The surprising pattern behind color names around the world

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Why so many languages invented words for colors in the same order.

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In 1969, two Berkeley researchers, Paul Kay and Brent Berlin, published a book on a pretty groundbreaking idea: that every culture in history, when they developed their languages, invented words for colors in the exact same order. They claimed to know this based off of a simple color identification test, where 20 respondents identified 330 colored chips by name. If a language had six words, they were always black, white, red, green, yellow, and blue. If it had four terms, they were always black, white, red, and then either green or yellow. If it had only three, they were always black, white, and red , and so on. The theory was revolutionary — and it shaped our understanding of how color terminologies emerge.

Read more on the research mentioned in this video: 

Cook, Kay, and Regier on the World Color Survey:
Stephen C. Levinson on Yele color terms:
John A. Lucy on Hanunó'o color terms:
Loreto, Mukherjee, and Tria on color naming population simulations:

To learn more about how your language's color words can affect the way you think, check out this video lecture: is a news website that helps you cut through the noise and understand what's really driving the events in the headlines. Check out to get up to speed on everything from Kurdistan to the Kim Kardashian app. 

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Nicholas Rossi
I cried the whole time it was so beautiful
What racist claims is this video talking about? The claims that were made were by people who were trying to understand a different culture, and to me that is not racist. Why do people constantly misinterpret cultural differences with race differences?
Mark O'Connor
'Didn't make those racist claims'... if they are said as theory that does not make them racist. At the time nobody knew how similar they were to us as humans. They could have branched off from our species many years ago for all they knew. If they actually had, would that make him racist? No it would've made him a scientist that discovered a sub species of human that perhaps shared more traits with our ancestors. Vox, your political views are incredibly biased and at times you verge on propaganda, it really ruins all the rest of the beautiful content you put out.
William OWilce
you know you have a problem when the first color pops up and you pause the video to debate with yourself if it's more slate, midnight, or navy. and then you go on to call the other two colors chocolate and plum...
Cam B
Just buy a box of Crayolas
Cai Guy
I thought we had the primary 3 colors (R,Y,B) and then the secondary or mixes of those colors (O,P,G) And Black and White and the secondary of that, Grey. I don't think the color wheel just picked randomly.
Derik Arendall
White are
All I see
In my infancy
Red and yellow then came to be
Reaching out to me
Lets me see"
Dusty Chan
1:15 Ibibio is the language my family speaks! I'm so glad to see it represented every so often.
Muhammad abdelnapi
If you want to read in length about those subjects, I recommend checking a book called "Through the Language Glass: Why the World Looks Different in Other Languages" by Guy Deutscher. He discusses those researches and their meanings in language evolution. they should have mentioned it because all their content in this video comes from that book.
Not An Actual Name
3:36 latin america lol
I'm sorry, but what is "purpurnyy" for russian??? It's "fioletovyy"
Preet Bhandal
I accidentally sayed grey for brown
Pedro Rubio
Houston Smith
This was far less informative than I thought It was going to be.
Danielle Blackwell
I think some confusion is happening. Every language is able to describe all colors (if you can find the colors in their area), but not all colors have a designated word just for that color range. So, if the language doesn't have a specific word for blue, I doubt they never had a way to describe it. They just used another word (therefore it had more than one use) for the color. Take the word orange for example. It's a fruit and a color. So things like that exist in other languages (they briefly mentioned this in the video).
Kipkoech Choge
very interesting.
Bryton Toro
Coldplay X&Y album cover? Anyone? No? Ok
But black, white abd grey aren't colors tho. They're shades.
Next: Why do clothes look darker when wet?
Yakov Polevoi Music
purple in russian is fioletevyy not purpuryyy
Btw it is pernounced Co-tay day-vwa
Sharpie LEET
ha, just another way europeans are superior to islanders and africans
Rowan Ibrahim
I have to point out it's بني for brown in arabic with 2 dots under the last letter not بنى.
Nate Jack22
Yet every time a female describes color to me it's from her personal language of 500+ colors
Anders Gustafson
There are more than 11 color terms in English.
Rafay Alvi
has anyone else thought of tool's lateralus?
Azuki B
Six basic colors in Mandarin? Who decides that? I'm 99% sure that purple is one of the basic color term in Chinese.
my mother language isn't english and I've noticed that people use the word blue to describe both a lighter or a darker shade of the same color. In my language we say the word azul (blue) and celeste (light blue). I didn't know there wasn't a different word for those colors so I used to get so mad at people, I was like aRE YOU BLIND OR WHAT
The video lacks a very important part of the cultural side of the colors that a region may have. For example, there are some tribes in Africa which do not have a name for the green, but they have names for over 20 different varieties of red...
You have to take into account that language is a tool, which we humans use to express our perceptions.
Andrew Thomas
Vox is two different channels in one at this point, this one is the reason we subscribed
Payador Perseguido
Blue is scarce? What about the Sky?
Kane Southard
"black and white are all I see
in my infancy
and then yellow then came to be" -Tool
Miguel Ángelez El Romanardo
3:39 why does it say "Catalan" in the Spain language ?
Theresa Claire
Lol ! 3:37 Bahasa means language... They're language is called Indonesian...
Hua Fujoshi
The first half of the video I thought it was about "names" for people of different races xD
Jason Enos - Art and Music
Here's an interesting theory: Red is first after basic light/dark because it's the shortest wavelength. Then green, which is the complimentary color. Last, we get blue. I think this progression may have to do with our eye cones, which come in red, green, and blue. These are the primary colors of light as well. This is similar to how most cultures have a child's song based on the third, fifth, and sixth degree of the scale, based on the funding harmonic overtones (as per Bernstein's lecture series). Our development of language for color may directly stem from our perception of color much as music stems from the overtones we hear.
Pedro Silva
the same way you used red for blood and dirt, blue is obviously compared with the sky and sea.
Good video but a pretty underwhelming implication
Peter Ian Betos
As much as we have hanuno'o, our cutlure sadly still is not mature on industrializing appropriation i.e. accepting that there is a distinctive stimuli and dedicated response or though process is needed. Heck we even enforce kids that the ultimate life goal until they die is only "family". Even familialist comments like "Kelan ka mag-aasawa (When are you gonna marry)?" is still rampant here.
reuel joshua
hello vox, have you heard lateralus by tool?
The Fantasy Life
rose red (that nice color of pink and red mixed together)
blood orange (a warm orange)
golden yellow (a mixture of orange yellow, in artwork I prefer using this color)
lime (yellowish green)
sea green (surely you shouldn't need a description of this)
cyan (light blue as most people call it)
blue (sky blue)
bluest (darker shades of blue that I consider to be saturated)
cool purple (purplish blue)
purple (a perfect mix of red and blue)
violet (it's like purple but more warmer)
soft pink (its a softer pink, not girly pink, but more masculine?)
pink (a girly pink)

