Color Symbolism and Meaning of Yellow

What is the meaning of yellow? Is it the cheerful daffodil, the harbinger of spring? Is it our life-giving sun, ball of warmth and light? Or is it the color of jaundice, of illness? Sunny or sickly, yellow’s meaning pervades our lives.

Meaning Of Yellow: Explained

Sunny yellows are cheerful hues, the color of warmth and spring daffodils. So why, then, do we have so many negative associations with the color yellow?

Let’s explore our reactions to this divisive color.

Physical Effects

Yellow is absolutely invigorating. It stimulates our nerves, glands, and brain, making us more alert and energized. Yellow boosts our memory, and it encourages communication. It’s a color that promotes activity and interaction.

The #color yellow boosts our memory, and it encourages communication.

Click to Tweet

Symbolism And Meaning Of Yellow

All the world over, yellow is associated with the sun and its life-giving warmth.Yellow also stands for caution, and it’s used for traffic warning signs and traffic signals in nearly every country. Yellow is optimism and the cheerfulness of a sunny day.

Meaning of Yellow Words
Meaning of Yellow Defined

Positive Associations

We associate yellow with warmth, sunshine, and positivity. Bright yellow is an attention-getter, and its contrast with black is the most visible color combination. It’s enthusiasm and enlightenment, and yellow is – in practical terms – the opposite of dark and dull.

The #color yellow is associated with warmth, sunshine, and positivity.

Click to Tweet

Negative Associations

Despite its association with cheerfulness and warmth, yellow carries a surprising number of negative connotations. Yellow is a symbol of cowardice, of sickness, and of mental illness. It’s the color of sensationalism and even of excess. Vibrant yellow is typically used with caution by designers, though paler yellows can certainly have a modest uplifting effect. Too much bright yellow can easily overwhelm a project.

Yellow 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.


Yellow: The color of the Solar Plexus chakra, also known as Manipura. This chakra is located in the stomach area and is linked to organs and muscular system in that area. The Solar Plexus chakra is representative of vitality and will. When this chakra is open, it acts to empower a person and help them find their personal strength. It will help turn dreams and goals into reality. Gemstones that will aid the Solar Plexus chakra include amber, topaz, citrine, yellow calcite, yellow jasper.

Yellow Birthstone Colors

Yellow Color Morsels

Wooden pencils have been painted yellow since the 1890s. The color yellow was chosen because the highest quality graphite came from China, where the color signified royalty.

Yellow jackets are aggressive wasps, and they prey on a number of other insects and larvae. They are easily provoked, particularly by noise or vibration. Yellow jackets don’t pollinate plants like bees, and they become increasingly aggressive as their colony grows in size and food becomes scarce in colder months.

The yellow harbinger of spring–the daffodil–is one of the few bulbs that squirrels won’t eat. The bulbs contain crystals that are toxic to every animal but a few insects. Daffodils are the national flower of Wales, and there are over 13,000 different hybrids.

Though there are more than 1000 different kinds of banana plants in the world, most of them don’t taste good. Nearly all commercial banana plants are the Cavendish variety, and as bananas ripen, they turn from green to yellow, the sugar levels rise, and the flesh becomes creamier.

Read About the Color Yellow

The Primary Colors: Three Essays
Gold Fever

Yellow Words, Phrases And Idioms

Examples of how the meaning of yellow colors our language:

  • Yellow-bellied: a cowardly manner
  • Yellow fever: a disease involving high fever and jaundice that is common in the tropics
  • Yellow jack: a flag flown on a vessel to show that it is under quarantine
  • Yellow-dog contract: a contract which denies a person the right to join a worker's union
  • Yellow journalism: newspaper articles thought to be sensationalized in order to sell more papers. [See The Color Idiom Born of a Business Rivalry]

Quotes About Color Yellow

How lovely yellow is! It stands for the sun.

Vincent Van Gogh, Dutch Post-Impressionist painter, 1853-1890

How lovely yellow is! It stands for the sun. - Vincent Van Gogh  #color #quotes

Click to Tweet

What a horrible thing yellow is.

Edgar Degas, French realist/Impressionist painter and sculptor, 1834-1917

Yellow wakes me up in the morning. Yellow gets me on the bike every day. Yellow has taught me the true meaning of sacrifice. Yellow makes me suffer. Yellow is the reason I am here.

