from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
color code: # FF0000
Color names according to the Müller color circle in the CIE standard color table . On the right outside the red area: vermilion, medium red, carmine red, purple red

Red is the color stimulus that is perceived when light falls into the eye with a spectral distribution in which wavelengths above 600 nm dominate. While most mammals have problems seeing the color red, the human eye is very sensitive to it. Accordingly, this color is often used for warning signals.

The color impression red arises when the L-cones are excited. Red can tend towards blue or yellow, it can be lighter or darker. Orange-red is perceived when only the long-wave range of the spectrum is effective; Magenta red, if there is also a short-wave component ( color mixture ).


Red was given its own word very early in the development of most languages, immediately after the linguistic distinction between light and dark . The Old High German word rôt developed from the Germanic rauðaż from Indo-European ẖereúdʰ and denoted the coloring of copper , gold and other metals.

Color theory

The spectral color

Spectrum of the LED of an optical mouse , maximum approx. 640 nm

Light with the color stimulus red has a spectral distribution at the upper long-wave end of the visible range of electromagnetic radiation. Infrared radiation joins in at higher wavelengths . Since a body emits heat radiation of higher frequency with increasing temperature when heated , heated bodies initially begin to glow red.

The sensory cells responsible for red vision in the human eye (L-cones) have their maximum sensitivity at 560 nm, their effectiveness, by definition, extends to the limit of visibility with decreasing sensitivity.

Color spectra

The color of the same color as red is between 600 and 750-800 nm colorimetrically at the lower threshold of the visual spectrum, in the CIE diagram in the right tip. In fact, it can be seen as a "red" light - as a body color in turn remits  - if in an emission spectrum (or reflectance spectrum) has a steep slope in the range from about 500 nm to 650 nm, that is predominantly long-wave light in the spectrum is present (→ Color mixing ). However, the eye also sees a red when blue is mixed in in the short-wave range. These blue-tinged or cool red tones no longer have a pure spectral color as equivalent, but are instead on the purple line of the CIE diagram, which represents the mixed stimulation of the R-cones and L-cones .

Representation in color systems

In the additive color mixture , orange-red is one of the primary colors ; in the subtractive color mixture , it is made up of magenta and yellow . The complementary color is cyan blue .

Pure red has the value RGB = (1; 0; 0) in the RGB color space . In the usual representation in the computer sector with one byte per basic color ( "true color" ), this corresponds to the value (255; 0; 0) decimal or FF0000 hexadecimal . In the Lab color space , red is indicated by L * a * b * = {100; 70; 0}. In words: "beautifully shining, neither yellow nor blue, opposite to green".

Light color

Brown is a dark red. With a suitable spectral composition, red light has an effect on the L-cones, so that a slightly darker impression is created, which is desirable for lighting in night bars . Here, red light is suitable to simulate a "stimulating" tan for the skin. This special lighting, which results in the "sun-tanned" appearance on human skin, is used effectively in advertising for the lighting of baked goods and roasts .

At the red end of the spectrum, the thermal radiation begins with the infrared , this radiation is the so-called red light . The most important use is the red light treatment, a medical application of thermal radiation. By connecting a red filter upstream, even incandescent lamp light, which for the most part develops heat (radiation), can achieve this effect with suitable technology.

Visual effects

Long-wave light is least scattered by small particles in the air, which is why sunrises and sets appear red and the moon glows reddish during lunar eclipses (due to the red light that is weakly scattered in the earth's atmosphere ). For the same reason, red light is more visible through fog than other colors, which is why it is used in railways and road traffic as a stop signal and taillight , as well as obstacle lighting on tall structures for air traffic. A special case is the all-red in signal systems.

Water absorbs red light best, which is why no red can be perceived under water even at relatively shallow depths.

Some insects , such as bees , do not have red light receptors. They perceive red flowers as black. Their perception is shifted towards the ultraviolet , so they can better distinguish the (for humans) white flowers. Red flowers also have different ultraviolet color patterns.

In humans, there can be irregularities in the perception of colors, more information can be found under red-green poor eyesight , a color ametropia.

