Color Symbolism and Meaning of Red

What is the meaning of red? Is it the command of a red stoplight? Is it the intoxicating allure of a beautiful woman in a deep crimson dress? Could it be the political statement from a candidate’s red power suit or pocket square? Does red’s meaning relate to a shiny back-to-school apple? Whether it’s clothing, food, or holiday decorations, red’s meaning surrounds and excites us.

Meaning Of Red: Explained

I’m having a red-letter day!

He’s seeing red.

There are red flags everywhere.

Red is the color of heightened emotion, strength, and power. It’s invigorating, intimidating, and it’s never boring.

Why do we feel so strongly about the color red?

Physical Effects

In some ways, red is the opposite of blue. Red speeds up our heart rate, blood flow, and body temperature. Red stimulates our senses of smell and taste, making us more sensitive to our environments. Red also stimulates the adrenal gland, making us more prone to take action and giving us more energy. Red is a physical stimulant.

Red is the color of heightened emotion, strength, and power. It’s invigorating, intimidating, and it’s never boring.

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Symbolism And Meaning Of Red

Red stands for many things, all of them potent. Red is romantic love, and its physical passion. Red is violence, anger, and aggression, and it frequently indicates danger. Paradoxically–for a color associated with action and energy–red is universally used as the color that means "stop." Red is used professionally to capture attention, elicit emotion, and convey confidence.

Meaning of Red Words
Meaning of Red Defined

Positive Associations

We think of vitality, the life-giving power of blood, and helping people in need (think American Red Cross.) We give red roses when we’re in love, and call simply outstanding experiences "red letter days." Red calls us to action, gets us motivated, and wearing red lets people know we feel confident and ready to take on the world. Red is also associated with luxury–a red Ferrari and the soles of Louboutin shoes declare that a person has achieved material success.

Red calls us to action, gets us motivated, and wearing red lets people know we feel confident and ready to take on the world.

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Negative Associations

Just as blood can be associated either with its life-giving properties or with violence, red is also paradoxically affiliated with notions of violence, danger, and anger.Matadors use red capes not to attract the attention of the bulls they fight (since bulls are colorblind,) but rather to hide the bloodstains of their gory sport. Red can indicate anger beyond what reason can contain–"seeing red"–and red flags indicate (or should) when something’s wrong with a person or a situation. Red is also associated with financial loss.

Red Chakra Color

Chakras are energy centers within the body that help to regulate all its processes. Each chakra governs specific functions and is represented by one of the seven chakra colors.

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Red: The color of the Base or Root chakra, also known as Muladhara. This chakra is located at the base of the spine and allows us to be grounded and connect to the universal energies. First chakra, base of the spine. Groundedness, trust, belonging, lessens feelings of mistrust. Gemstones that will aid the Root chakra include lodestone, ruby, garnet, smokey quartz, obsidian, hematite and onyx.

Red Birthstone Colors

Color Morsels

Red has the longest wavelength of any color. It’s the first color babies can see, and it’s the very first color to vanish as the sun sets.

Red is the least common color of seaglass, as red glass is expensive to produce.

The color red is an appetite stimulant. Strawberries, cranberries, and apples are all red when ripe.

Only 1-2% of the world’s population has red hair. Redheads are more sensitive to sunlight and thermal pain than people with hair of other colors, and while redheads tend to have less hair, their hair is more resistant to turning gray with age.

The color red on an exam paper can negatively affect students’ scores, as red pens are associated with negative feedback.

Red is the color of winning. Studies have shown that weightlifters demonstrate an increase in muscle strength when in a room with red light, and in video games, red players are more likely to win than players of other colors.

The color "madder red" was used in tapestries of French royalty. The recipe for the dye included ox blood, rancid castor oil, and sheep or cow dung.

Red is sexy! Studies show that both men and women perceive potential partners dressed in red as more attractive than others. In addition, men tend to give waitresses in red shirts bigger tips!

Read About the Color Red

Cochineal Red: The Art History of a Color (Metropolitan Museum of Art)
The Primary Colors: Three Essays
A Perfect Red: Empire, Espionage, and the Quest for the Color of Desire
A Red Like No Other: How Cochineal Colored the World

Red Words, Phrases And Idioms

Examples of how the meaning of red colors our language:

Red carpet treatment: giving privileged treatment to an important person

Caught red-handed: clearly guilty

Red in the face: to become embarrassed

Seeing red: to be angered

Red flag: a warning of danger

Not worth a red cent: having no value

Red letter day: a memorable, joyful day [See Why an Important Date is Called a Red Letter day]

Red tape: excessive formalities in governmental process [See An Annoyance With a Colorful Name]

In the red: a term to describe an economic loss

Scarlet letter: a punitive mark of adultery that originated with the novel (1850) The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne.

Quotes About Color Red

Red is such an interesting color to correlate with emotion, because it's on both ends of the spectrum. On one end you have happiness, falling in love, infatuation with someone, passion, all that. On the other end, you've got obsession, jealousy, danger, fear, anger and frustration.

