Ask a question about 'White'
Start a new discussion about 'White'
Answer questions from other users
Full Discussion Forum
White is a color
Color or colour is the visual perceptual property corresponding in humans to the categories called red, green, blue and others. Color derives from the spectrum of light interacting in the eye with the spectral sensitivities of the light receptors...

, the perception of which is evoked by light
Light or visible light is electromagnetic radiation that is visible to the human eye, and is responsible for the sense of sight. Visible light has wavelength in a range from about 380 nanometres to about 740 nm, with a frequency range of about 405 THz to 790 THz...

 that stimulates all three types of color sensitive cone cells in the human eye in nearly equal amounts and with high brightness
Brightness is an attribute of visual perception in which a source appears to be radiating or reflecting light. In other words, brightness is the perception elicited by the luminance of a visual target...

 compared to the surroundings. A white visual stimulation will be void of hue
Hue is one of the main properties of a color, defined technically , as "the degree to which a stimulus can be describedas similar to or different from stimuli that are described as red, green, blue, and yellow,"...

 and grayness.

White light can be generated in many ways. The sun is such a source, electric incandescence
Incandescence is the emission of light from a hot body as a result of its temperature. The term derives from the Latin verb incandescere, to glow white....

 is another. Modern light sources are fluorescent lamps and light-emitting diodes. An object whose surface reflects back most of the light it receives and does not alter its color will appear white, unless it has very high specular reflection
Specular reflection
Specular reflection is the mirror-like reflection of light from a surface, in which light from a single incoming direction is reflected into a single outgoing direction...


Since white is the extreme end of the visual spectrum (in terms of both hue and shade), and since white objects - such as clouds, snow and flowers - appear often in nature, it has frequent symbolism. Human culture has many references to white, often related to purity and cleanness, whilst the high contrast
Contrast (vision)
Contrast is the difference in visual properties that makes an object distinguishable from other objects and the background. In visual perception of the real world, contrast is determined by the difference in the color and brightness of the object and other objects within the same field of view...

 between white and black is often used to represent opposite extremes.


The word white continues Old English , ultimately from a Common Germanic  also reflected in OHG
Old High German
The term Old High German refers to the earliest stage of the German language and it conventionally covers the period from around 500 to 1050. Coherent written texts do not appear until the second half of the 8th century, and some treat the period before 750 as 'prehistoric' and date the start of...

 , ON
Old Norse
Old Norse is a North Germanic language that was spoken by inhabitants of Scandinavia and inhabitants of their overseas settlements during the Viking Age, until about 1300....

 , Goth.
Gothic language
Gothic is an extinct Germanic language that was spoken by the Goths. It is known primarily from the Codex Argenteus, a 6th-century copy of a 4th-century Bible translation, and is the only East Germanic language with a sizable Text corpus...

 . The root is ultimately from Proto-Indo-European language
Proto-Indo-European language
The Proto-Indo-European language is the reconstructed common ancestor of the Indo-European languages, spoken by the Proto-Indo-Europeans...

 , surviving also in Sanskrit
Sanskrit , is a historical Indo-Aryan language and the primary liturgical language of Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism.Buddhism: besides Pali, see Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit Today, it is listed as one of the 22 scheduled languages of India and is an official language of the state of Uttarakhand...

  "to be white or bright" and Slavonic "light".
The Icelandic
Icelandic language
Icelandic is a North Germanic language, the main language of Iceland. Its closest relative is Faroese.Icelandic is an Indo-European language belonging to the North Germanic or Nordic branch of the Germanic languages. Historically, it was the westernmost of the Indo-European languages prior to the...

 word for white, , is directly derived from the Old Norse
Old Norse
Old Norse is a North Germanic language that was spoken by inhabitants of Scandinavia and inhabitants of their overseas settlements during the Viking Age, until about 1300....

 form of the word .
Common Germanic also had the word *blankaz ("white, bright, blinding"), borrowed into Late Latin
Late Latin
Late Latin is the scholarly name for the written Latin of Late Antiquity. The English dictionary definition of Late Latin dates this period from the 3rd to the 6th centuries AD extending in Spain to the 7th. This somewhat ambiguously defined period fits between Classical Latin and Medieval Latin...

 as *blancus, which provided the source for Romance
Romance languages
The Romance languages are a branch of the Indo-European language family, more precisely of the Italic languages subfamily, comprising all the languages that descend from Vulgar Latin, the language of ancient Rome...

 words for "white" (French blanc, Spanish blanco, Italian bianco, etc.). The root survives in English in the word black.


Until Newton
Isaac Newton
Sir Isaac Newton PRS was an English physicist, mathematician, astronomer, natural philosopher, alchemist, and theologian, who has been "considered by many to be the greatest and most influential scientist who ever lived."...