Color nuances and colorants

Red colorants used in early times (even in prehistoric times) are mineral colors , the group of red earth pigments based on iron oxide red , whose color saturation is low and whose color nuances range from yellow red to red brown, depending on the proportions.

Orange red, scarlet red

Orange red
color code: # FC5400

The yellowish red tones are listed as "orange-red" because their color tends towards orange . “Scarlet red” is also part of it, it is the color of the tongue rash in the childhood disease of scarlet fever . An older name for these colors is " carmine (red) " (see below). It refers to the dye of the same name, the basis of which is carminic acid , which is usually obtained from scale insects , but which is now largely replaced by synthetic azo dyes .

Vermilion, permanent red, fire red

Vermilion: as a powder and made into a paste

Vermilion is a red that tends slightly towards yellow. It is a basic color in computer graphics . The fluorescence of the phosphors on monitors corresponds to this color. It is displayed on the screen with {RGB} = (FF, 00.00) hex . RAL designations are RAL 3000 fire red , 3001 signal red or 3024 luminous red .

Organic colorants in this shade are based on the trade names "permanent red", which include perylene red ( MePTCDI , PTCDA ) and quinacridone red in terms of configuration.

Inorganic colorants are pigments containing heavy metals, some of which are only of historical significance.

Medium red, crimson, blood red

Visually pure red is called medium red or crimson. As a comparative color name, it is called blood red after the color of fresh arterial blood . The color is listed as RAL 3020 traffic red or RAL 3003 ruby red .

Bleeding finger.jpg
Blood leaks from a cut
Medium red
color code: # FF0040
Traffic red
color code: # C1121C
Ruby red
color code: # CC0051

A CIE-correct mean red (1,0,0) cannot be displayed fully saturated on the computer monitor . Tube monitors display a much deeper color than conventional liquid crystal screens .

Colorants are traded under the name real red, and there are also bright red varieties of the mineral pigments cinnabar or cadmium and chrome red.

Carmine red, purple red, wine red

Red wine
Autumn colors of the wild wine
color code: # BC0061

Purple is the transition area between colors that tend towards purple and blue . Wine red is a dark red, like the color of red wine, or, according to other sources, like the red autumn leaves of the grapevine.

Name-defining colorants are

Today, in addition to quinacridone and perylene, cochineal red A (E 124), an azo dye that is also approved as a food color, is used.

“Cool red” can only be displayed with clear compromises on the computer monitor due to the phosphors that can be achieved.

Brownish red

Florentine red, mars red
color code: # 8B0000

Mixtures of red tones into black and gray result in the tertiary color of brown-red or the nuances mentioned. This “broken red” can encompass the entire range from yellowish to purple hues. Ostwald called this a blackening of the pure hue.

Importance and application

Warning and signal

Red background on stop sign

The color red is one of the most noticeable colors and serves as a warning color - usually in combination with white. The stop signal of traffic lights is red, red is used for warning and prohibition signs . Red can also signal danger in the animal kingdom and with some large mushrooms ; the color red (according to the human perception of color) serves as a warning for animals . Red at the long-wave end could also be perceived as dark and not very clear. With the meaning of attention , the color term is used for a large number of red lists , in which the endangerment or danger of the documented content is pointed out. When recording for radio and television, red warning and a subsequent green signal that the camera and microphone are ready for recording.

  • The red cloth in bullfighting is the stimulus color of humans, the color-blind bull itself only disturbs the movement of the cloth.
  • In the past, the work clothes of executioners at public executions were often red.
  • The suggested symbol for radioactivity includes red and black.
  • In the advertising red is used to draw attention to products.
  • The symbolism of the traffic lights is used during football matches, the referee distributes the red card in the event of gross unsportsmanlike conduct, and the yellow card for warnings .


Red roses represent passionate love

Red is a warm color . Embers are red. Red is the color of blood and is associated with life . It means energy and warmth .

Red stands for joy , passion , love and eroticism , but also for aggression and anger , for example with the term “seeing red” or with the red cloth.

