The Many Meanings of Violet / Purple


The Meanings of Violet, or what is also referred to as Purple are closely linked with our subconscious thoughts of royalty and spirituality. Remember that the meanings of violet or any other color are cultural and psychological. It’s not an exact science but interesting all the same.

A pure Violet or Purple hue is a Secondary Color. It’s a blending of a warm Red and cool Blue on the Basic Color Wheel.

Because it’s a mixture of two colors, violet containing more Red will be warmer, brighter and more intense. It will tend to create color meanings more closely associated with Red. And of course the meanings of violet containing more Blue will naturally have more of the cool, calming color symbolism of Blue.

Violet / Purple is the hardest color for the eye to discriminate. That’s because it has the shortest wavelength in the light spectrum.The next shortest wavelength is Ultraviolet which is invisible to the naked eye. Even people who work with color daily and are finely tuned to their nuances find it difficult to tell Red / Violet from Blue / Violet at times.

Men are generally more attracted to darker, rich Violets which lean toward Blue. On the other hand, when red or lots of white is added to Violet / Purple to create Lavender or Mauve Pastel, the effect is ultra-feminine. The meanings of violet can be quite different depending on whether they lean toward blue or red.

In my paint swatches above you can see how Violet, a Secondary Color can be varied by adding more Blue or more Red. Each one of these swatches is still called Violet or Purple even though they’ve been altered quite a bit.

Because the subconscious meanings of violet can be polar opposites depending upon the strength of either the Red or Blue. You may want to clearly emphasize either the cool side or warm side of this hue. In other words, stress the cool with more blue or warm with more red. The ambiguous middle can create a sense of unrest or unease when it’s the dominant color.

When choosing color schemes be careful. Too much Purple / Violet can be overpowering and cause a moody sense of disquiet.

Positive Meanings of Violet / Purple

  • Spirituality, Faith
  • Magic, Mysticism
  • Ceremony, Ritual
  • Unconscious, Subconscious
  • Creativity, Inspiration
  • Imagination, Awareness
  • Passion, Sensitivity
  • Calming, Contemplative
  • Bravery, Courage
  • Wealth, Opulence
  • Luxury, Nobility
  • Aristocracy, Royalty

Negative Meanings of Violet / Purple

  • Conceit, Pomposity
  • Death, Mourning
  • Cruelty, Arrogance
  • Instability, Indulgence
  • Eccentricity, Immaturity
  • Self-Involvement, Entitlement

Meanings of Violet / Purple in Other Cultures

  • In Western and some Eastern cultures Violet is associated with mourning rituals.
  • In Christianity Violet is associated with Advent and Lent.
  • In North America pale purple along with yellow are considered Easter colors.
  • In some Native American tribes, purple represents wisdom, healing or gratitude.
  • In Japan Violet signifies wealth and power.
  • In Tibet amethyst is considered sacred to Buddha.
  • In the Ukrainian tradition of egg dyeing, purple dye signifies faith, patience and trust.
  • In Iran purple is an omen of the future depending on the color of the sun during an eclipse.
  • In Thailand widows wear purple to mourn their husband’s death.
  • In Egypt purple represents virtue and faith.
  • In the English speaking world, Violet is often used as a girl’s name.

Meanings of Violet / Purple in English Phrases

  • Being ‘Purple with Rage’ is commonly used to describe people who are uncontrollably angry.
  • ‘Purple Speech’ refers to profanity and raunchy language.
  • ‘Purple Haze’ refers to a state of drug-induced confusion or euphoria. It is also a type of marijuana.
  • An elaborately written poem or paragraph is called ‘Purple Prose’.
  • In the United States a ‘Purple Heart’ is a military award for bravery.
  • In the United States a ‘Purple State’ refers to an equal distribution of Republicans and Democrats.
  • Someone born into a noble or royal family is referred to as ‘born to the purple’.
  • Jupiter is sometimes called the ‘Purple Planet’.

Use of Violet / Purple in History & Pop Culture

  • In Ancient Rome, the Emperors Julius and Augustus Caesar were referred to as ‘The Purple’ and were the only ones allowed to wear purple Imperial robes.
  • Later in ancient Rome, Magistrates were also allowed to wear togas with purple ribbons. Any other use of Purple was punishable by death.
  • During the Byzantine Empire the Emperor signed edicts in Violet ink.
  • Violet was the royal color during Cleopatra’s reign.
  • During the reign of King Henry VIII in Tudor England purple represented mourning and religious fervor.
  • The purple amethyst is the birthstone for those born in February.
  • In Eastern philosophy Violet is associated with the Crown Chakra at the top of the head which rules the brain and higher consciousness.
  • Violet is the color associated with the Astrological sign of Libra.
  • OSHA Coding in Purple signals hazardous nuclear energy material.
  • Purple is considered the color of Gay Pride.
  • The color of a $ 5,000 Poker Chip which is the highest value made, is purple.
  • Bottles of Crown Royal are wrapped in purple velvet bags.
  • The signature color of the movie star Elizabeth Taylor is purple and she was known for her violet eyes.
  • The signature color of the pop star Prince is purple and he is best known for his album and movie Purple Rain.
  • A highly popular Movie was “The Color Purple” with Oprah Winfrey.
  • Other popular Music Titles with Purple include “Pale Purple” by Ani DiFranco, “Purple Haze” by Jimi Hendrix, “Purple People Eater” by Sheb Wooley and “Purple Stain” by Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Violet / Purple in Nature

  • vegetables like eggplants, beets, purple cabbage
  • fruit such as purple grapes, plums, blackberries, mulberries
  • flowers like violets, orchids, iris, lavender, wisteria, lilac
  • gems like amethyst, quartz
  • wine

Uses of Violet / Purple in Color Therapy

In general Purple is considered an aid to spirituality and contemplation. Leonardo da Vinci once wrote that meditation and prayer is ten times more powerful while sitting in the violet lightshining through a stained glass window.

Violet can also help to develop imagination and creativity. While composing his operas, Richard Wagner surrounded himself with it.

Violet is sometimes used to relieve migraine headaches and suppress appetite.

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Meanings of Yellow / Orange / Red / Blue / Green