Taylor Swift, American singer-songwriter, b. 1989

The true color of life is the color of the body, the color of the covered red, the implicit and not explicit red of the living heart and the pulses. It is the modest color of the unpublished blood.

Alice Meynell, British poet and essayist, 1847–1922

I'm in love with red. I think it's such a passionate color. Every flag of every country pretty much has red on it. Its power, there's no fence sitting with red. Either you love it or you don't. I think its blood and strength and life. I do love red. I love all colors. Great shades of blue, you find them in nature. They're all magic.

Bryan Batt, American actor, b. 1963

My mother warned me to avoid things colored red. - Claes Oldenburg  #color #quotes

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My mother warned me to avoid things colored red.

Claes Oldenburg, Swedish-born American pop sculptor, b. 1929

Red protects itself. No color is as territorial. It stakes a claim, is on the alert against the spectrum.

Michael Derek Elworthy, English film director, stage designer, diarist, artist, gardener and author, 1942–1994

Painters use red like spice.

Michael Derek Elworthy, English film director, stage designer, diarist, artist, gardener and author, 1942–1994

All my life I've pursued the perfect red. I can never get painters to mix it for me. It's exactly as if I'd said, "I want Rococo with a spot of Gothic in it and a bit of Buddhist temple" - they have no idea what I'm talking about.

Diana Vreeland, fashion columnist/editor and consultant to Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1903-1989

You can spend a lifetime studying the interaction of colors, and painting how red can dance, so when the viewer ‘gets it’ and says ‘Aha!’ their way of seeing is transformed.

Gayle Konantz, artists’ responses to ‘Imagine’ by Robert Genn, October 12th, 2004, The Painter’s Key

You can’t go wrong with the use of red; every painting should have red in it.

George De Groat, American painter, 1927-1994

A thimbleful of red is redder than a bucketful. - Henri Matisse  #color #quotes

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A thimbleful of red is redder than a bucketful.

Henri Matisse, French artist known for the expressive color and form of his Fauvist style, 1869-1954

Of all the hues, reds have the most potency. If there is one electric blue, a dozen reds are so charged. Use them to punctuate white, burn into bronzes, or dynamite black.

Jack Lenor Larsen, American textile designer, author and collector, b. 1927

If one says ‘Red’ – the name of color – and there are fifty people listening, it can be expected that there will be fifty reds in their minds. And one can be sure that all these reds will be very different.

Josef Albers, German-born American abstract painter and designer, 1888-1976

I want a red to be sonorous, to sound like a bell. If it doesn’t turn out that way, I add more reds and other colors until I get it.

Pierre-Auguste Renoir, French Impressionist painter, 1841-1919

The ‘pure’ red of which certain abstractionists speak does not exist. Any red is rooted in blood, glass, wine, hunters’ caps and a thousand other concrete phenomena. Otherwise we would have no feeling toward red and its relations…

Robert Motherwell, American abstract Expressionist painter, 1915-1991

Everything utilitarian needs a little red edge.

Reno Dakota, American Filmmaker, b. 1959

More Intriguing Facts About Red

The Colors of Love
Red White Blue Meaning as the Colors of the American Flag

Red As A Signature Color

A signature color is different than a favorite color although for some people they many be one and the same. It is all in how you express yourself with a color and how consistently you wear it or surround yourself with the color that makes it your signature shade.

  • Nancy Reagan - the former first lady wore so many fire engine red dresses that the color became known as "Reagan Red."
  • Diana Vreeland - An influential fashion editor who ruled the industry for five decades known for her omnipresent red lips and nails and dramatic crimson outfits. But she was also known for her vibrant red living room, one of the most recognizable and iconic rooms in design history.

Companies & Brands Identified by Red

  • Target
  • Virgin
  • Texaco
  • 3M
  • Levi's
  • Coca-Cola
  • Kellogg's
  • ESPN
  • Ducati
  • Time
  • Santander
  • Heinz
  • Old Spice
  • Toyota
  • Lego
  • Avis
  • Canon
  • CNN
  • Red Bull
  • KFC
  • YouTube
  • Netflix
  • H&M
  • Puma
  • Marlboro
  • HSBC

Cities With Color Names: Red

Here are a few U.S. cities with 'red' in their name:

  • Baton Rouge, Louisiana
  • Red Bank, New Jersey
  • Red Lick, Texas
  • Red River, New Mexico
  • Red Wing, Minnesota
  • Redmond, Washington
  • Vermillion, South Dakota
  • Red Lake Falls, Minnesota
  • Redwood, California
  • Auburn, Washington
Cities with Color Name

Color And Our Sense Of Smell: Red

It’s not just emotion that makes scent powerful. It’s closely tied to your memories, as well. Smell also plays a major role in our ability to taste. When combined with with color those connections become even stronger.

