What Colors Symbolize Death? Understanding the Symbolic Meanings of Colors Associated with Death

Colors have a way of stirring emotions; they can speak for individuals in ways that words cannot. However, when it comes to death, certain colors seem to hold a universal symbolism across cultures. Black is perhaps the most commonly associated color with death, known for its somber and mournful connotations. Time and time again, we see black being worn at funerals and as a way of honoring the deceased. For many, black is the color that represents finality, signaling the end of life and the beginning of mourning.

While black may be the most well-known color connected to death, it is not alone in its symbolism. White, although seen as a color of purity and new beginnings, is also linked to death and mourning in some cultures. In Japan, for example, white is the color worn at funerals as a way of saying goodbye to the deceased. It is said to represent the spirit’s journey to the afterlife, marking a time of both endings and new beginnings. Similarly, in ancient Egypt, white was thought to symbolize rebirth and resurrection into the afterlife.

The colors red and yellow may also hold connections to death, albeit in a different way. In China and other Asian cultures, red is the color of good fortune. However, it is also the color used for traditional Chinese wedding dresses, causing it to be avoided at funerals. Yellow, on the other hand, is associated with the emperor in China and therefore seen as a joyful color. But in Western cultures, it can symbolize cowardice or treachery, adding to its negative associations with death. Overall, the colors that symbolize death vary from culture to culture, each holding unique meanings and nuances.

Black as a Symbol of Death

Black is one of the most well-known colors associated with death, mourning, and grieving in numerous cultures all around the world. It is generally linked to negative emotions such as sadness, loss, and despair.

The symbolism of black as a color of death is widely used in funerals and other rituals related to death. Black clothing, for instance, is a common dress code for mourners, while black candles and flowers are also typically used.

  • In Western cultures, black is considered the traditional color of mourning. It is often worn to show the seriousness of the occasion and to pay respect to the deceased.
  • In Asian cultures, particularly in China, black is also a traditional color for mourning, but it is also viewed as an auspicious color. It is worn during funerals and is also used to denote ancestors and the spirit world.
  • In Hinduism, black symbolizes the destructive energy of the goddess Kali, who is sometimes seen as a loving and protective mother figure and other times is seen as fierce demon-like creature.

Overall, black has a reputation for representing death, but it is also one of the most versatile and elegant colors out there. It can be used to convey a sense of power, sophistication, and mystery, in addition to its symbolism of mourning and sorrow.

White as a Symbol of Death

Every culture has its own set of beliefs and traditions surrounding death and the afterlife. Colors play a significant role in many of these traditions, with certain colors being associated with death and mourning. In Western cultures, black is the traditional color of mourning, but in many other cultures, it’s white. In fact, in some parts of the world, white is thought to be more closely associated with death than black.

  • In China, white is the color of mourning and is worn during funerals and periods of mourning.
  • In parts of Africa, particularly Ghana and South Africa, white is also associated with death and mourning.
  • In Hinduism, it’s traditional to wear white during mourning, whereas in Buddhism, white denotes the state of enlightenment and purity.

So why is white associated with death in some cultures? One possible explanation is that in many countries, white is the color of purity and is worn by brides on their wedding day. As death is seen as a form of release from the flesh and a return to purity, it makes sense that white would be associated with it. Additionally, white can represent the blankness of death, an absence of color that represents the void of life.

It’s also worth noting that in some cultures, white is only worn during certain stages of mourning, such as during the wake or the funeral itself. After this period, mourners may switch to a different color or clothing style to signify a return to regular life.


In the end, the symbolism of white in relation to death varies widely from culture to culture. While it is often associated with mourning and purity, its significance can change depending on the society and the context in which it’s being used. Still, it’s interesting to see how colors can hold such a rich and complex symbolism in our lives and how they can help us understand and process the mysteries of death.

Red as a symbol of death

Red is a color that is traditionally associated with love, passion, and warmth. However, in some cultures, it can be seen as a symbol of death and mourning. Here are some reasons why:

  • In Chinese culture, red is the color of luck, joy, and happiness. However, during funerals, the color red is avoided as it is believed to bring bad luck to the deceased and their family.
  • In some African cultures, red is associated with blood and death. It is used during funerals to signify the shedding of blood or the end of life.
  • In Japanese culture, red is the color of life, but it can also symbolize anger and danger. During funerals, it is customary for mourners to wear white as a sign of respect for the deceased. However, the family of the deceased may wear red to show their grief.