Female bonobos and chimpanzees blush on various parts of their body (e.g., genitals and chest) when they are near ovulation . Research has shown that males respond to these red signals with increased masturbation and attempted copulation. Psychological experiments (2010) with humans have shown that men are more attracted to women by red clothes than by clothes of different colors. This stimulating erotic effect of the color red has long been used in brothels and in the so-called red light district . Red clothing among women leads to a significantly higher contact rate on dating websites compared to women wearing black, white, yellow, blue, or green clothing. In addition, there is a higher probability of being picked up when hitchhiking. Accordingly, women distrust other women in red clothes. Men in red clothing, on the other hand, are seen as dominant by other men, but more as aggressive by women. On the other hand, women perceived photos of men on a red background to be more attractive than photos shown to them on a white background.

In the red light district there is prostitution, the red light district describes its social environment.

Basically, regardless of gender, you are perceived as more fashionable as soon as you wear the color red.

There are controversial approaches to psychological effectiveness; it should increase strength and speed in the short term. It tended to be counterproductive for demanding or intellectual tasks: For example, athletes with opponents dressed in red lose more often and if students see red before a test, they do worse. This color psychological effect can be enhanced by combining it with black, the color of death. In ancient times , the connection between red and aggression led to the red planet Mars being associated with the god of war Mars . As a result, it was also the male color, and the “little red” ( pink ) was intended for boys , until it was replaced by the blue of the world of work (naval uniform, blue work suits) after the First World War , in the early 1920s .

Blushing can be a sign of shame or embarrassment , but it can also be a sign of anger. Here, the mental system plays the driving force by activating the blood supply and thus changing the skin tone. The decrease in blood pressure leads to pale color.

Red = "beautiful" (?)

The special importance of red as a rare coloring agent and as a strong, striking color shade occasionally brought a connection to beautiful.

  • In Russian , the word rot (краcный) originally had both the meaning “red” and “beautiful” (in modern Russian, therefore, increased as прекраcный and derived as красивый). For example, the Red Square (Russian Красная площадь, German transcription Krasnaja ploschtschad, scientific transliteration Krasnaja ploščadʹ) has been the “beautiful square” in Moscow since the 17th century.
  • In the Middle Ages there was the separate profession of Nice färber that a bright red could stain the representative clothes. However, they also managed to give inferior fabrics a better impression. The transferred importance of whitewashing remained from this profession .
  • Goethe said: “The most perfect color is red. Roth is the blood. Yellow calls for red-blue * blue - red-yellow * purple - green and vice versa. ”( quoted from some memories of Sophie von Schardt from Goethe's lectures at his Wednesday breakfast. )


The Milanese Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi in cardinal
  • The color red plays a role in numerous religions. In primitive societies, red is the color of fire and blood. So it is with the ability associated demons to exorcise, diseases to cure and the evil eye ward.
  • In the Jewish tradition , red stood for people, but also for YHWH , who appeared to Moses in the burning bush . Bright red was the color of the blood sacrifice and the symbol of the sin that was to be atoned for with this sacrifice. It stood for wealth, war and erotic love.
  • In Christianity , red is the color of the Holy Spirit and the blood of martyrs . Red symbolizes danger and, figuratively, sin . As early as the 11th century, the Roman Catholic Church adopted red as the color of the choir clothing of its highest dignitaries, referring to the willingness to give one's own blood for Christ and the Church if necessary. Red and especially purple is the color of authority that was worn by secular rulers and whose colorant was based on the rare purple dye of the purple snail . In 1295 Pope Boniface VIII issued a decree that cardinals must wear red cassocks. For historical reasons one speaks of the cardinal purple and cardinals are also called purple bearers . Today cardinals wear scarlet red (see picture opposite).
  • In the Orthodox Church , red also stands for life and resurrection.


In tantric Hinduism , in tantric-Buddhist Vajrayana , in yoga , in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and in some esoteric teachings, the postulated subtle energy centers between the human body and the subtle body are called chakras . The color red and its "frequency" are assigned to the first, the root chakra.