's work became accepted, most scientists
Science is a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the universe...

 believed that white was the fundamental color of light; and that other colors were formed only by adding something to white. Newton demonstrated this was not true by passing white light through a prism
Prism (optics)
In optics, a prism is a transparent optical element with flat, polished surfaces that refract light. The exact angles between the surfaces depend on the application. The traditional geometrical shape is that of a triangular prism with a triangular base and rectangular sides, and in colloquial use...

, then through another prism. If the colors were added by the prism, the second prism should have added further colors to the single-colored beam. Since the single-colored beam remained a single color, Newton concluded that the prism merely separated the colors
Dispersion (optics)
In optics, dispersion is the phenomenon in which the phase velocity of a wave depends on its frequency, or alternatively when the group velocity depends on the frequency.Media having such a property are termed dispersive media...

 already present in the light. White light is the effect of combining the visible colors of light in suitable proportions (the same present in solar light).

Since the impression of white is obtained by three summation
Summation is the operation of adding a sequence of numbers; the result is their sum or total. If numbers are added sequentially from left to right, any intermediate result is a partial sum, prefix sum, or running total of the summation. The numbers to be summed may be integers, rational numbers,...

s of light intensity across the visible spectrum
Visible spectrum
The visible spectrum is the portion of the electromagnetic spectrum that is visible to the human eye. Electromagnetic radiation in this range of wavelengths is called visible light or simply light. A typical human eye will respond to wavelengths from about 390 to 750 nm. In terms of...

, the number of combinations of light wavelengths that produce the sensation of white is practically infinite. There are a number of different white light sources such as the midday sun, incandescent lamps, fluorescent
Fluorescent lamp
A fluorescent lamp or fluorescent tube is a gas-discharge lamp that uses electricity to excite mercury vapor. The excited mercury atoms produce short-wave ultraviolet light that then causes a phosphor to fluoresce, producing visible light. A fluorescent lamp converts electrical power into useful...

 lamps and white LEDs; due to the phenomenon of metamerism
Metamerism (color)
In colorimetry, metamerism is the matching of apparent color of objects with different spectral power distributions. Colors that match this way are called metamers....

, such sources can appear similar whilst having quite different spectra. The impression of white light can also be created by mixing appropriate intensities of the primary color
Primary color
Primary colors are sets of colors that can be combined to make a useful range of colors. For human applications, three primary colors are usually used, since human color vision is trichromatic....

s of light, red, green and blue (RGB), a process called additive mixing, as seen in many display technologies.

Color temperature

The best known way to generate white light is by the process called incandescence, or black body radiation where bodies of atoms with a certain temperature emit a certain type of radiation. For example, the color of a black body at a temperature of 2,848 kelvins. This is closely matched by incandescent light bulbs. The correlated color temperature of such a light bulb is 2,848 K. Daylight can vary from a cool red up to a bluish 5,600 K. Not all black body radiation can be considered white light: the background radiation
Background radiation
Background radiation is the ionizing radiation constantly present in the natural environment of the Earth, which is emitted by natural and artificial sources.-Overview:Both Natural and human-made background radiation varies by location....

 of the universe
The Universe is commonly defined as the totality of everything that exists, including all matter and energy, the planets, stars, galaxies, and the contents of intergalactic space. Definitions and usage vary and similar terms include the cosmos, the world and nature...

, to name an extreme example, is only a few kelvins hot, and is not visible
Visible spectrum
The visible spectrum is the portion of the electromagnetic spectrum that is visible to the human eye. Electromagnetic radiation in this range of wavelengths is called visible light or simply light. A typical human eye will respond to wavelengths from about 390 to 750 nm. In terms of...


In astronomy the stellar class of stars are determined by the color temperature. For instance are white dwarfs small dense stars thought to be the final evolutionary state
Stellar evolution
Stellar evolution is the process by which a star undergoes a sequence of radical changes during its lifetime. Depending on the mass of the star, this lifetime ranges from only a few million years to trillions of years .Stellar evolution is not studied by observing the life of a single...


Computer display
Computer display
A monitor or display is an electronic visual display for computers. The monitor comprises the display device, circuitry, and an enclosure...

s often have a color temperature
Color temperature
Color temperature is a characteristic of visible light that has important applications in lighting, photography, videography, publishing, manufacturing, astrophysics, and other fields. The color temperature of a light source is the temperature of an ideal black-body radiator that radiates light of...

 control, allowing the user to select the color temperature (usually from a small set of fixed values) of the light emitted when the computer produces the electrical signal corresponding to white. The RGB coordinates of white are (1.0, 1.0, 1.0).


