains with winter or year-round snow cover are named accordingly: Mauna Kea means white mountain in Hawaiian, Mont Blanc means white mountain in French. Changbai Mountains literally meaning perpetually white mountains, marks the border between China and Korea.
Beaches with sand containing high amounts of quartz or eroded limestone also appear white, since quartz and limestone reflect or scatter sunlight, rather than absorbing it. Tropical white sand beaches may also have a high quantity of white calcium carbonate from tiny bits of seashells ground to fine sand by the action of the waves.
Chalk is a kind of limestone, made of the mineral calcite, or calcium carbonate. It was originally deposited under the sea as the scales or plates of tiny micro-organisms called Coccolithophore. It was the first white pigment used by prehistoric artists in cave paintings. The chalk used on blackboards today is usually made of gypsum or calcium sulphate, a powder pressed into sticks.
Bianco di San Giovanni is a pigment used in the Renaissance, which was described by the painter Cennino Cennini in the 15th century. It is similar to chalk, made of calcium carbonate with calcium hydroxide. It was made of dried lime which was made into a powder, then soaked in water for eight days, with the water changed each day. It was then made into cakes and dried in the sun.
Lead white was being produced during the 4th century BC; the process is described is Pliny the Elder, Vitruvius and the ancient Greek author Theophrastus. Pieces of lead were put into clay pots which had a separate compartment filled with vinegar. The pots in turn were piled on shelves close to cow dung. The combined fumes of the vinegar and the cow dung caused the lead to corrode into lead carbonate. It was a slow process which could take a month or more. It made an excellent white and was used by artists for centuries, but it was also toxic. It was replaced in the 19th century by zinc white and titanium white.
Titanium white is the most popular white for artists today; it is the brightest available white pigment, and has twice the coverage of lead white. It first became commercially available in 1921. It is made out of titanium dioxide, from the minerals brookite, anatase, rutile, or ilmenite, currently the major source. Because of its brilliant whiteness, it is used as a colorant for most toothpaste and sunscreen.
Zinc white is made from zinc oxide. It is similar to but not as opaque as titanium white. It is added to some breakfast cereals, since zinc is an important nutrient. Chinese white is a variety of zinc white made for artists.
Some materials can be made to look "whiter than white", this is achieved using optical brightener agents (OBA). These are chemical compounds that absorb light in the ultraviolet and violet region (usually 340–370 nm) of the electromagnetic spectrum, and re-emit light in the blue region (typically 420–470 nm). OBAs are often used in paper and clothing to create an impression of very bright white. This is due to the fact that the materials actually send out more visible light than they receive.
Bleach and bleaching
Bleaching is a process for whitening fabrics which has been practiced for thousands of years. Sometimes it was simply a matter of leaving the fabric in the sun, to be faded by the bright light. In the 18th century several scientists developed varieties of chlorine bleach, including sodium hypochlorite and calcium hypochlorite (bleaching powder). Bleaching agents that do not contain chlorine most often are based on peroxides, such as hydrogen peroxide, sodium percarbonate and sodium perborate. While most bleaches are oxidizing agents, a fewer number are reducing agents such as sodium dithionite.
Bleaches attack the chromophores, the part of a molecule which absorbs light and causes fabrics to have different colors. An oxidizing bleach works by breaking the chemical bonds that make up the chromophore. This changes the molecule into a different substance that either does not contain a chromophore, or contains a chromophore that does not absorb visible light. A reducing bleach works by converting double bonds in the chromophore into single bonds. This eliminates the ability of the chromophore to absorb visible light.
Sunlight acts as a bleach through a similar process. High energy photons of light, often in the violet or ultraviolet range, can disrupt the bonds in the chromophore, rendering the resulting substance colorless.
Some detergents go one step further; they contain fluorescent chemicals which glow, making the fabric look literally whiter than white.
In the natural world
A white dwarf is a stellar remnant composed mostly of electron-degenerate matter. They are very dense; a white dwarf's mass is comparable to that of the Sun and its volume is comparable to that of the Earth. Its faint luminosity comes from the emission of stored thermal energy. A white dwarf is very hot when it is formed, but since it has no source of energy, it will gradually radiate away its energy and cool down. This means that its radiation, which initially has a high color temperature, will lessen and redden with time. Over a very long time, a white dwarf will cool to temperatures at which it will no longer emit significant heat or light, and it will become a cold black dwarf. However, since no white dwarf can be older than the age of the Universe (approximately 13.8 billion years), even the oldest white dwarfs still radiate at temperatures of a few thousand kelvins, and no black dwarfs are thought to exist yet.
An A-type main-sequence star (A V) or A dwarf star is a main-sequence (hydrogen-burning) star of spectral type A and luminosity class V. These stars have spectra which are defined by strong hydrogen Balmer absorption lines. They have masses from 1.4 to 2.1 times the mass of the Sun and surface temperatures between 7600 and 11 500 K.
Biology and ecology
In nature, snow and clouds appear white because they are composed of water droplets or ice crystals mixed with air; when white sunlight enters snow, very little of the spectrum is absorbed; almost all of the light is reflected or scattered by the air and water molecules, so the snow appears to be the color of sunlight, white. Beaches with sand containing high amounts of quartz or eroded limestone also appear white, since quartz and limestone reflect or scatter sunlight, rather than absorbing it. Tropical white sand beaches may also have a high quantity of white calcium carbonate from tiny bits of seashells ground to fine sand by the action of the waves.
Most white animals have their color as a form of camouflage in winter.
