White is the lightest color and is achromatic (having no hue), because it fully reflects and scatters all the visible wavelengths of light. It is the color of fresh snow, chalk, and milk, and is the opposite of black.
In ancient Egypt and ancient Rome, priestesses wore white as a symbol of purity, and Romans wore a white toga as a symbol of citizenship. In the Middle Ages and Renaissance a white unicorn symbolized chastity, and a white lamb sacrifice and purity. It was the royal color of the Kings of France, and of the monarchist movement that opposed the Bolsheviks during the Russian Civil War (1917–1922). Greek and Roman temples were faced with white marble, and beginning in the 18th century, with the advent of neoclassical architecture, white became the most common color of new churches, capitols and other government buildings, especially in the United States. It was also widely used in 20th century modern architecture as a symbol of modernity and simplicity.
According to surveys in Europe and the United States, white is the color most often associated with perfection, the good, honesty, cleanliness, the beginning, the new, neutrality, and exactitude. White is an important color for almost all world religions. The Pope, the head of the Roman Catholic Church, has worn white since 1566, as a symbol of purity and sacrifice. In Islam, and in the Shinto religion of Japan, it is worn by pilgrims; and by the Brahmins in India. In Western cultures and in Japan, white is the most common color for wedding dresses, symbolizing purity and virginity. In many Asian cultures, white is also the color of mourning.
In China, Korea, and some other Asian countries, white, or more precisely, the whitish color of undyed linen, is the color of mourning and funerals.
In traditional China, undyed linen clothing is worn at funerals. As time passes, the bereaved can gradually wear clothing dyed with colors, then with darker colors. Small sacks of quicklime, one for each year of the life of the deceased are placed around the body to protect it against impurity in the next world, and white paper flowers are placed around the body.
In China and other Asian countries, white is the color of reincarnation, showing that death is not a permanent separation from the world.
In China, white is associated with the masculine (the yang of the yin and yang); with the unicorn and tiger; with the fur of an animal; with the direction of west; with the element metal; and with the autumn season.
In Japan, undyed linen white robes are worn by pilgrims for rituals of purification, and bathing in sacred rivers. In the mountains, pilgrims wear costumes of undyed jute to symbolize purity. A white kimono is often placed in the casket with the deceased for the journey to the other world, as white represents death sometimes. Condolence gifts, or kooden, are tied with black and white ribbons and wrapped in white paper, protecting the contents from the impurities of the other world.
In India, the color white was traditionally reserved for the Brahmin caste. It is the color of purity, divinity, detachment and serenity. In Hindi, the name Sweta means white.
In Tibetan Buddhism, white robes were reserved for the lama of a monastery.
In the Bedouin and some other pastoral cultures, there is a strong connection between milk and white, which is considered the color of gratitude, esteem, joy, good fortune and fertility.
White is often associated with monarchism. The association originally came from the white flag of the Bourbon dynasty of France. White became the banner of the royalist rebellions against the French Revolution (see Revolt in the Vendée).
During the Civil War which followed the Russian Revolution of 1917, the White Army, a coalition of monarchists, nationalists and liberals, fought unsuccessfully against the Red Army of the Bolsheviks. A similar battle between reds and whites took place during the Civil War in Finland in the same period.
The Ku Klux Klan is a racist and anti-immigrant organization which flourished in the Southern United States after the American Civil War. They wore white robes and hoods, burned crosses and violently attacked and murdered black Americans.
In Iran, the White Revolution was a series of social and political reforms launched in 1963 by the last Shah of Iran before his downfall.
White is also associated with peace and passive resistance. The white ribbon is worn by movements denouncing violence against women and the White Rose was a non-violent resistance group in Nazi Germany.
Selected national flags featuring white
White is a common color in national flags, though its symbolism varies widely. The white in the flag of the United States and flag of the United Kingdom comes from traditional red St George’s Cross on a white background of the historic flag of England. The white in the flag of France represents either the monarchy or “white, the ancient French color” according to the Marquis de Lafayette.
Many flags in the Arab world use the colors of the flag of the Arab Revolt of 1916; red, white, green and black. These include the flags of Egypt, Bahrain, Jordan, Syria, Kuwait and Iraq.
Philippines also use white as their symbol for unity in their flag.
