10 Words Used for Blue in Different Languages
When describing a shade of blue, it’s important to have a specific word. There are dozens of words used for blue in different languages, each with its own unique meaning and history.
French makes clear distinctions between light blue (“bleu”), dark blue (albastru) and green (“vert”). Romanian also distinguishes between different shades of blue and green.
Several languages make a clear distinction between blue and green. In Bulgarian, for instance, blue (sin’o) is separated from green by granatowy, which refers to the color of pomegranates.
In Choctaw, the word okchvko is used for blue and okchvmali for green. The current coursebook also distinguishes based on brightness, giving okchvko as bright and okchvmali as pale. However, the older word okchvko was not so specific.
In some languages, blue and green are not distinguished from one another. In Korean, for instance, pureuda can mean either blue or bluish green.
Bulgarian makes a clear distinction between blue (sin’o) and green (zeleno). Likewise, Polish distinguishes black from dark blue by using different words.
The Kanien’keha:ka language is at Stage VII on the Berlin-Kay scale and has separate terms for green, blue, gray and black. In modern Scottish Gaelic, uaine is used for green and gorm for colors ranging from dark blue (like the Cairngorm mountains) to the light gray of grass.
Modern Dutch and German distinguish between blue and green using adjectives based on brightness. The same is true of the Kazakh language, which uses kok for blue and jasal for green.
Most languages have between two and 11 basic color words. For example, in Welsh, glas can refer to both blue and green, while gwyrdd and llwyd describe different shades of green.
Similarly, Romanian distinguishes between green and blue (verde), while Russian has distinct terms for light blue (goluboi / goluboy) and dark blue (sinii / siniy). These colors are distinct in other languages too.
There are a few languages that distinguish between green and blue. For example, Hungarian speakers use zoldeskek and kekeszold to denote intermediate shades between these colors, and names for specific shades are also available.
In the Philippines, the native languages pughaw and lunhaw are used for blue and green respectively. The former means sky blue and the latter is fresh leaf green.
In Polish, blue (niebieski) and green (zielony) are treated as separate basic colors. But in some places, like Bulgarian, the distinction may not be clear.
Cerulean is a good choice for describing moderate ocean-like blues that sit in between green and blue on the color spectrum. First recorded in the 1800s, it’s also a good name for navy blue.
Speakers of Tagalog use loan words for blue and green–asul and berde respectively–but they have native terms as well. pughaw and lunhaw mean sky blue and fresh leaf green respectively.
The Himba people have a single word for shades of blue and green: buru. This has caused some interest among anthropologists.
The modern Chinese language has a clear blue-green distinction (lan for blue and yue for green). The Choctaw historically had no such differentiation, but the current coursebook distinguishes between okchvko for dark blue-green and okchvmali for light blue-green, plus another word for parrot-green (after the kilikki bird). This is also used in other tribal languages.
Traditionally, Japanese has no distinction between blue and green. Modern educational materials do distinguish midori as a shade of blue, while ao is used for other shades of green.
German and Dutch use separate words for blue and green (blau and grün). Polish also differentiates black (“czarny”) from red (“grun”). The Czech language has no word for blue. But it does have one for pink.
Until recently, Choctaw had no blue-green distinction. However, a current coursebook distinguishes between okchvko and okchvmali, depending on brightness.
Many Romance languages have a word covering all shades of green, including Catalan verde, French vert and Italian verde. This reflects the fact that Latin itself did not have an equivalent for all shades of blue. However, German and Dutch separate light and dark blues.
Like most Romance languages, Italian distinguishes blue (“blu”), green (verde) and gray (“grigio”) as separate basic color terms. However, it also has words for varying degrees of saturation in blu: azzurro and celeste.
The Choctaw language historically did not make a blue-green distinction, but now they apply okchvko to dark blue and okchvmali to light blue-green. The Himba use one word for shades that would be categorized in English as blue and green: buru.