White light reflected
Reflection (physics)
Reflection is the change in direction of a wavefront at an interface between two differentmedia so that the wavefront returns into the medium from which it originated. Common examples include the reflection of light, sound and water waves...

 off objects can be seen when no part of the light spectrum is reflected significantly more than any other and the reflecting material has a degree of diffusion
Diffuse reflection
Diffuse reflection is the reflection of light from a surface such that an incident ray is reflected at many angles rather than at just one angle as in the case of specular reflection...

. People see this when transparent fibers, particles, or droplets are in a transparent matrix of a substantially different refractive index. Examples include classic "white" substances such as sugar, foam
-Definition:A foam is a substance that is formed by trapping gas in a liquid or solid in a divided form, i.e. by forming gas regions inside liquid regions, leading to different kinds of dispersed media...

, pure sand or snow, cotton, clouds, and milk. Crystal
A crystal or crystalline solid is a solid material whose constituent atoms, molecules, or ions are arranged in an orderly repeating pattern extending in all three spatial dimensions. The scientific study of crystals and crystal formation is known as crystallography...

 boundaries and imperfections can also make otherwise transparent materials white, as in the milky quartz
Quartz is the second-most-abundant mineral in the Earth's continental crust, after feldspar. It is made up of a continuous framework of SiO4 silicon–oxygen tetrahedra, with each oxygen being shared between two tetrahedra, giving an overall formula SiO2. There are many different varieties of quartz,...

 or the microcrystalline structure of a seashell
A seashell or sea shell, also known simply as a shell, is a hard, protective outer layer created by an animal that lives in the sea. The shell is part of the body of the animal. Empty seashells are often found washed up on beaches by beachcombers...

. This is also true for artificial paints and pigments, where white results when finely divided transparent material of a high refractive index is suspended in a contrasting binder. Typically paints contain calcium carbonate
Calcium carbonate
Calcium carbonate is a chemical compound with the formula CaCO3. It is a common substance found in rocks in all parts of the world, and is the main component of shells of marine organisms, snails, coal balls, pearls, and eggshells. Calcium carbonate is the active ingredient in agricultural lime,...

 or synthetic rutile
Rutile is a mineral composed primarily of titanium dioxide, TiO2.Rutile is the most common natural form of TiO2. Two rarer polymorphs of TiO2 are known:...

 with no other pigments if a white color is desired.

While the color of a light source can be reasonably measured by its correlated color temperature, a different approach is required for objects since different samples may appear white without a reference. Thus, assessment of whiteness
In colorimetry, whiteness is the degree to which a surface is white. An example of its use might be to quantitatively compare two pieces of paper which appear white viewed individually, but not when juxtaposed....

 requires a comparison. The International Commission on Illumination
International Commission on Illumination
The International Commission on Illumination is the international authority on light, illumination, color, and color spaces...

 (CIE) prescribes one such method.

In painting, white can be crafted by reflecting
Reflection (physics)
Reflection is the change in direction of a wavefront at an interface between two differentmedia so that the wavefront returns into the medium from which it originated. Common examples include the reflection of light, sound and water waves...

 ambient light from a white pigment, although the ambient light must be white light, or else the white pigment will appear the color of the light. White when mixed with black produces gray. In watercolor painting
Watercolor painting
Watercolor or watercolour , also aquarelle from French, is a painting method. A watercolor is the medium or the resulting artwork in which the paints are made of pigments suspended in a water-soluble vehicle...

, white areas mark the absence of paint on the paper.

In nature

Snow and ice are normally white due to the diffusing structure of transparent water ice crystals
Ice is water frozen into the solid state. Usually ice is the phase known as ice Ih, which is the most abundant of the varying solid phases on the Earth's surface. It can appear transparent or opaque bluish-white color, depending on the presence of impurities or air inclusions...

. The same is true for many types of clouds where droplets of water diffuse the white light from the Sun.
Many mountains with winter or year-round snow cover are named accordingly: Mauna Kea
Mauna Kea
Mauna Kea is a volcano on the island of Hawaii. Standing above sea level, its peak is the highest point in the state of Hawaii. However, much of the mountain is under water; when measured from its oceanic base, Mauna Kea is over tall—significantly taller than Mount Everest...

 means white mountain in Hawaiian
Hawaiian language
The Hawaiian language is a Polynesian language that takes its name from Hawaii, the largest island in the tropical North Pacific archipelago where it developed. Hawaiian, along with English, is an official language of the state of Hawaii...

, Mont Blanc
Mont Blanc
Mont Blanc or Monte Bianco , meaning "White Mountain", is the highest mountain in the Alps, Western Europe and the European Union. It rises above sea level and is ranked 11th in the world in topographic prominence...

 means white mountain in French. Changbai Mountains
Changbai Mountains
The Changbai Mountain Range or Jangbaek Mountain Range are a mountain range on the border between China and North Korea...

 literally meaning 'Perpetually White' Mountains, marks the border between China and Korea and Mount Kilimanjaro
Mount Kilimanjaro
Kilimanjaro, with its three volcanic cones, Kibo, Mawenzi, and Shira, is a dormant volcano in Kilimanjaro National Park, Tanzania and the highest mountain in Africa at above sea level .-Geology:...