  • The red colored Magic Scents Crayola Crayons labeled "Cherry" from Binney & Smith Inc. was originally scented to smell like juicy cherries. However, after numerous reports that children were "eating" the food-scented crayons the company changed to less tasty options. The scent for the color red became “Cedar Chest.”
  • An international study, published in PLoS One, using standardized procedures to measure the odor-color connection found that people largely agreed that the fruity scent smelled like pink and red, while the musty scent smelled orange and brown.
  • “Gallica Roses come in crimsons, deep pinks, mauves, and stripes and splashes. They are most often described as having Old Rose fragrances, which can be intense and spicy.” - American Rose Association

Color Taste Connection: Red

There are five basic groups of taste, which send signals to our brain to interpret flavor. However, we also send signals with our eyes before we take a bite and give our taste buds a chance to process the flavor. The color can pre-determine how we perceive the taste and flavor of what we eat.

The Color Red In The Garden

  • Red adds energy and excitement. This bold color works well as an accent and to highlight an area. Blues and silvers cool down reds and tame some of their intensity. Pinks are an agreeable tint of red that combine easily with each other and other colors. - New York Botanical Garden
  • Red flowers and foliage give the illusion of coming forward in the landscape, helping to make a large garden feel cozier.
  • Red plants attract the eye and are a good choice for areas you want to draw attention to.

Discover More About The Meaning Of Colors

Color Symbolism and Meaning of Blue
Color Symbolism and Meaning of Black
Color Symbolism and Meaning of Gray
Color Symbolism and Meaning of Pink
Color Symbolism and Meaning of Green
Color Symbolism and Meaning of Brown
Color Symbolism and Meaning of White
Color Symbolism and Meaning of Purple
Color Symbolism and Meaning of Yellow
Color Symbolism and Meaning of Orange

Talk With Us About the Color Red

We'd enjoy knowing what you love about the color red or what you most enjoyed about this article. We love hearing from you and read every comment.

Is there something that you know about red that should be included here? Great! We’d love to hear from you. Share what you know about the color red by leaving a comment below. We may just add it to the information shared on this page.

Read Time: 10 min
  • Elizabeth Bennett says:

    We painted our house Egyptian Red with Pale Purple as a trim around the windows and Brown Purple on the pillars and other trims, and Portland Stone for the roughcast walls, with Bath Stone for the roof.
    The red, orange, yellow, and purple rhododendrons look great in the garden.

    • Kate Smith says:

      Elizabeth, that sounds like an amazing combination of colors. Good for you for being brave in your selection. It sounds like it turned out well and that you are pleased with the results, which is the most important criteria for any color scheme. Thanks for your comment.

  • Siku says:

    Hallo what is the meaning of the colour Dark Pastel Red.

  • Bereket says:

    It is a perfect representation. the logo of our company, SIGMA ELECTRIC PLC. A company engaged with energy/power. unless handled with care, it is dangerous. The teams are passionate, enthusiast and courageous. Bereket, Marketing Manager

  • Sarwar khan says:

    A govvernment servant told me we kept files and books of records in a red cloth hence we prevent our record from pests like creature. Can some one tell me is it true. You may see this in the movies and dramas make in india and pakistan in any scene of govt. office bundels and packes of office record bound in red cloths.red coloe clothes work as pesticide in india and pakistan. Or may be in other countries of British Commonwealth.

    • Kate Smith says:

      Sarwar, I have never heard or read any mention about bugs that I recall. I am also not aware of red as a pest deterrent and have no reason to believe that red would be more effective than any other color.

  • Sammy says:

    Another song is Red Eye by Andy Grammar. This was very helpful to me for a project, thank you!

  • Jess says:

    It’s said that wearing the color red actually makes you more attractive!

  • Joett says:

    It was told to me that. The reason I wear a lot of red is because I have a lot of love to give.

    • Kate Smith says:

      What a nice thing to be told. I bet it is true.

  • psychygirl says:

    Hello, the article was very informative and helped answer alot of my questions and how I can incorporate the color red into my research paper, thanks…

    • Kate Smith says:

      You’re welcome. Thanks for leaving your comment.

  • Sam Andrews says:

    Really helped with art homework,
    Thanks!

    • Kate Smith says:

      Always happy to be able to help with homework.

  • I LOVE the color Red. It makes me feel happy, warm and joyful. This is a great article. Thank you!

    • Kate Smith says:

      Thank you for the nice compliment, Colleayn. I’m glad you enjoyed the article.

    • Sam Andrews says:

      thank you!

  • Michelle says:

    Hi!
    Great post, helped me with my Art homework. Another song with ‘red’ in the tite is ‘Red’ by the amazing Taylor Swift!

  • Skylar says:

    Red by Taylor Swift?

    • Kate Smith says:

      Oh one of my faves. How could I leave that album out?!?

  • Hey! This is my first comment here so I just wanted
    to give a quick shout out and say I truly enjoy reading through your posts.
    Thank you!

    • Kate Smith says:

      Thanks for visiting my website and leaving your comment. I hope you will come back often.

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