In China, Korea, and some other Asian countries, white, or more precisely, the whitish color of undyed linen, is the color of mourning and funerals.
In traditional China, undyed linen clothing is worn at funerals. As time passes, the bereaved can gradually wear clothing dyed with colors, then with darker colors. Small sacks of quicklime, one for each year of the life of the deceased are placed around the body to protect it against impurity in the next world, and white paper flowers are placed around the body.
In China and other Asian countries, white is the color of reincarnation, showing that death is not a permanent separation from the world.
In China, white is associated with the masculine (the yang of the yin and yang); with the unicorn and tiger; with the fur of an animal; with the direction of west; with the element metal; and with the autumn season.
In Japan, undyed linen white robes are worn by pilgrims for rituals of purification, and bathing in sacred rivers. In the mountains, pilgrims wear costumes of undyed jute to symbolize purity. A white kimono is often placed in the casket with the deceased for the journey to the other world, as white represents death sometimes. Condolence gifts, or kooden, are tied with black and white ribbons and wrapped in white paper, protecting the contents from the impurities of the other world.
In India, the color white was traditionally reserved for the Brahmin caste. It is the color of purity, divinity, detachment and serenity. In Hindi, the name Sweta means white.
In Tibetan Buddhism, white robes were reserved for the lama of a monastery.
In the Bedouin and some other pastoral cultures, there is a strong connection between milk and white, which is considered the color of gratitude, esteem, joy, good fortune and fertility.
In Japan, the traditional envelope for condolence gifts is wrapped in a black and white cord, and a white kimono is often placed in the coffin with the deceased.
The Buddhist deity Tara is often depicted with white skin.
A Brahmin boy in India wears white for a religious ritual.
White is often associated with monarchism. The association originally came from the white flag of the Bourbon dynasty of France. White became the banner of the royalist rebellions against the French Revolution (see Revolt in the Vendée).
During the Civil War which followed the Russian Revolution of 1917, the White Army, a coalition of monarchists, nationalists and liberals, fought unsuccessfully against the Red Army of the Bolsheviks. A similar battle between reds and whites took place during the Civil War in Finland in the same period.
The Ku Klux Klan is a racist and anti-immigrant organization which flourished in the Southern United States after the American Civil War. They wore white robes and hoods, burned crosses and violently attacked and murdered black Americans.
In Iran, the White Revolution was a series of social and political reforms launched in 1963 by the last Shah of Iran before his downfall.
White is also associated with peace and passive resistance. The white ribbon is worn by movements denouncing violence against women and the White Rose was a non-violent resistance group in Nazi Germany.
Selected national flags featuring white
White is a common color in national flags, though its symbolism varies widely. The white in the flag of the United States and flag of the United Kingdom comes from traditional red St George's Cross on a white background of the historic flag of England. The white in the flag of France represents either the monarchy or "white, the ancient French color" according to the Marquis de Lafayette.
Many flags in the Arab world use the colors of the flag of the Arab Revolt of 1916; red, white, green and black. These include the flags of Egypt, Bahrain, Jordan, Syria, Kuwait and Iraq.
Philippines also use white as their symbol for unity in their flag.
Colors are all around us we just never consciously think about it.Take it as a simple fact of life.Probably don’t
realize it but we use color in our every day conversations.Use it to describe a mood,personality and sometimes
a social event.Let me give you some examples.Go to work and ask your colleagues.How is the boss today?He is in a dark mood they reply.
What does that mean what color would you associate his mood with ?The color black of course which means he is in a really bad mood.
You can describe a personality with color black also.The person has a dark personality.Has a very bad negative might even devious personality.
When using the color black in the fashion world it means elegant.Black also means serious.Have an executive meeting probably wear a black suit.
Looking for a job,you want to give a good impression will keep away from wild colors.Wear something more subdued.Want to look serious,
confident,simple but elegant.Different look if you would like to get hired in the entertainment world.Here best show your creative side and
playfulness.Public knowledge green eye monster referring to jealousy.Color yellow represent warm and sunny side.How about pink.When
we see a baby has pink color on it cheeks we say looks like a healthy baby.Color white is the opposite.White has different meaning in
different situations.Why does the bride wears white.?In the 18 century white symbolize purity.The girl was unquestionable pure,untouched.
That is what color white represented in that situation.Today it is just a tradition.There is also a connection between certain institutes
and colors.Hospital color white.Why? Symbolize clean and sterilized conditions.Court house:Big gray building.That means seriousness
depressing and certainly not a fun place to be.Theater:think about marble,red velvet,gold color,elegance.Did you ever think about
baby showers?Why by blue if it is a boy and pink for a girl?I know it is a tradition but why this colors?No scientific explanation
i can give but here is my theory.If we go back in time in history wealthy,prominent and specially royal families the first born had to be
a boy to be a successor to the throne carry on the family name.Poor families also wanted to have a boy because help out on the field
do the heavy work and also carry on the family name.All these made me think blue it is a primary color on the color wheel.Also
the sky is blue.Having a boy it was generally that important in any family and when you achieved that goal it was like reaching
to the sky.What is more appropriate to show your happiness and biggest achievement then use color blue what is the only color
rich the highest point in the universe.What about pink the girl colors.It is a mixed color and not very strong one.It shows fragility.
It is a fainted light pastel color.Not very noticeable.Has it importance as a background or follow colors.If you go back in time
in history woman were in the background.Their most important and only role was the family .Their only real role in 18 century.
That is what color pink represent.Today the meaning behind the colors are lost .We simply carry on a tradition what was established long before
our times.and don’t forget my explanation are not scientific.Klara.