Politics and military

The political meaning of the color red has changed significantly over time. The expensive purple is associated with the exercise of lordly power, whereby in historical times purple was understood as a color scale that ranged from a dark scarlet red to purple. Purple snails were already used for dyeing by the Phoenicians . Roman magistrates and senators wore their toga with a purple stripe, and the toga of the Roman emperors was also colored with purple. Young kings wore a cloak ( pallium ) that was initially colored with green purple . Over time, the coat turned red. This showed a symbolic change from immature to mature ruler.

  • The color red remained the color of the exercise of power in the Middle Ages. Red dyes were only allowed and accessible to high dignitaries. In Venice in the 15th century, young, wealthy aristocrats increasingly wore red. The expression a modo principe “dressed like a prince” referred to those who could afford the striking red. Red was the outwardly visible sign of power and prosperity.
Logo of the SPD
  • Today Red is seen as the color of the labor movement and of social democratic , socialist and communist oriented parties , movements and trade unions used as symbolizing feature. In Germany it is the SPD's color code . Through the traditional roots of the SPD and through the time of the SED, it is also the color of the DIE LINKE party . In the media this is assigned a dark red, sometimes also a red purple , to distinguish it from the red of the SPD .
  • The red flag is an identification emblem of socialist movements worldwide.
Flag of the Soviet Union
  • The Soviet Army called itself the Red Army in the tradition of the color coding of the revolutionary “Reds” in the fight with the bourgeois-imperialist “Whites”, the opponents during the civil wars after the October Revolution . Following the Red Army during the fighting in the Ruhr and central Germany, a working in Germany from 1970 to 1998 called left-wing extremist terrorist organization as Red Army Faction .
  • Rote Kapelle was the name of a clandestine, communist-dominated resistance network against Nazi rule in Germany between the mid-1930s and 1940s.
  • Especially in the first few years after the fall of the Berlin Wall , people who were accused of sticking to the ideas of the GDR were used as red socks . In the course of the events surrounding German reunification from 1989/90, the term was initially used by its opponents, especially for supporters of the PDS at that time , until the party itself temporarily adopted it in a satirical sense during election campaigns.
A memorial plaque decorated with carnations for the Carnation Revolution on Largo do Carmo in Lisbon (April 25, 2013)
  • During the Portuguese Carnation Revolution on April 25, 1974, which ended the decades-long dictatorship, red carnations were used as a symbol. Even today it is customary in Portugal to wear a red carnation every day of remembrance.
  • Because of the color of their uniform of the 17th and late 19th century were the members of the middle between about British Army colloquially often called redcoats ( Redcoats called).
  • In the United States, the Republican Party unofficially uses the color red to mark its activities.
  • In the armed forces of NATO, enemy forces are shown in red, and Rotland is also used in various situations .

Corporate identity

Due to its effect and the associated emotions, red is widely used as a corporate design . It serves companies as a recognition feature, to represent marketing goals or because of its general effect in the cultural sphere.

The red on white complement to the Swiss flag was chosen as the symbol of the Red Cross for the international organization of humanitarian aid. Since the cross is occupied differently in other cultures, the Red Star of David was formed as a humanitarian organization in the Jewish culture and the Red Crescent in the Islamic area .

China, Southeast Asia

Traditional Chinese wedding ceremony

In China , the color red is traditionally a symbol of joy, summer and the south (cf. five-element theory ). Red means luck and is therefore often used for wrapping paper, invitation cards and everything festive. The color of the traditional wedding dress is red, but nowadays more and more weddings are in white due to western influence .

With reference to this traditional interpretation, red got an additional meaning with the advance of Maoism in the 20th century. The national flag of the People's Republic of China , like the flag of the party, has the basic color red. The car brand of this name is based on this "red flag", in Chinese Hongqi . The Red Guards , a youth organization in the Cultural Revolution, also derived their name from “Maoist red”.


Due to its original color effect, red is the most frequently chosen color by soccer teams. Examples are Liverpool FC (England), in Germany Rot Weiss Ahlen , Rot-Weiss Essen , Rot-Weiss Frankfurt , Rot-Weiss Cologne , Rot-Weiss Oberhausen , the "red devils" of 1. FC Kaiserslautern or 1. FC Nürnberg . The Bayern Munich was from the beginning a long time as "The Red Shorts."