In addition to these cultural associations, the color red is also linked to death in some religious traditions. For example, in Christianity, the color red is often used to represent the blood of Christ and his sacrifice on the cross. In Hinduism, the color red is used during funeral rites as a symbol of purity and spirituality.

To better understand how red can symbolize death, we can examine its psychological effects. Red is known to be a highly stimulating and arousing color. It can increase heart rate, blood pressure, and respiration, making us feel more alert and focused. In situations of grief and mourning, these physiological responses can be overwhelming, leading to feelings of anxiety and distress.

CultureRed as a symbol of death
ChineseAvoided during funerals as a sign of bad luck
AfricanAssociated with blood and death, used during funerals
JapaneseCustomary to wear white, but the family may wear red to show grief

In conclusion, while red is commonly associated with passion and love, it can also be seen as a symbol of death and mourning in some cultures. This association can be based on religious beliefs, psychological effects, or cultural traditions. Understanding the meaning behind colors is essential in respecting and honoring diverse cultural practices and customs.

Yellow as a Symbol of Death

Yellow is a color associated with both death and mourning in many cultures, particularly in Asia. The use of yellow for funerary purposes can be traced back to ancient China, where it was believed that the dead wore yellow clothing in the afterlife. In modern times, the color yellow is often used to depict the passing of a loved one, and it is a common color for funeral flowers in many parts of Asia.

  • In Japan, yellow chrysanthemums are often placed on graves, symbolizing death and sorrow.
  • In Korea, yellow is believed to be the color of the afterlife, and mourners often wear yellow clothing or ribbons to honor the deceased.
  • In Vietnam, yellow flowers are often seen at funerals and represent the cycle of life and death.

Interestingly, the use of yellow for funerary purposes is not universal. In some cultures, yellow is associated with happiness and is a popular color for celebrations like weddings. For example, in many parts of India, yellow is considered a joyous color and is associated with new beginnings and prosperity.

It is important to note that while yellow may symbolize death and mourning in some cultures, it may not hold the same significance in others. Always be mindful of cultural traditions and sensitivities when attending funerals or other solemn occasions.

ChinaThe dead wore yellow clothing in the afterlife
JapanYellow chrysanthemums on graves symbolize death and sorrow
KoreaYellow is the color of the afterlife and is used in mourning attire and accessories
VietnamYellow flowers represent the cycle of life and death

While the use of yellow as a symbol of death may vary across different cultures, its association with mourning and sorrow is a common thread. In many parts of the world, yellow is used to honor the passing of a loved one and to signify the beginning of a new journey into the afterlife.

Purple as a Symbol of Death

Purple is a color often associated with death and mourning. The reasons for this association can vary from culture to culture, but one common thread is that purple is a color of royalty and nobility, and thus reserved for the most solemn of occasions. Here are some of the ways in which purple is linked to death:

  • The color of mourning: In many cultures around the world, purple is a color worn during times of mourning. In ancient Rome, the toga pulla, a purple funeral garment, was worn at funerals. In some parts of Europe and Asia, purple is still a color of mourning or is only allowed to be worn by certain members of a family during a funeral.
  • Spiritual significance: In Christianity, purple is the color of Lent and Advent, two of the most solemn times of the year. It is also the color worn by bishops and other clerics during funerals. In some Hindu and Buddhist cultures, purple flowers are used to symbolize death and mourning.
  • The color of royalty: As mentioned earlier, purple is often associated with royalty and nobility, and therefore has a certain gravitas and solemnity to it. It is sometimes used to represent the idea that death is a transition to a higher plane of existence.

While purple is not universally associated with death, its rich history and cultural significance make it a powerful symbol for those who do hold this belief.

Gray as a symbol of death

Gray, a color that is often associated with dullness and negativity, is also a symbol of death in many cultures. This color is often used in funerary rites and mourning ceremonies, and it has become a universal symbol of sorrow and loss. Gray is also used to symbolize the end of an era or the passing of time.