In the Roman Catholic Church, white is associated with Jesus Christ, innocence and sacrifice. Since the Middle Ages, priests wear a white cassock in many of the most important ceremonies and religious services connected with events in the life of Christ. White is worn by priests at Christmas, during Easter, and during celebrations connected with the other events of the life of Christ, such as Corpus Christi Sunday, and Trinity Sunday. It is also worn at the services dedicated to the Virgin Mary, and to those Saints who were not martyred, as well as other special occasions, such as the ordination of priests and the installation of new bishops. Within the hierarchy of the church, the lighter the color, the higher the rank. Ordinary priests wear black; bishops wear violet, cardinals wear red, and outside a church, only the Pope will wear white. Popes occasionally wore white in the Middle Ages, but usually wore red. Popes have worn white regularly since 1566, when Pope Pius V, a member of the Dominican Order, began the practice. White is the color of the Dominican Order.
In Islam, white clothing is worn during required pilgrimage to Mecca, or Ihram pilgrimage (Hajj).Hajj. Called Ihram clothing, men’s garments often consist of two white un-hemmed sheets (usually towelling material). The top (the riḍā) is draped over the torso and the bottom (the izār) is secured by a belt; plus a pair of sandals. Women’s clothing varies considerably and reflects regional as well as religious influences. Ihram is typically worn during Dhu al-Hijjah, the last month in the Islamic calendar.
In Judaism, during the rituals of Yom Kippur, the ceremony of atonement, the rabbi dresses in white, as do the members of the congregation, to restore the bonds between God and his followers.
In the traditional Japanese religion of Shinto, an area of white gravel or stones marks a sacred place, called a niwa. These places were dedicated to the kami, spirits which had descended from the heavens or had come across the sea. Later, temples of Zen Buddhism in Japan often featured a Zen garden, where white sand or gravel was carefully raked to resemble rivers or streams, designed as objects of meditation.
In the temples of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church or also known as Mormon), White clothing is worn inside once they have been officially dedicated, due to white symbolizing purity.
Many religions symbolize heaven by using a sky with white clouds. This phenomenon is not limited to western culture; in Yoruba religion, the orisha Obatala in the Ifá tradition is represented by white. Obatala is associated with calmness, morality, old age, and purity.
In Theosophy and similar religions, the deities called the Great White Brotherhood are said to have white auras.
In some Asian and Slavic cultures, white is considered to be a color that represents death. White also represented death in ancient Egypt, 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 and giving the country its name (Kemet, or “black land”).
Idioms and expressions
To whitewash something is to conceal an unpleasant reality.
A white lie is an innocent lie told out of politeness.
White noise is the noise of all the frequencies of sound combined. It is used to cover up unwanted noise.
A white knight in finance is a friendly investor who steps in to rescue a company from a hostile takeover.
White-collar workers are those who work in offices, as opposed to blue-collar workers, who work with their hands in factories or workshops.
A white paper is an authoritative report on a major issue 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 white feather is a symbol of cowardice, particularly in Britain. It supposedly comes from cockfighting and the belief that a cockerel sporting a white feather in its tail is likely to be a poor fighter. At the beginning of the First World War, women in England were encouraged to give white feathers to men who had not enlisted in the British Armed Forces.
In the US, a white shoe firm is an older, conservative firm, usually in a field such as banking or law. The phrase derives from the “white bucks,” laced suede or buckskin shoes with red soles, long popular in the Ivy League colleges.
In Russia, the nobility are sometimes described as white bone (белая кость, bélaya kost’), commoners as black bone.
Associations and symbolism
Innocence and sacrifice
In Western culture, white is the color most often associated with innocence, or purity. In Biblical times, lambs and other white animals were sacrificed to expiate sins. In Christianity Christ is considered the “lamb of God,” who died for the sins of mankind. The white lily is considered the flower of purity and innocence, and is often associated with the Virgin Mary.
Beginning and new
White is the color in Western culture most often associated with beginnings and the new. In Christianity, children are baptized wearing white, and, wear white for their first communion. Christ after his Resurrection is traditionally portrayed dressed in white. Eggs, another symbol of the new, are used to celebrate Easter.
The Queen of the United Kingdom traditionally wears white when she opens the session of Parliament. In high society, debutantes traditionally wear white for their first ball.
White has long been the traditional color worn by brides at royal weddings, but the white wedding gown for ordinary people appeared in the 19th century. Before that time, most brides wore their best Sunday clothing, of whatever color. The white lace wedding gown of Queen Victoria in 1840 had a large impact on the color and fashion of wedding dresses in both Europe and America down to the present day.
White is the color most associated with cleanliness. Objects which are expected to be clean, such as refrigerators and dishes, toilets and sinks, bed linen and towels, are traditionally white. White was the traditional color of the coats of doctors, nurses, scientists and laboratory technicians, though nowadays a pale blue or green is often used. White is also the color most often worn by chefs, bakers, and butchers, and the color of the aprons of waiters in French restaurants.
