The surprising pattern behind color names around the world

The surprising pattern behind color names around the world

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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20 Responses

  1. DavrK says:

    In Italian we have A LOT of words for colors. For example, for a mixture of blue and green we call it “Verde Acqua”, which means Green-Water

  2. Ileane Against The Wall says:

    Guys, you mixed up Siniy and Goluboy on Russian scheme. They should switch places. Source: am from Russia

  3. muzza307 says:


  4. David Lynass Music says:

    more of these videos please, not everyone is American, or cares about American politics

  5. Xaver Giessener says:

    i just wasted 6 Minutes !!! thanks xD

  6. Neeraj Lagwankar says:

    Yeah, the BLUE sky was scarce

  7. Farhan Ihram says:

    Hi random people that randomly scroll down the comment.

  8. Vyrkhan says:

    I’m color blind but I’m still watching a video about color names for the same color!! 🙂

  9. ItsZaza says:

    sorry but anti SJWS told me there was only two colours.

  10. Not Interested says:

    there are more color words in Sanskrit works written before birth of Christ than there are color words in English. so that means Ancient Indians were culturally & intellectually superior to Modern English native speakers??

    fun fact : red word originated from a proto indo European term.. that term in Sanskrit became Rakt which means “blood”.

    EDIT – I was just being sarcastic – > 03:07

  11. George says:

    In English orange wasn’t a colour until recently, it used to be classed as a shade of red. This is why ginger haired people are called red heads. The colour comes from the fruit

  12. Crazy Smiles says:

    My mind immediately went to names of coloured people.
    What has this world done to to me?

  13. rima.fantasy says:

    In 0:44 there is mistake in Arabic written of brown it suppose to be written like “بني”

  14. Ned Gold says:

    This is false. In soviet Russia we have only two colors. Red and Grey. All other colors are bourgeois propaganda.

  15. TheDMBfan says:

    Color is a spectrum? Incoming triggered Trumpanzees

  16. Z Vaper says:

    How can blue be rare before industrial times? The sky and oceans are blue.

  17. O.P. Wilkituski says:

    But arguably the biggest thing every human being has seen (the sky) is blue…

  18. Victor Menjivar says:

    So let me get this straight: people are getting upset because this video acknowledges how science was used to further racist agendas in the past? That’s a known fact, and we have other studies that academics of the era used to say that white people were better than everyone else. To deny that is to deny facts.

  19. Bryan Mutai says:

    Hey ummm, you labelled Kenya wrong, that’s Tanzania. Kenya is above that

  20. Penny Lane says:

    Woah, you guys can’t be serious with the multi-agent study. You left out the bit of information that’s _crucial_ to make something of this study: the agents were outfitted with a perceptual function describing where in the color spectrum humans have the highest resolution (called the Just Noticeable Difference function). Without that, of course they wouldn’t have mimicked human language development.

    And why don’t you put links to your sources in the video description? Here, fixed that for you:

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