  • In Western cultures, gray is often associated with the aging process and the decline of health. People often say that someone has “grayed out” when they have become old and frail.
  • In Japanese culture, gray is associated with humility and is often worn to funerals as a sign of respect for the deceased.
  • In Hinduism, gray is associated with austerity and penance, and it is often used by Yogis and Sannyasins, who renounce worldly pleasures in order to attain spiritual enlightenment.

In literature and art, gray is often used to depict melancholy and despair. Edgar Allan Poe’s poem “The Raven” uses the image of a “grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt, and ominous bird of yore” to symbolize death, and the bird itself is described as having “raven hair, a pallid bust, and a voice that shrieked the word ‘Nevermore.'”

In modern psychology, gray is often associated with neutrality and ambiguity, and it is used to represent situations where there are no clear answers or solutions. This is especially true in business and politics, where gray areas are often the source of heated debates and disagreements.

Overall, gray is a complex and multifaceted color that can symbolize many different things, including death. Whether it is used in mourning ceremonies or in art and literature, gray can evoke a wide range of emotions and meanings, from sorrow and despair to neutrality and ambiguity.

Blue as a Symbol of Death

Blue is a paradoxical color as it represents both life and death. In various cultures, blue is believed to be associated with the dead. Countries such as Greece and China use blue flowers only in funerals. People consider blue as a sinister color associated with mournfulness and fear.

The Number 7 and Death

  • In some cultures, the number 7 symbolizes death, especially in Japan. Japanese pronounce the word “shichi” for both “seven” and “death,” which makes it a taboo number.
  • Seven is considered unlucky in many cultures, such as Arabic, Hinduism, and Hebrew. The number 7 is also associated with catastrophic events, and many tragic airplane crashes and shipwrecks have happened on the seventh of the month.
  • Seven is the most potent magical number, according to ancient mythology. Many cultures believe that the seventh year of a person’s life can be dangerous because of the seven-year cycle.

Blue Flowers and Meanings

Flowers have been a symbol of life and death in different cultures. The color blue is a common choice for funerals and other somber occasions. Here are some flowers that people associate with death and their meanings:

Flower NameMeaning
Forget-me-notsRemembrance of the dead
BluebellsConsolation, grief, and separation
IrisElegance and astuteness, but also sadness and mourning

Blue is a complicated color that symbolizes both life and death. Although blue flowers may be associated with death, they can also offer a sense of comfort and reassurance, especially during difficult times.

Green as a Symbol of Death

Green is generally associated with growth, nature, and renewal, but in some cultures, it is also a color that symbolizes death. Depending on the context and region, green can have alternate meanings.

  • In Chinese culture, green hats are associated with infidelity and a lack of morals, making them a symbol of death for relationships and marriages.
  • In ancient Egyptian mythology, green was associated with death and the afterlife. It was the color of Osiris, the god of the underworld, and was linked with resurrection and regeneration.
  • In Ireland, green is associated with death and misfortune due to the fact that many people were buried wearing green during the Great Famine. It is believed that those who wore green were less likely to be targeted by looters, making it a dangerous color to wear.

Additionally, in numerology, the number 8 is also associated with death and change, which is interesting because eight is often considered a lucky number in Chinese culture.

JapanThe word for “eight” sounds like the word for “death” in Japanese.
ChinaThe number 8 is considered a lucky number for money and finances, but is also associated with change and transformation – including death.
IndiaThe number 8 is considered a very unlucky number and is associated with death and misfortune.

While green is typically associated with life and growth, it is important to understand that colors can have alternate or cultural meanings that go beyond their general associations. In some cultures, green can be a symbol of death, reminding us that colors and their significance can vary greatly depending on context and perspective.

Gold as a Symbol of Death

When it comes to colors that symbolize death, gold may not be the first color that comes to mind. However, in certain cultures and traditions, gold holds great significance in representing death and mourning.

  • In Ancient Egypt, gold was often used in funerary objects and tombs to represent the sun and the afterlife. The pharaoh’s sarcophagus would be decorated with gold and the hieroglyph for gold meant “eternal” or “immortal.”
  • In Japan, gold is the color of the chrysanthemum flower, which is used for funerals and to honor the dead. In Japanese culture, gold also represents wealth and prestige, which can be brought to the afterlife.
  • In some Western cultures, gold is associated with heaven and the divine, making it a fitting color to represent death and the afterlife. Gold can also symbolize the value and worth of a life that has passed.

