The Meaning of the Color White

Color Psychology of White

The color white has a number of meanings and associations, although these may vary depending on the individual and the culture in which they live. Some of the main associations often connected to the color white include purity, innocence, cleanliness, blankness, coldness, emptiness, simplicity, and minimalism.

This article discusses the meaning of the color white and some of the positive and negative associations of this color.

Illustration by Cindy Chung, Verywell

The Color Psychology Characteristics of White

According to color psychology, these are the characteristics of white:

  • White represents purity or innocence. While a bride wearing white was often thought to convey the bride's virginity, blue was once a traditional color worn by brides to symbolize purity.
  • White is bright and can create a sense of space or add highlights. Designers often use the color white to make rooms seem larger and more spacious.
  • White is also described as cold, bland, and sterile. Rooms painted completely white can seem spacious but empty and unfriendly. Hospitals and hospital workers use white to create a sense of sterility.
  • The color white can also convey a sense of austerity and minimalism. Some may find this calming or refreshing, while others may find it stark or bland.

Other terms that are sometimes used to describe the color white include delicate, pure, calm, unfriendly, bright, empty, fresh, or mournful.

Positive and Negative Meanings of the Color White

Because color meanings vary from one person to the next, the color white can have both positive and negative meanings. Some of the positive meanings that white can convey include cleanliness, freshness, and simplicity. The color white often seems like a blank slate, symbolizing a new beginning or a fresh start.

On the negative side, white can seemstark, cold, and isolated. Consider how a large, white, empty room might seem boring, bland, and stark.

Meanings of the Color White

The meaning of the color white often depends upon the context. The color is often used in interior design, marketing, and fashion, where it can be utilized in different ways to evoke certain moods or have specific effects.

Feng Shui

White is considered a powerful color in feng shui, a system of arranging your environment to create harmony. Colors are linked to certain feng shui elements and in the case of white, the element it expresses is metal.

Wood and glass accents go extraordinarily well with white, as do bits of black to balance it out. White is also great for kitchens, living rooms, bathrooms, and bedrooms and white flowers in white pots are an economical way to incorporate white into your environment.

Marketing

In marketing and branding, white is used to convey a feeling of safety, purity, freshness, and cleanliness, as well as to create contrast. Some famous brands that use a great deal of white in their logos and marketing are Michelin, Gap, Hewlett-Packard (HP), Lego, Volkswagen, Starbucks, Fisher-Price, Levi's, and Ford.

Design

In design fields, white is often used to highlight or act as a neutral background to let other colors, objects, or textures take the spotlight. It is also a popular color in minimalistic designs, particularly when used with various other shades of white or other light neutrals such as gray, beige, or taupe.

Fashion

In fashion, the color white is often used to evoke a sense of purity, innocence, freshness, or cleanliness. Because white reflects light, it is often worn in the summer months to help stay cool. However, it also has a reputation for getting dirty or stained quickly, which means it isn't ideal in situations where a person will be spending time being active or engaging in physical labor.

Color Associations Are Not Universal

One thing to remember is that such color associations are not necessarily universal. Colors can have different meanings, symbolism, and associations in other cultures.

In Western cultures, the color white is often associated with weddings, hospitals, and angels and is often used to convey a sense of purity, cleanliness, and peacefulness.

In many Eastern cultures, however, white is symbolically linked to death and sadness. It's often a color used in funerals and other mourning rituals.

What White Says About Your Personality

One study on adults' color preferences showed that out of 18 total colors, including no preference, white only ranked fifteenth as the overall favorite color. It fared a little better when the same adults were asked to rank their favorite color in clothing, coming in at tenth.

When asked to choose their favorite colors for the physical environment, white was overwhelmingly the number one favorite for all the listed rooms: living rooms, bedrooms, offices, and meeting rooms.

White was also ranked number one for evoking moods of quietness and concentration.

If white is your favorite color, it might mean that you have a preference for colors that evoke a sense of calmness or simplicity. Or, it may simply mean that you have formed positive associations with the color in the past.

4 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Kendra Cherry
Kendra Cherry, MS, is an author and educational consultant focused on helping students learn about psychology.