On the other hand, the last one in a sporting competition is also known as the “red lantern”, especially in the Tour de France (see Lanterne Rouge ) or in the Bundesliga.

Martial arts

The belt colors of the master degrees in Budo .

In many martial arts - such as Jiu Jitsu , Judo - a colored belt (Japanese obi ) is worn as an identification mark on martial arts clothing (Japanese keikogi ). In Budo, the red belt represents the level of knowledge of the long-standing and committed Budoka . The red belt color represents the ninth and tenth master degree (Japanese Dan ) which is exclusively awarded and is reserved for the grandmasters (Japanese O- Sensei ) of the respective fighting discipline.

Studies from 2005 showed a significant association between the color of athletes' clothing and the outcome of the match. Accordingly, in most cases, the athlete who wore the color red won. Compared to the color blue, red is associated with dominance and aggression. This can result in intimidating opponents while perceiving yourself as stronger and superior.

Card game

In the card game , red corresponds to the French (game) color cœur ( heart ). The symbol is the heart, as in the German newspaper .


In heraldry (heraldry), red is one of the classic tinctures, which is called color alongside the metals gold and silver . For a long time it stood for the Holy Roman Empire of the German nation .

Objects in red


In nature there are shades of color whose designation as “red” is very imprecise, and for inanimate objects such as fabrics or in art, for example, would be defined as reddish or otherwise. This is particularly noticeable in human hair colors, red or red- blonde , and in the fur of various animals such as red deer , bobcat , red fox or the red giant kangaroo . Such nuances are actually not really red, but rather correspond to colors such as copper , red-brown or golden brown. Another case is the so-called red cabbage , which is tellingly referred to as red cabbage in some areas and whose color is, strictly speaking, a purple or violet shade. Until the 19th century, the red of the so-called old roses , known in Europe, was basically slightly blue or lilac, so there were only shades of purple in addition to white and pink ; Only with the introduction and crossing of a crimson red Chinese rose variety did the pure red roses that are so popular today emerge.

The following list is not exhaustive. B. in animals only those species with the color designation "red" occurs in the name. There are birds in particular that sometimes wear bright red on their bodies without this appearing in their names, e.g. B. with storks or parrots .

Crimson nectar bird (Aethopyga siparaja)


Artistic-literary reception

In Ernst Oppler's painting “Three Girls in the Arcade” , the red color of the dress plays a key role.

A girl dressed in red also plays a key role in a painting by Ernst Oppler , as well as in the painting “Red Coat” by Alfons Mucha . The plot of the film Schindler's List also features the motif of the red coat on a girl.


  • Margarete Bruns: About red ocher, pokeweed and purple snails. On the history of the red color. In: Emil Ernst Ploß: A book of old colors. Technology of textile colors in the Middle Ages with an outlook on solid colors. 6th, extended edition, with 2 leading articles on the history of the colors red and blue by Margarete Bruns. Moos, Graefelfing vor München 1989, pp. 7-13, ISBN 3-89164-060-9 .
  • Eva Heller : How colors work. Color psychology, color symbolism, creative color design . Rowohlt, Reinbek near Hamburg 1989, ISBN 978-3-499-61960-1 .
  • Eva Heller: How colors affect emotions and mind. Color psychology, color symbolism, favorite colors, color design. Droemer, Munich 2000, ISBN 3-426-27174-5 .
  • Catholic Institute for Media Information and Catholic Film Commission for Germany (ed.): Film-dienst 03/02 theme red . No. 3 . KIM Catholic Institute for Media Information , 2002, ISSN  0720-0781 .
  • Caroline Kaufmann: On the semantics of the color adjectives pink, pink and red: a corpus-based comparative study based on the color carrier concept (= Munich Contributions to Linguistics and Literature Studies , Volume 6), Utz, Munich 2006, ISBN 978-3-8316-0652-8 (dissertation University of Munich 2006, X, 360 pages, 21 cm full text online PDF, free of charge, 369 pages, 1.8 MB).
  • Harald Küppers - crash course on color theory . DuMont, Cologne 2005, ISBN 3-8321-7640-3 .
  • Anna Schmid, Alexander Brust (Ed.) - Red. When color becomes the culprit . Museum der Kulturen Basel / Christoph Merian, Basel 2007, ISBN 978-3-85616-344-0 .
  • Frederick Thomas Wehrle: Notes on a pre-existing bias for the color red in humans , University Library, Freiburg im Breisgau 2010, DNB 1123454957 (Diploma thesis Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg 2010, 58 pages, supervisor: H. Martin Schaefer (University of Freiburg) and Bernhard Fink (University of Göttingen) full text online PDF, free of charge, 58 pages, 2.3 MB, Biological Faculty of the Albert Ludwig University of Freiburg, Institute for Biology I, Department of Evolutionary Biology and Animal Ecology).