Lance Armstrong, American professional road racing cyclist, b. 1971

My favorite color to glaze with is yellow. It always glows just like stained glass lit up by the sun.”

Jane Jones, contemporary watercolorist

Golden is a surface color.

Ludwig Josef Johann Wittgenstein, Austrian philosopher, 1889-1951

Oh yes! He loved yellow, did good Vincent… When the two of us were together in Arles, both of us insane, and constantly at war over beautiful colors, I adored red; where could I find a perfect vermilion?

Paul Gauguin, French Post-Impressionist painter, 1848-1903

A yellow room gives you perpetual sunshine. - Steve Hovland  #color #quotes

Click to Tweet

A yellow room gives you perpetual sunshine.

Steve Hovland, American artist

How do you paint yellow wheat against a yellow sky? You paint it jet black.

Ben Shahn, Lithuanian-born American social realist painter and photographer, 1898-1969

Indian yellow, banned. Cows were poisoned with mango leaves and the color was made from their urine. It is the bright yellow in Indian miniatures. Although yellow occupies one-twentieth of the spectrum, it is the brightest color.

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

I was for years in the yellow period, you know.

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

More Intriguing Facts About Yellow

Title - How Color Communicates Meaning in a Film

Yellow 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.

  • Kate Hudson - Although often seen wearing yellow it was her gorgeous yellow dress seen on the movie poster for How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days that showcased how amazing this celebrity looks surround by her signature color.
  • Solange Knowles - It is her absolute favorite color. The color looks so good on her, that big sister, Beyoncé, has even been known to get in on the act.

Companies & Brands Identified by Yellow

  • Midas
  • Nikon
  • Stanley Tools
  • McDonald’ s
  • Ferrari
  • Shell
  • CAT & Caterpillar

Cities With Color Names: Yellow

  • Yellow Pine, Alabama
  • Yellow Pine, Idaho
  • Yellow Pine, Louisana
  • Yellow Springs, Kentucky
Cities with Color Name

Song With Color in the Title or Lyrics

  • Big Yellow Taxi by Joni Mitchell, covered by Amy Grant and Counting Crows
  • Black, Red, Yellow by Pearl Jam
  • Blue and Yellow by The Used
  • Don’t Eat the Yellow Snow by Frank Zappa
  • Double Yellow Line by The Music Machine
  • Goodbye Yellow Brick Road by Elton John
  • Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini by Paul Vance and Lee Pockriss
  • Mellow Yellow by Donovan
  • Tie A Yellow Ribbon by Tony Orlando and Dawn
  • Yellow Submarine by the Beatles
  • Black and Yellow” by rapper Wiz Khalifa

Color And Our Sense Of Smell: Yellow

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 color those connections become even stronger.

  • The yellow colored Magic Scents Crayons labeled "Lemon" from Binney & Smith Inc. was originally scented to smell like lemons. However, after numerous reports that children were "eating" the food-scented crayons the company changed to less tasty options. The scent for the color yellow became “Daffodil.”
  • Lemon scent enhances cognitive performance. Doing a hard crossword puzzle or taking the law boards? Suck on lemon drops. People smelling lemon report that they feel better than people smelling other pleasant scents - a scent-sory bonus! - Psychology Today
  • Lemon Peel has a very strong, fresh lemon scent with the aromatherapy benefits of being uplifting, refreshing, cheering, stimulating, and rejuvenating.

Color Taste Connection: Yellow

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.

  • Wonderfully sweet with firm and creamy flesh, bananas come prepackaged in their own yellow jackets. They are America’s favorite tropical fruit.
  • The exceptional juiciness and vibrant tropical flavor of the pineapple, which balances the tastes of sweet and tart, makes them only second to bananas as America’s favorite tropical fruit.
  • Juicy and sweet, with a soft, buttery, yet somewhat grainy texture, the white to cream-colored flesh of pears was once referred to as the “gift of the gods.”
  • We are just beginning to discover the wealth of nourishment supplied by the mildly sweet flavored and finely textured winter yellow squash. It was once such an important part of the diet of the American Indians that they buried it along with the dead to provide them nourishment on their final journey to the afterlife.

The Color Yellow In The Garden

  • Yellow can be loud and brassy; it catches light and brightens any area. Bright yellows combine well with hot colors (red and orange.) Pale yellows combine beautifully with blue. Yellow is an intense color that should be used sparingly; white helps to diffuse the intensity. - New York Botanical Garden
  • Yellow is considered a warm color in landscape design.
  • Yellow’s appearance in the garden has a stimulating effect.
  • Yellow flowers come forward in the landscape, helping to make a large garden feel cozier.