's name could originate from Swahili
Swahili language
Swahili or Kiswahili is a Bantu language spoken by various ethnic groups that inhabit several large stretches of the Mozambique Channel coastline from northern Kenya to northern Mozambique, including the Comoro Islands. It is also spoken by ethnic minority groups in Somalia...

 meaning little white hill. The White Sea
White Sea
The White Sea is a southern inlet of the Barents Sea located on the northwest coast of Russia. It is surrounded by Karelia to the west, the Kola Peninsula to the north, and the Kanin Peninsula to the northeast. The whole of the White Sea is under Russian sovereignty and considered to be part of...

, an inlet
An inlet is a narrow body of water between islands or leading inland from a larger body of water, often leading to an enclosed body of water, such as a sound, bay, lagoon or marsh. In sea coasts an inlet usually refers to the actual connection between a bay and the ocean and is often called an...

 of the Barents Sea
Barents Sea
The Barents Sea is a marginal sea of the Arctic Ocean, located north of Norway and Russia. Known in the Middle Ages as the Murman Sea, the sea takes its current name from the Dutch navigator Willem Barents...

 on the northwest coast of Russia is undoubtedly named so due to the icy environment.

Beaches with sand containing high amounts of quartz also appear white, which may explain the number of islands called White Island
White Island (disambiguation)
-In Europe:*White Island, Isles of Scilly, England*Eilean Bàn , Scotland*White Island, County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland*Kvitøya , Norway-In North America:*White Island , Canada...

 around the world.

Cultural meaning

White materials show colored stains and dirt very clearly, due to the high contrast
Contrast (vision)
Contrast is the difference in visual properties that makes an object distinguishable from other objects and the background. In visual perception of the real world, contrast is determined by the difference in the color and brightness of the object and other objects within the same field of view...

. This is the likely reason it is associated with purity and cleanness, and very often within a religious context. In Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, Indian tradition, white is the color of mourning
Mourning is, in the simplest sense, synonymous with grief over the death of someone. The word is also used to describe a cultural complex of behaviours in which the bereaved participate or are expected to participate...

 and death.

Symbolic dualism with black

White and black has the biggest visual contrast
Contrast (vision)
Contrast is the difference in visual properties that makes an object distinguishable from other objects and the background. In visual perception of the real world, contrast is determined by the difference in the color and brightness of the object and other objects within the same field of view...

, this can easily be associated to other opposite concepts such as day
Daylight or the light of day is the combination of all direct and indirect sunlight outdoors during the daytime. This includes direct sunlight, diffuse sky radiation, and both of these reflected from the Earth and terrestrial objects. Sunlight scattered or reflected from objects in outer space is...

 and night
Night or nighttime is the period of time when the sun is below the horizon. This occurs after dusk. The opposite of night is day...

 or good and evil.
White often represents purity or innocence in Western Civilization
Western culture
Western culture, sometimes equated with Western civilization or European civilization, refers to cultures of European origin and is used very broadly to refer to a heritage of social norms, ethical values, traditional customs, religious beliefs, political systems, and specific artifacts and...

, particularly as white clothing or objects are easy to stain. In most Western countries white is the color worn by brides at wedding
A wedding is the ceremony in which two people are united in marriage or a similar institution. Wedding traditions and customs vary greatly between cultures, ethnic groups, religions, countries, and social classes...

s. Angels are typically depicted as clothed in white robes. Healing or "good" magic is called White magic
Magic (paranormal)
Magic is the claimed art of manipulating aspects of reality either by supernatural means or through knowledge of occult laws unknown to science. It is in contrast to science, in that science does not accept anything not subject to either direct or indirect observation, and subject to logical...

. In early film Westerns the stereotypically "good guy" wore a white hat (earning them the name "White Hats
White hat (film)
In the movie industry, a white hat was someone in a western movie in which such a character would wear a white hat in contrast to the villain's black hat...

") while the "bad guy" wore black (earning them the name "Black Hats
Black hat (film)
A black hat is a film's villain or bad guy, especially one wear a black hat in a western, in contrast to the hero's white hat.The custom was prominent in the 1968 classic Once Upon a Time in the West, and is often described as prevalent...

"). This has given rise to the use of the names black hat
Black hat
A black hat is the villain or bad guy, especially in a western movie in which such a character would stereotypically wear a black hat in contrast to the hero's white hat, especially in black and white movies....

 and white hat for people who abuse and counter abuse of computer systems respectively. In popular culture this idea is sometimes reversed to play on reversal of stereotypes.

