We’ve previously posted articles regarding the most common basic Arabic words and the most important basic Arabic sentences (links here and here). Let’s continue our series of Arabic basics. One of the most commonly looked words would be the colors in Arabic. Colors play a big role in the Arab culture, from religion and beliefs to literature, and some of them are packed with symbolism.
So let’s start with colors name in Arabic.
Black in Arabic – Aswad – أسود
Black is often associated with evil related issues or anything that is unfavorable for the human kind. Imagine that everyone at a funeral will wear black. Or for example Arabs sometimes mention this color in sayings: a black-hearted (aswad al-qalb) person is a one who is full of hatred; black-livered (aswad al-kabid) was used by ancient Arabs to describe enemies of strong hostility.
White in Arabic – Abyad – أبيض
As opposed to black, white is associated with light, peace, purity, or even nature items as clouds, water, air, cotton. A white-hearted (abyad ul qalb) symbolizes a person who has a white heart (pure heart).
Blue in Arabic – Azraq – أزرق
Like much in the West, blue in Arabic has the same connotations in the Arab world. It represents the color of the sky, sea. Due to this, the meaning extends also to divinity. However, even though the color blue in Arabic is associated positively, it holds the most extended and abstract negative meanings. Someone with blue canine tooth (nabuh azraq) could stand for a fox-like person who is skillful at deception. If someone says “the blue demons are playing in front of my eyes”, then someone could be in a state of extreme anger.
Green in Arabic – Akhdar – أخضر
The color holds positive meanings in the Arab culture, as it symbolizes truthfulness, goodness, growth, harmony, health, and safety. Green-handed (alayadi al-khadra) seems to be positively used to describe a successful gardener; everything he/she plants in the ground grows well. A green hand is also associated with generosity or money.
Yellow in Arabic – Asfar -أصفر
The primary meaning for this color is associated with nature, as it is the color of the sun, autumn and the color of the Arab land (desert). Also, it makes you think of the precious metal gold. However, more extended abstract meanings are often negative. Yellow-face (wijh-asfar) stands for someone who is sick. A yellow leaf (waraqa-safra) person may be used to describe an elderly person who, due to illness, is expected to die soon.
Red in Arabic – Ahmar – أحمر
Even though red is associated with love and roses in the Arab culture, it is mostly packed with negative symbolism, as it can provoke feelings of anger. It may also be seen as the color of hardships and dangers. Also, it may be linked to evil. Red death (almawt-alahmar) could also be used to describe any extremely painful disease such as renal colic, murdering death, hard death, or any hardship one might be in.
Pink in Arabic – Zahri – زهري
Pink does not necessarily have a connotation in the Arab culture, as it is not one of the main colors. However it does have positive associations to it.
Orange in Arabic – Bortoqali – برتقالي
Same as pink, orange does not have a special meaning to it, but it is also seen as positive.
Purple in Arabic – Bbanafsaji – بنفسجي
As this is another bright color, it is considered to give positive vibes. Although some say that purple is the color of royalty due to the fact that it was very hard to make it in the past and only people of royal lines were able to afford purple garments.
Brown in Arabic – Bonni – بني
Again, this color does not signify much, although it is considered on the bright spectrum. However, brown was associated with black before. For ancient Arabs, red was sometimes used to signify white and was used to describe non-Arabs, whereas black is used to describe Arabs. Because Arabs tend to be brown in color they are called black, and because non-Arabs tend to be white, they are described red.
Gold in Arabic – Thahabi – ذهبي
Gold color does not necessarily have its own special meaning, except for associating it with the precious metal, thus with wealth. It’s strongly related to the color yellow, just like we mentioned previously.
Silver in Arabic – Feddi – فضي
Silver is the other precious metal, aside from gold and it is also related to another color, white. At a wedding, the bride and groom have 7 white things put in front of them, one would be silver white coins.
Grey in Arabic – Ramaddi – رمادي
On the other hand, grey has negative connotations as it is considered a darker color. It is close in significance as black.
As you can see, there aren’t that many differences in significance for colors in the Arab culture and the Western culture. It might differ the way they are used in expressions or idioms, or the objects that have that specific color might have been used in different rituals or customs. All in all, we think that everyone can enjoy a bit of symbolism from time to time, and this would help you dwelve more into the Arabic culture.