We're so used to having eleven main color categories - red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, pink, brown, black, white, and grey - that we never stop to consider that other languages may not categorize color the same way we do. For example, Russian distinguishes between dark and light blue as two separate colors entirely, much as we do for pink and red. It can also reach the other extreme, as well: there are tribes in Papua New Guinea and South America that only have three words for color: black, white, and red. All other colors we categorize fall into those categories, with, for instance, yellow being a variation of white and brown being a shade of black. Even more fascinating is the particular order these hues show up in our languages: if a vernacular only has two color terms, then those colors are always black and white. If a third color is added, it is always red. After that, green and yellow always appear, followed by blue, brown, and then the others. It has to do with the way we perceive and decide to label our surroundings. Sometimes, there is no need to elaborate further than three general classifications, but for more specialized purposes, more words emerge to describe color. There's a plethora of hotly debated discourse on why this truly is the way it is, and it's definitely something to look into further, if you're interested. Here are some good YouTube videos on the topic:
Hello! I'm Adam Aleksic, a senior studying government and linguistics at Harvard University, where I co-founded the Harvard Undergraduate Linguistics Society. In addition to etymology, I also really enjoy trivia, politics, vexillology, geography, board games, conlanging, art history, and law.