Gold is a beautiful and warm color that can represent different meanings in different cultures. While it may not be commonly associated with death, it has deep roots and symbolism that cannot be overlooked.

Interestingly, the number nine is also significant in some cultures in regards to death. In Chinese culture, the number nine is associated with the emperor and is also viewed as a lucky number. However, when it comes to death, the number nine is often avoided and seen as inauspicious. This is because the word for nine in Chinese sounds similar to the word for “long-lasting” or “eternal,” which can be seen as a bad omen for the living.

Other Cultures’ View on the Number 9Significance
JudaismIt is customary to perform nine rounds of vigils at a Jewish burial to help the soul complete its journey to the afterlife.
Greek mythologyThe nine Muses were goddesses who inspired creation and the arts.
ChristianityThere are nine fruits of the Holy Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

Overall, gold and the number nine can hold different meanings and symbolism in different cultures when it comes to death. It is important to understand and respect these cultural traditions when experiencing grief and mourning.

Silver as a symbol of death

While many cultures associate the color black with death, others opt for silver as a symbol of the end of life. In Western cultures, silver is often used to evoke a sense of mourning and remembrance. This may be because silver can suggest a certain formality or elegance, making it a fitting color for funerals and other somber occasions. Additionally, silver is often associated with the moon, which is often seen as a symbol of death and rebirth.

  • In many Native American cultures, silver is used to symbolize the end of a life cycle and the beginning of a new one. For example, some tribes use silver in their death rituals to help guide the spirit of the departed on their journey to the afterlife.
  • In Hinduism, silver is often used to symbolize the moon, which is associated with death and rebirth. It is also believed to have purifying qualities, which can be helpful in preparing for the afterlife.
  • Silver is also sometimes seen as a symbol of wisdom and maturity, both of which are associated with the end of life. For this reason, it may be used in ceremonies that honor the memory of those who have passed away.

Overall, while silver may not be the most common color associated with death, it is a powerful symbol nonetheless. Whether used to represent the end of a life cycle or to evoke a sense of elegance and formality, silver has long been a go-to color for honoring the departed.

It is also worth noting that silver may be used in combination with other colors that symbolize death. For example, in some cultures, silver and black are used together to create a more somber and formal effect. Similarly, silver and white may be used to suggest a sense of purity and innocence, which can be fitting for the passing of a young child or someone who lived a virtuous life.

CultureSilver as a symbol of death
WesternMourning and remembrance
Native AmericanEnd of a life cycle, beginning of a new one
HinduismAssociated with the moon, which is associated with death and rebirth

Overall, silver remains a powerful symbol of death and mourning across many cultures and traditions. Whether used alone or in combination with other colors, it can help evoke a sense of respect and reverence for those who have passed away.

What Colors Symbolize Death: FAQs

Q: What colors are associated with death?
A: In many cultures, black and white are symbolic of death and mourning. However, there are other colors like gray, purple, and red that are also associated with death.

Q: Why is black a symbol of death?
A: Black is often associated with death because it is the absence of light, and death is seen as the absence of life. It is also a color of mourning in many cultures.

Q: What does the color white symbolize in relation to death?
A: In many cultures, white is also a symbol of death and mourning. It is associated with purity and the afterlife, and is often worn at funerals.

Q: Why is purple a color of mourning?
A: In some cultures, purple is associated with death because it was once a rare and expensive color that was used to dye clothing for royalty and nobility. When someone died, their family would wear purple to show their wealth and status.

Q: What does the color red symbolize in relation to death?
A: Red is sometimes associated with death in cultures that believe in reincarnation. It is believed that the color red can protect the soul as it moves on to its next life.

Q: Are there any cultures where bright colors are associated with death?
A: Yes, in some cultures like Mexico’s Day of the Dead, bright colors like orange, yellow, and pink are used to celebrate the lives of those who have passed away.

Q: Do all cultures associate colors with death?
A: No, not all cultures have specific color associations with death. It varies greatly depending on cultural traditions and beliefs.

Closing Thoughts

Thanks for reading about what colors symbolize death! While it may seem morbid, understanding the cultural significance of these colors can give us insights into how different societies view death and mourning. Remember to visit us again for more interesting articles like this one. Until then, live life to the fullest!