Ghosts, phantoms and two of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse
White is the color associated with ghosts and phantoms. In the past the dead were traditionally buried in a white shroud. Ghosts are said to be the spirits of the dead who, for various reasons, are unable to rest or enter heaven, and so walk the earth in their white shrouds. White is also connected with the paleness of death. A common expression in English is “pale as a ghost.”
The woman in white, Weiße Frau, or dame blanche is a familiar figure in English, German and French ghost stories. She is a spectral apparition of a female clad in white, in most cases the ghost of an ancestor, sometimes giving warning about death and disaster. The most notable Weiße Frau is the legendary ghost of the German Hohenzollern dynasty.
Seeing a white horse in a dream is said to be presentiment of death. In the Book of Revelation, the last book in the New Testament of the Bible, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are supposed to announce the Apocalypse before the Last Judgement. The man on a white horse with a bow and arrow. according to different interpretations, represents either War and Conquest, the Antichrist, or Christ himself, cleansing the world of sin. Death rides a horse whose color is described in ancient Greek as khlōros (χλωρός) in the original Koine Greek, which can mean either green/greenish-yellow or pale/pallid.
Black and white
Black and white often represent the contrast between light and darkness, day and night, male and female, good and evil.
In taoism, the two complementary natures of the universe, yin and yang, are often symbolized in black and white, Ancient games of strategy, such as go and chess, use black and white to represent the two sides.
In the French monarchy, white symbolized the King and his power par la grâce de Dieu (“by the grace of God”) and in contrast black was the color of the queen who according to the Salic Law which excluded women from the throne (and thus from power) could never become the ruling monarch.
Black and white also often represent formality and seriousness, as in the costumes of judges and priests, business suits, of formal evening dress. Monks of the Dominican Order wear a black cloak over a white habit. Until 1972 agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation were informally required by FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover to wear white shirts with their suits, to project the correct image of the FBI.
Names taken from white
White is the source of more names for women in western countries than any other color. Names taken from white include Alba, Albine (Latin). Blandine, Blanche and Blanchette (French); Bianca (Italian); Jennifer (Celt); Genevieve, Candice (from Latin Candida); Fenela, Fiona and Finola (Irish); Gwendoline, Gwenael, Nol(g)wen (white woman) (Celt), Nives (Spanish) and Zuria (Basque).
In addition many names come from white flowers: Camille, Daisy, Lily, Lili, Magnolie, Jasmine, Yasemine, Leila, Marguerite, Rosalba, and others.
Other names come from the white pearl; Pearl, Margarita (Latin), Margaret, Margarethe, Marga, Grete, Rita, Gitta, Marjorie, Margot.
Temples, churches and government buildings
Since ancient times, temples, churches, and many government buildings in many countries have traditionally been white, the color associated with religious and civic virtue. The Parthenon and other ancient temples of Greece, and the buildings of the Roman Forum were mostly made of or clad in white marble, though it is now known that some of these ancient buildings were actually brightly painted. The Roman tradition of using white stone for government buildings and churches was revived in the Renaissance and especially in the neoclassic style of the 18th and 19th centuries. White stone became the material of choice for government buildings in Washington D.C. and other American cities. European cathedrals were also usually built of white or light-colored stone, though many darkened over the centuries from smoke and soot.
The Renaissance architect and scholar Leon Battista Alberti wrote in 1452 that churches should be plastered white on the inside, since white was the only appropriate color for reflection and meditation. After the Reformation, Calvinist churches in the Netherlands were whitewashed and sober inside, a tradition that was also followed in the Protestant churches of New England, such as Old North Church in Boston.
People of the Caucasian race are often referred to simply as white. The United States Census Bureau defines white people as those “having origins in any of the original peoples of Europe, the Middle East, or North Africa. It includes people who reported “white” or wrote in entries such as Irish, German, Italian, Lebanese, Near Easterner, Arab, or Polish.” White people constitute the majority of the U.S. population, with a total of 223,553,265 or 72% of the population in the 2010 United States Census.
A white flag has long been used to represent either surrender or a request for a truce. It is believed to have originated in the 15th century, during the Hundred Years’ War between France and England, when multicolored flags, as well as firearms, came into common use by European armies. The white flag was officially recognized as a request to cease hostilities by the Geneva Convention of 1949.
Vexillology and heraldry
In English heraldry, white or silver signified brightness, purity, virtue, and innocence.
Source From Wikipedia