The whole world, as we experience it visually,
comes to us through the mystic realm of colour.’

Hans Hofmann

In my article of last week, I wrote about some of the research done based on the way in which we see and interpret colour; and in that article I focused on the colour red. Orange is one of those colours that has a wavelength and a frequency, which Newton included in his spectrum of colours. It is also one of the chakra colours; so I thought that this week we could focus on how the colour orange has an impact of our lives!

Colour represent culture, social customs, emotions, is used in homes, art, printing, design, web-sites, graphics. These days colour is unavoidable. Colours influence people through psychological changes. Certain colours are associated with certain feelings. Certain colours are associated with certain meanings.

Orange is a close relative of red and in the spectrum of colour mixing red and yellow will give you orange. Orange sparks more controversy than any other colour – generally a ‘love it’ or ‘hate it’ response, more than any other colour. Orange as a fun and flamboyant colour radiates warmth and energy. Shades of orange – terra cotta, peach, apricot, rust – have very strong appeal and more often than not are preferred to the natural colour of orange.

Orange is red brought nearer to humanity by yellow.’
Wassily Kandinsky

Orange is a colour that stimulates activity, raises our appetite, encourages socialisation. Orange as a colour triggers memories that both satisfy the eyes and the nose (carved pumpkins, succulent citrus fruits).

Orange is the happiest colour.’
Frank Sinatra

The word we use to describe the colour started life only as a way that was used to describe the fruit. Etymologists (word detectives) believe that the word came into the English language from the word ‘naranga’ in Sanskrit (the ancient language of India which has roots that go back to the 4th century BC.) In Sansksrit ‘naranga’ was not used to describe the colour – it was used to describe the citrus fruit that was native to northern India. From Sanskrit ‘narang’ was found in Persian, from which it eventually became part of the European languages when the Moors (Arabs from Africa) settled in medieval Spain. Etymologists believe that the word came into the English language from French or Spanish – the English changed the ‘une narange’ in French to ‘orange’. It wasn’t until the 16th century AD that the use of the word orange was expanded to describe the colour we all know as orange. There is an argument that says that very few things in the natural world are orange so there was no real need for a word to describe this colour – you will find that frequently people writing about items/objects that are orange will use words like ‘gold’, ‘amber’, terrra cotta’, ‘peach’, etc.

ChakraElaine explains in her article that orange is the colour of the SACRAL CHAKRA (and also known as the Svadhistana). This chakra is located beneath the naval, close to the genitals and is linked to the sexual organs and reproductive system. The sacral chakra is about sexuality and emotions – opening this chakra will free fertility and inherent creativity. Gemstones that aid the Sacral Chakra include the carnelian and orange agate.

How is orange represented around the globe? In some languages and cultures it is just a colour, but in many languages and cultures it represents something specific. The American Indians associate the colour orange with kinship; whereas in The Netherlands (Holland) orange is the national colour. This dates back to the Dutch War of Independence and the Prince of Orange (who was seen to be a rebel). For the Irish, the colour orange dates back from the reign of William of Orange (the Protestant English King). The Chinese and Japanese use orange to symbolise happiness and love. In the USA you have a number of counties called ‘Orange’ i.e. Orange County, California; Orange, New Jersey.

In the Christian religion, orange is seen to represent ‘gluttony’.

Orange also has political party associations. As we’ve seen above, orange is the national colour of The Netherlands (Holland) – this is because the royal family owns the principality of Orange. In Ireland the use of orange dates back from the reign of William of Orange.

There are a number of popular phrases that include orange:

  • Comparing apples and oranges – this is an idiom that refers to the apparent differences between items which are popularly thought to be incomparable.
  • The future’s bright, the future’s orange – a slogan used by the mobile/cell phone company ‘Orange’

There are a number of companies whose brands identify them with the colour orange – Orange (the mobile/cell phone company), Orange Crush, Tropicana, IM Ivory Mountain, Home Depot, Fanta Orange (Coca Cola company) – for example.