and that's how one artist categorizes these colors
Emilio Rey
very interesting! I loved the editing and motion graphics!!
Viet. Com
You spelled colour wrong
I've another theory. Redish colours have longer wavelength than green or yellow. Human eyes are biologically more sensitive to longer wavelength colours. Hence redish hues are always the first to catch our eyes if presented with a variety of other colours. I really don't think there's any common humanistic deference to red, it's just how we're build. That's also the reason why danger and emergency signs are always in red. Same as lady in red. Because eye-catching they are.

P.S. It'll be really interesting to do this test to animals who can see the more and those that can see less in the colour spectrum. Of course how to do it is another question.
WizardLizard Animations
"Blue was Farley scarce before manufacturing..." Uuum, have you tried looking up!? There's such thing as a sky...
Coleen Salig
Which dialect in the Philippines are those from???? Because I have never heard of it and I was born and raised here.
Ruwindu Gunatilake
The diversity of languages is truly amazing. It's a shame there's a lack of people appreciating it and instead wanting to accept a monolingual system.
Tong Hoi Ng
blue is scarce before manufacturing. really? what about the sky and the sea
Jan ić
wait, but black and white are not colors?
Guillermo Amat
This study misundertand how laguage works; you just can't translate "words" of other cultures and make them have the same use as english, spanish, etc. , colors don't "represent" a form insted they have a use. I think the critics to this study are right... you just can't expect other native cultures to fit in the english or russian concepts, if their form of life is totaly diferent than ours.
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