In taoism
Taoism refers to a philosophical or religious tradition in which the basic concept is to establish harmony with the Tao , which is the mechanism of everything that exists...

 which has great influence in Eastern culture Yin and yang
Yin and yang
In Asian philosophy, the concept of yin yang , which is often referred to in the West as "yin and yang", is used to describe how polar opposites or seemingly contrary forces are interconnected and interdependent in the natural world, and how they give rise to each other in turn. Opposites thus only...

 is usually depicted in black and white, depicting the two colors as opposites. The two opponents in board game
Board game
A board game is a game which involves counters or pieces being moved on a pre-marked surface or "board", according to a set of rules. Games may be based on pure strategy, chance or a mixture of the two, and usually have a goal which a player aims to achieve...

s of abstract strategy often has one as white, such as go, chess
Chess is a two-player board game played on a chessboard, a square-checkered board with 64 squares arranged in an eight-by-eight grid. It is one of the world's most popular games, played by millions of people worldwide at home, in clubs, online, by correspondence, and in tournaments.Each player...

, and checkers.

Government and politics

White is often associated with Monarchism
Monarchism is the advocacy of the establishment, preservation, or restoration of a monarchy as a form of government in a nation. A monarchist is an individual who supports this form of government out of principle, independent from the person, the Monarch.In this system, the Monarch may be the...

 as opposed to other forms of government. This originated from Royalist rebellions against the French Revolution
French Revolution
The French Revolution , sometimes distinguished as the 'Great French Revolution' , was a period of radical social and political upheaval in France and Europe. The absolute monarchy that had ruled France for centuries collapsed in three years...

 (see Revolt in the Vendée
Revolt in the Vendée
The War in the Vendée was a Royalist rebellion and counterrevolution in the Vendée region of France during the French Revolution. The Vendée is a coastal region, located immediately south of the Loire River in western France. The uprising was closely tied to the Chouannerie, which took place in...

), known as the White terror
White Terror
White Terror is the violence carried out by reactionary groups as part of a counter-revolution. In particular, during the 20th century, in several countries the term White Terror was applied to acts of violence against real or suspected socialists and communists.-Historical origin: the French...

. It re-emerged in the years following World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

, with civil war
Civil war
A civil war is a war between organized groups within the same nation state or republic, or, less commonly, between two countries created from a formerly-united nation state....

s fought between Reds and Whites, for instance the Civil War in Russia
Russian Civil War
The Russian Civil War was a multi-party war that occurred within the former Russian Empire after the Russian provisional government collapsed to the Soviets, under the domination of the Bolshevik party. Soviet forces first assumed power in Petrograd The Russian Civil War (1917–1923) was a...

 and the Civil War in Finland. A similar use is seen in the naming of the White Revolution
White Revolution
The White Revolution was a far-reaching series of reforms in Iran launched in 1963 by the Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. Mohammad Reza Shah’s reform program was built especially to strengthen those classes that supported the traditional system...

 ,a far-reaching series of reforms launched in 1963 by the last Shah
Pahlavi dynasty
The Pahlavi dynasty consisted of two Iranian/Persian monarchs, father and son Reza Shah Pahlavi and Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi The Pahlavi dynasty consisted of two Iranian/Persian monarchs, father and son Reza Shah Pahlavi (reg. 1925–1941) and Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi The Pahlavi dynasty ...

 of Iran
Iran , officially the Islamic Republic of Iran , is a country in Southern and Western Asia. The name "Iran" has been in use natively since the Sassanian era and came into use internationally in 1935, before which the country was known to the Western world as Persia...

. If a strong leader emerges during a time of crisis, he is often referred to as a man on a white horse; this term is often associated with dictatorship
A dictatorship is defined as an autocratic form of government in which the government is ruled by an individual, the dictator. It has three possible meanings:...


White is also associated with peace. The white ribbon
White ribbon
The white ribbon, a white-colored ribbon or representation of a white-colored ribbon, has several different meanings depending on the context. As with other color ribbons, is sometimes used by political movements to signify or spread their beliefs...

 is worn by movements denouncing violence against women
Violence against women
Violence against women is a technical term used to collectively refer to violent acts that are primarily or exclusively committed against women...

 and the White Rose
White Rose
The White Rose was a non-violent/intellectual resistance group in Nazi Germany, consisting of students from the University of Munich and their philosophy professor...

 was a non-violent resistance group in Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...

. This symbolism has long roots as seen by the white dove originating from the story of Noah
Noah was, according to the Hebrew Bible, the tenth and last of the antediluvian Patriarchs. The biblical story of Noah is contained in chapters 6–9 of the book of Genesis, where he saves his family and representatives of all animals from the flood by constructing an ark...