Orange, it seems, maybe the best colour choice for the competitive player. Though rare in golf apparel and only the seventh most popular colour among American consumers, orange is jovial, warm, energetic, forceful, and has a subjective impression of exuberance. It is associated with fruitfulness, adventure, vigour, and wholesomeness, plenty of which exists in golf and on the PGA Tour.’ Michael Patrick Shiels

How is orange represented in your garden? Orange is also considered to be a warm colour in landscape gardening. Orange flowers and foliage have an exciting effect, often give the impression of coming forward in the landscape, making your garden feel cosier. Orange is one of those colours that we often have trouble incorporating, but it’s a colour that really stands out from a distance and seems to shout ‘hey, look at me!’ Orange is often seen as a vibrant colour in sunsets, sometimes in sunrises, in the warm flames of our fireplaces in winter; but not that often seen in our gardens. What would be the reason for that? Orange’s complimentary colour in the garden is blue.

How does the colour orange impact your sense of taste and smell? When we think about orange in our food we think about oranges, tangerines, peaches, apricots, sweet potatoes. All fruits and vegetables that add colour to our plates but also nutrients to our diet. Orange peel is a very strong smell, very refreshing and very cooling. AromaPod, a scented lifestyle tool, uses the colour orange with the scent that represents ‘awakening’. Orange is a fabulous scent for the spring and autumn. The smell of orange in aromatherapy is used for cheering, refreshing, uplifting, cleansing, rejuvenating, energising, sensual, stimulating. The spicy mimosa scent will intoxicate you all year round.

Some interesting information about the colour orange – orange is:

  • the interior dash-lights on the older Suburu cars were orange.
  • the colour used by the USA Army Signal Corps.
  • the colour used to set things apart in their surroundings. It’s the colour usually used in the USA for traffic cones, barrels, and other construction zone marking devices.
  • the colour often required for certain construction equipment (as determined by Health and Safety Administrations).
  • the name given to a herbicide – Agent Orange. It was named after the colour of the containers it was stored in.
  • the colour that means ‘high’ in any colour coded threat system.
  • the colour that is used as a ’warning’ colour. For example in a set of traffic lights, orange is the colour that is displayed after green (go) and to warn you that red (stop) is about to display.

Driving an orange vehicle gives a clear but unspoken message to the rest of the world – it says that you are ‘fun-loving’, ‘talkative’, ‘fickle’ and ‘trendy’.

Reds, yellows, and oranges conjure up sunlight and fire,
while the blues and blue-greens evoke snow and ice, sea, sky and moonlight’


Georgia O’Keeff said ‘I found I could say things with colour and shapes that I couldn’t say any other way – things I had no words for.’ Interesting quote and it brings to mind a comment a friend made to me many years ago. I can remember not being encouraged, as a teenager at high school in South Africa, to write with a fountain pens. We were encouraged to write with blue or black ballpoint pens. Very clean … no ink spilling as you filled your fountain pen … very easy to throw into your school bag. When I went to college in the UK I started to write with fountain pens again, and for those whole say that you can’t ‘scribble’ with a fountain pen – I’ve found a way! Over the years I’ve collected a range of fountain pens – some inexpensive and fun, others very expensive. I love writing with my Cross pens, but for Christmas last year I was given a Sheaffer pen – writes beautifully; but I have discovered (like a number of my other fountain pens) that I can get multiple colour cartridges. So when I saw this quote by Georgia it reminded me of what people say to me when I start to write, as I never know what colour I’m writing in. As one cartridge empties I just take one out of my box of cartridges and put it in … gradually my writing changes from the colour I was writing in to the new colour I’ve just selected! In a more selective way, I have a range of coloured pens that sit on my desk and when I’m mind mapping I often get the colours out, draw and annotate my mind maps in a range of colours. Interestingly in fountain pen cartridges I have had orange – not always easy to find, but it produces a wonderfully fun filled feeling when I’m writing with it. I looked at some mind maps that I had done recently and found that I seem to always draw the fun elements, my hobbies, explorations in orange. So I agree with Frank Sinatra – orange is a happy colour. I always see it as a bright colour – fun-filled and freedom! It always signals that I should be walking or running with friends or a dog on a sunny, sandy beach.

The soul becomes dyed with the colour of its thoughts.’
Marcus Aurelius

© 2011 Barbara J. Cormack
First published under Cormack’s Capers in Magna Intuitum