Discover More About The Meaning Of Colors

Color Symbolism and Meaning of Red
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 Orange
Color Symbolism and Meaning of Purple
Color Symbolism and Meaning of White
Color Symbolism and Meaning of Blue

Talk With Us About the Color Yellow

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

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

Read Time: 9 min
  • Tai says:

    Can I ask for the publishment year of this paper so I can cite you in our report at school? Thank you so much.

    • Kate Smith says:

      It was first written in 2007 and updated many times since.

  • Thanks for sharing this valuable information. I support you. Please keep writing!

  • pam says:

    I became a yellow fan when I was 22 & saw it worn in Austria with turquoise. Not 2 colours I would have thought to put together, but it looked good.
    I have loved yellow clothes & decor ever since. And I’m 72 now!!
    I’d agree with your quotes here:
    ‘Yellow is absolutely invigorating, making us more alert and energised. Yellow encourages communication. It’s a colour that promotes activity and interaction.’
    That’s me! Always active, high energy, alert, & loves good communication & interaction! 😀

  • Lalita Beekoo says:

    how do you cite your page

    • Kate Smith says:

      You can credit this website. I originally published the basics in 2007 but I have continued to update even this year.

  • Christopher says:

    Nothing says New York (among many many other things) than its famous Yellow Cabs. Easter’s Peeps Yellow marshmallow treats (or tweets lol) Wrigley’s Juicy Fruit. The big Happy Face seen on everything like shirts and buttons (before there was emojis) National Geographic’s Yellow rectangle. DeWALT tools.
    Chevy’s bowtie logo and lastly songs “Yellow” by Coldplay and “The Yellow Rose of Texas” by Mitch Miller.

    • Christopher says:

      Ops you already have Nat Geo. If I may throw in police/fire DO NOT CROSS crime scene yellow tape, and bright yellow tennis balls. Really enjoyed your most informative issues on color.

  • Nerva says:

    Yellow used to trigger migraines when I was a kid, to the point that I wouldn’t wear it or look at it. Not the case anymore, but as an adolescent I read a lot of Lovecraftian fiction and there is an association of yellow with inducing insanity (The King in Yellow, Robert Chambers). I visited this site to find out more about the color and see if anyone else ever had an association with migraines and yellow. Curious.

    • Kate Smith says:

      That is curious and an association I don’t believe I’ve heard in the past. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  • Maxx says:

    When was this published?

    • Kate Smith says:

      Originally in 2000 but it was first published online at the end of 2004. I have updated it many times since that time because people keep “borrowing” it in whole or part for their websites. I do my best to keep my website information unique and original (except in a very few cases where something is posted with the authors permission as noted on an article where that applies.) 🙂

  • Carol Dawson says:

    Trying to find the significance of a “yellow wheeled buggy.” The most common reference is from the short story “A Rose for Emily,”. But the Surrey with the Fringe on top also has yellow wheels.
    Context clues would indicate that yellow wheels were flashy and something a “dandy” would have to impress women.
    But why yellow? Why not red or blue or orange?

    • Kate Smith says:

      I’m not familiar with that phrase, Carol so cannot be of help. 🙁 I’d be interested if you do find the reason for yellow rather than another color.

  • Alissa says:

    I’m very curious as to why yellow is associated with sadness in Greece… Tried doing some research on it this morning, but got no results.
    Any chance i could be told some more about this?

    • Kate Smith says:

      Alissa, I put this information together long ago and am too busy with client projects right now to find and set up backup drive with the list of references confirming the facts on these pages and I don’t recall why this is the meaning in Greece. I do however see this same fact on several other color related websites but none of them give the reasoning. Sorry I can’t be more helpful but have made note to see if I can dig that up in the future. Let me know if you are successful in finding the answer in the meantime.

  • BERNABE says:


    BE YOU ! 😀

    • Kate Smith says:

      Wow, Bernabe. What a wonderful compliment, thank you. Love to you. 🙂

  • sydney says:

    colour brown is very facinating learnt alot from it as majority of earth beauty is associated with brown.

  • Bukky says:

    Colour yellow is flashy,most times glittering.Children love colour yellow because it is shining and very attractive.

    • Kate Smith says:

      Yes, children are attracted to yellow. It is a happy color.

  • >