A white flag
White flag
White flags have had different meanings throughout history and depending on the locale.-Flag of temporary truce in order to parley :...

 is an international sign of either surrender
Surrender (military)
Surrender is when soldiers, nations or other combatants stop fighting and eventually become prisoners of war, either as individuals or when ordered to by their officers. A white flag is a common symbol of surrender, as is the gesture of raising one's hands empty and open above one's head.When the...

, or truce, that is, it is a sign of peace
Peace is a state of harmony characterized by the lack of violent conflict. Commonly understood as the absence of hostility, peace also suggests the existence of healthy or newly healed interpersonal or international relationships, prosperity in matters of social or economic welfare, the...

ful intent, typically at time of war. To show the white feather
White feather
A white feather has been a traditional symbol of cowardice, used and recognised especially within the British Army and in countries associated with the British Empire since the 18th century...

is to display cowardice. White is the purest of all colors. In Victorian Britain
Victorian era
The Victorian era of British history was the period of Queen Victoria's reign from 20 June 1837 until her death on 22 January 1901. It was a long period of peace, prosperity, refined sensibilities and national self-confidence...

, a purported coward would be presented with a white feather.

White as symbol of purity is seen in the expression Whitewash
Whitewash, or calcimine, kalsomine, calsomine, or lime paint is a very low-cost type of paint made from slaked lime and chalk . Various other additives are also used...

, which figuratively, means an attempt to obscure unpleasant facts by issuing a blanket of lies or misrepresentations. See propaganda
Propaganda is a form of communication that is aimed at influencing the attitude of a community toward some cause or position so as to benefit oneself or one's group....

. A white paper
White paper
A white paper is an authoritative report or guide that helps solve a problem. White papers are used to educate readers and help people make decisions, and are often requested and used in politics, policy, business, and technical fields. In commercial use, the term has also come to refer to...

 on the other hand will often be an authoritative report on a major issue, as by a team of experts; a government report outlining policy; or a short treatise whose purpose is to educate industry customers. Associating a paper with white may signify clean facts and unbiased information.


The association of white with purity and peace is used by many religions.

Ihram clothing
Ihram clothing
Ihram clothing includes men's and women's garments worn by Muslim people during the Ihram pilgrimage . Men's garments often consist of two white un-hemmed sheets and are universal in appearance. The top is draped over the torso and the bottom is secured by a belt; plus a pair of sandals...

 (also spelt Ahram clothing) includes men's and women's garments worn by Muslim
A Muslim, also spelled Moslem, is an adherent of Islam, a monotheistic, Abrahamic religion based on the Quran, which Muslims consider the verbatim word of God as revealed to prophet Muhammad. "Muslim" is the Arabic term for "submitter" .Muslims believe that God is one and incomparable...

 people during the Ihram pilgrimage
A pilgrimage is a journey or search of great moral or spiritual significance. Typically, it is a journey to a shrine or other location of importance to a person's beliefs and faith...

The Hajj is the pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia. It is one of the largest pilgrimages in the world, and is the fifth pillar of Islam, a religious duty that must be carried out at least once in their lifetime by every able-bodied Muslim who can afford to do so...

). Men's garments often consist of two white un-hemmed sheets (usually towelling material) and are universal in appearance. The top (the riḍā) is draped over the torso and the bottom (the izār) is secured by a belt
Belt (clothing)
A belt is a flexible band or strap, typically made of leather or heavy cloth, and worn around the waist. A belt supports trousers or other articles of clothing.-History:...

; plus a pair of sandals. Women's clothing, however, varies considerably and reflects regional as well as religious influences. Ihram is typically worn during Dhu al-Hijjah
Dhu al-Hijjah
Dhu al-Ḥijjah is the twelfth and final month in the Islamic calendar.This is a very sacred month in the Islamic calendar, marking the end of the year. It is in this month in which the Hajj takes place....

, the last month in the Islamic calendar
Islamic calendar
The Hijri calendar , also known as the Muslim calendar or Islamic calendar , is a lunar calendar consisting of 12 lunar months in a year of 354 or 355 days. It is used to date events in many Muslim countries , and used by Muslims everywhere to determine the proper day on which to celebrate Islamic...


Where liturgical
Liturgy is either the customary public worship done by a specific religious group, according to its particular traditions or a more precise term that distinguishes between those religious groups who believe their ritual requires the "people" to do the "work" of responding to the priest, and those...

 robes of priest
A priest is a person authorized to perform the sacred rites of a religion, especially as a mediatory agent between humans and deities. They also have the authority or power to administer religious rites; in particular, rites of sacrifice to, and propitiation of, a deity or deities...

s are often white, for instance the Roman Catholic
Roman Catholic Church
The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the world's largest Christian church, with over a billion members. Led by the Pope, it defines its mission as spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ, administering the sacraments and exercising charity...

The Pope is the Bishop of Rome, a position that makes him the leader of the worldwide Catholic Church . In the Catholic Church, the Pope is regarded as the successor of Saint Peter, the Apostle...

