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Did Naming a Color Give Us the Ability to See It?


When considering different colors you are likely familiar with cobalt, teal, and cerulean. Each of these describe a different shade of blue and each possess their own unique color make-up. Interestingly, researchers have discovered that identifying any shade of blue didn't happen until modern times. Almost all ancient languages didn't have a word for blue and things that we identify with blue, such as the sky or the ocean, were described in ancient writing as other colors.

The only ancient language that identified blue as a color was Egyptian. Also, the Egyptians were the only people that had the capability of creating a blue dye. This led researchers to believe that the color wasn't named until individual cultures had the ability to produce it. Consider that blue is fairly rare in nature; yes, the sky and ocean appear blue at times but there is very little else in the natural world that is blue. Ancient cultures often had scarce interaction with the color resulting in a lack of language to identify it. Further research in the science behind color indicates that without a word for a specific shade it is much more difficult for humans to notice what is different about it. The intricacies and color differences are not as noticeable without the language to describe them.

If you'd like to learn more about the science behind color visit us online at Dunn Edwards. We work hard to compile relevant color research and resources to help you understand how color affects our lives.