Encyclopedia of Color Science and Technology

Living Edition
| Editors: Ronnier Luo

Ancient Color Categories

  • David Alan Warburton
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-642-27851-8_75-12



Color terms or partitions of color denotata evidenced in ancient language artifacts.

Words and Hues, Languages and Time: An Overview

The sources for understanding the earliest color terms and categories are from the lands to the east and south of the Mediterranean Sea. Evidence of color categories from proto-cuneiform, Sumerian, Egyptian, and Akkadian in Mesopotamia and Egypt (from the end of the fourth millennium BC onwards) is followed (during the second millennium) by Greek in the West and Chinese in the East. Linguistic terms relating to color are present in all these languages.

What is known about the earliest color categories is derived from artifacts and texts. The use of color goes back at least 100,000 years, but the origins of color vocabulary lie in the period since roughly 8000 BC (=10,000 years ago), and the earliest texts (from ca. 3200 BC) appear millennia later. By...


Color Word Color Term Precious Stone Early Color Abstract Color 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.TopoiBerlinGermany