's cassock
The cassock, an item of clerical clothing, is an ankle-length robe worn by clerics of the Roman Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Church, Anglican Church, Lutheran Church and some ministers and ordained officers of Presbyterian and Reformed churches. Ankle-length garment is the meaning of the...

 is white. White robes (with green
Green is a color, the perception of which is evoked by light having a spectrum dominated by energy with a wavelength of roughly 520–570 nanometres. In the subtractive color system, it is not a primary color, but is created out of a mixture of yellow and blue, or yellow and cyan; it is considered...

 aprons ) are worn inside Mormon Temples. Many images dealing with God and heaven portray it as existing in the clouds, where everything is white. This phenomenon is not limited to western culture; in Yoruba religion, the orisha Obatala
In the religion of the Yoruba people, Obàtálá is the creator of human bodies, which were supposedly brought to life by Olorun's breath.Obàtálá is also the owner of all ori or heads. Any orisha may lay claim to an individual, but until that individual is initiated into the priesthood of that orisha,...

 in the Ifá
Ifá refers to the system of divination and the verses of the literary corpus known as the Odú Ifá. Yoruba religion identifies Orunmila as the Grand Priest; as that which revealed Oracle divinity to the world...

 tradition is represented by white. Obatala is associated with calmness, morality, old age, and purity. Also more recently founded religions incorporate symbolism surrounding white. In Theosophy
Theosophy, in its modern presentation, is a spiritual philosophy developed since the late 19th century. Its major themes were originally described mainly by Helena Blavatsky , co-founder of the Theosophical Society...

 and similar religions, the deities
A deity is a recognized preternatural or supernatural immortal being, who may be thought of as holy, divine, or sacred, held in high regard, and respected by believers....

 called the Great White Brotherhood
Great White Brotherhood
The Great White Brotherhood, in belief systems akin to Theosophical and New Age, are said to be supernatural beings of great power who spread spiritual teachings through selected humans. The members of the Brotherhood may be known as the Masters of the Ancient Wisdom or the Ascended Masters...

 are said to have white auras
Aura (paranormal)
In parapsychology and many forms of spiritual practice, an aura is a field of subtle, luminous radiation surrounding a person or object . The depiction of such an aura often connotes a person of particular power or holiness. Sometimes, however, it is said that all living things and all objects...


White is the traditional color of bridal
A bride is a woman about to be married or newlywed.The word may come from the Proto-Germanic verb root *brū-, meaning 'to cook, brew, or make a broth' which was the role of the daughter-in-law in primitive families...

 dress in both western (European) and Japanese weddings. In Western weddings, a white dress is thought to be symbolic of purity (the bride has not engaged in pre-marital sex). This is also said to be the symbolism of the veil. In Japanese weddings, white is to symbolize the "death" of their former family and their introduction into their new family.

In some Asian and Slavic cultures, white is considered to be a color that represents death. White also represented death in ancient Egypt
Ancient Egypt
Ancient Egypt was an ancient civilization of Northeastern Africa, concentrated along the lower reaches of the Nile River in what is now the modern country of Egypt. Egyptian civilization coalesced around 3150 BC with the political unification of Upper and Lower Egypt under the first pharaoh...

, representing the lifeless desert that covered much of the country; black was held to be the color of life, representing the mud-covered fertile lands created by the flooding of the Nile
The Nile is a major north-flowing river in North Africa, generally regarded as the longest river in the world. It is long. It runs through the ten countries of Sudan, South Sudan, Burundi, Rwanda, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Tanzania, Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda and Egypt.The Nile has two major...

 and giving the country its name (Kemet, or "black land").


White clothing can be practically used as camouflage
Camouflage is a method of concealment that allows an otherwise visible animal, military vehicle, or other object to remain unnoticed, by blending with its environment. Examples include a leopard's spotted coat, the battledress of a modern soldier and a leaf-mimic butterfly...

 in snowy environments, or for reflecting harsh sunlight. However, most uniforms with white elements are used as a sign of authority - dissociating the wearer from manual labour or a dirty environment. In a highly formal social function, the traditional dress for men attending is white tie
White tie
White tie is the most formal evening dress code in Western fashion. It is worn to ceremonial occasions such as state dinners in some countries, as well as to very formal balls and evening weddings...

, or white tie and tails, a white bow tie
Bow tie
The bow tie is a type of men's necktie. It consists of a ribbon of fabric tied around the collar in a symmetrical manner such that the two opposite ends form loops. Ready-tied bow ties are available, in which the distinctive bow is sewn into shape and the band around the neck incorporates a clip....

 and a swallowtail
A tailcoat is a coat with the front of the skirt cut away, so as to leave only the rear section of the skirt, known as the tails. The historical reason coats were cut this way was to make it easier for the wearer to ride a horse, but over the years tailcoats of varying types have evolved into forms...

 coat. Physicians and scientists are known for wearing white coats both as a practical measure as protecting from and showing spills and stains, and as a sort of uniform
A uniform is a set of standard clothing worn by members of an organization while participating in that organization's activity. Modern uniforms are worn by armed forces and paramilitary organizations such as police, emergency services, security guards, in some workplaces and schools and by inmates...

 showing authority.

Many traditional sports use white uniforms for players, such as Wimbledon
The Championships, Wimbledon
The Championships, Wimbledon, or simply Wimbledon , is the oldest tennis tournament in the world, considered by many to be the most prestigious. It has been held at the All England Club in Wimbledon, London since 1877. It is one of the four Grand Slam tennis tournaments, the other three Majors...

 tennis, cricket
Cricket is a bat-and-ball game played between two teams of 11 players on an oval-shaped field, at the centre of which is a rectangular 22-yard long pitch. One team bats, trying to score as many runs as possible while the other team bowls and fields, trying to dismiss the batsmen and thus limit the...

, and baseball
Baseball is a bat-and-ball sport played between two teams of nine players each. The aim is to score runs by hitting a thrown ball with a bat and touching a series of four bases arranged at the corners of a ninety-foot diamond...

 and basketball
Basketball is a team sport in which two teams of five players try to score points by throwing or "shooting" a ball through the top of a basketball hoop while following a set of rules...

, where white is the color typically used for uniforms worn by the home team. This may be a result of the sports being played outside exposing players to direct sunlight for prolonged periods of time.


The term white is often used to denote the race of pale-skinned Caucasoids
Caucasian race
The term Caucasian race has been used to denote the general physical type of some or all of the populations of Europe, North Africa, the Horn of Africa, Western Asia , Central Asia and South Asia...

 people of European descent perceived as being colored varying tones of pale off white to "white" skin color, whose actual skin color can also vary from pale pink
Pink is a mixture of red and white. Commonly used for Valentine's Day and Easter, pink is sometimes referred to as "the color of love." The use of the word for the color known today as pink was first recorded in the late 17th century....

 to pale brown; it has been suggested that the colors beige
Beige may be described as an off tan color or an extremely pale brown color.The term originates from beige cloth, a cotton fabric left undyed in its natural color...

 or peach
Peach (color)
Peach is a color that is named for the pale color of the peach fruit. Like the color apricot, the color called peach is paler than most actual peach fruits and seems to have been formulated primarily to create a pastel palette of colors for interior design...

 could also be used to represent the average color of most Caucasians. See White people
White people
White people is a term which usually refers to human beings characterized, at least in part, by the light pigmentation of their skin...


Vexillology and heraldry

Vatican City
Vatican City
Vatican City , or Vatican City State, in Italian officially Stato della Città del Vaticano , which translates literally as State of the City of the Vatican, is a landlocked sovereign city-state whose territory consists of a walled enclave within the city of Rome, Italy. It has an area of...

 has a flag
Flag of the Vatican City
The flag of Vatican City was adopted on June 7, 1929, the year Pope Pius XI signed the Lateran Treaty with Italy, creating a new independent state governed by the Holy See...

 of yellow
Yellow is the color evoked by light that stimulates both the L and M cone cells of the retina about equally, with no significant stimulation of the S cone cells. Light with a wavelength of 570–590 nm is yellow, as is light with a suitable mixture of red and green...

 and white, although in normal European heraldry one is not supposed to use these two colors together adjacently because both represent metals--yellow represents gold
Gold (color)
Gold, also called golden, is one of a variety of orange-yellow color blends used to give the impression of the color of the element gold....

 and white represents silver
Silver (color)
Silver is the metallic shade resembling gray, closest to that of polished silver.The visual sensation usually associated with the metal silver is its metallic shine. This cannot be reproduced by a simple solid color, because the shiny effect is due to the material's brightness varying with the...

), to deliberately show that the Church
Roman Catholic Church
The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the world's largest Christian church, with over a billion members. Led by the Pope, it defines its mission as spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ, administering the sacraments and exercising charity...

 is not bound by secular
Secularism is the principle of separation between government institutions and the persons mandated to represent the State from religious institutions and religious dignitaries...

 rules. In English heraldry
Heraldry is the profession, study, or art of creating, granting, and blazoning arms and ruling on questions of rank or protocol, as exercised by an officer of arms. Heraldry comes from Anglo-Norman herald, from the Germanic compound harja-waldaz, "army commander"...

, white or silver
Silver (color)
Silver is the metallic shade resembling gray, closest to that of polished silver.The visual sensation usually associated with the metal silver is its metallic shine. This cannot be reproduced by a simple solid color, because the shiny effect is due to the material's brightness varying with the...

signified brightness, purity, virtue, and innocence.

External links