Web links

Wiktionary: red  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Commons : Red  - Collection of images, videos, and audio files
Wikiquote: Red  - Quotes

Individual evidence

  1. ^ A b Amy Butler Greenfield: A Perfect Red - Empire, Espionage and the Qest for the Color of Desire , HarperCollins Publisher, New York 2004, ISBN 0-06-052275-5 , pp. 2/3.
  2. See also Friedrich Kluge : Etymological Dictionary of the German Language . 7th edition. Trübner, Strasbourg 1910 ( p. 377 ).
  3. Daniela Niesta Kayser, Andrew J. Elliot, Roger Feltman (2010): Red and romantic behavior in men viewing women . European Journal of Social Psychology 40: 901-908.
  4. ^ Nicolas Guéguen, Céline Jacob: Color and cyber-attractiveness: Red enhances men´s attraction to women's Internet personal ads . In: Wiley Periodicals (Ed.): Color Research and Application . 8th edition. February 2012, p. 309-312 .
  5. ^ Nicolas Guéguen: Color and women hitchhikers' attraction: Gentlemen drivers prefer red . In: Wiley Periodicals (Ed.): Color Research and Application . November 2010, p. 76-78 .
  6. Diana Wiedemann, D. Michael Burt, et al. (2015): Red clothing increases perceived dominance, aggression and anger .
  7. Andrew J. Elliot: Red, Rank, and Romance in Women Viewing Men. In: Journal of Experimental Psychology, March 26, 2010, accessed January 23, 2019 .
  8. Adam D. Pazda, Andrew J. Elliot, Tobias Greitemeyer: Sexy red: Perceived sexual receptivity mediates the red-attraction relation in men viewing woman . In: Journal of Experimental Social Psychology . tape 48 , no. 3 , May 1, 2012, ISSN  0022-1031 , p. 787-790 , doi : 10.1016 / j.jesp.2011.12.009 ( [accessed January 30, 2019]).
  9. Red makes you strong and fast ,, June 3, 2011.
  10. Caroline Kaufmann: On the semantics of the color adjectives pink, pink and red (PDF; 1.9 MB) . Dissertation, Herbert Utz Verlag, Munich 2006, ISBN 3-8316-0652-8 .
  11. ^ Rupprecht Matthaei, Dorothea Kuhn (editor): Goethe: "The writings on natural science", third volume: Contributions to optics and beginnings of the theory of colors, additions and explanations . Hermann Böhlaus successor Weimar, Stuttgart 1961, DNB 456774637 ( welcomed by K. Lothar Wolf and Wilhelm Troll on behalf of the German Academy of Natural Scientists Leopoldina. Ed. By Dorothea Kuhn, Wolf von Engelhardt and Irmgard Müller)
  12. a b c d e Amy Butler Greenfield: A Perfect Red - Empire, Espionage and the Qest for the Color of Desire , HarperCollins Publisher, New York 2004, ISBN 0-06-052275-5 , pp. 19 ff.
  13. : subtle: finely structured.
  14. ↑ on this, the Left Party
  15. Exhibition “At the Rothosen - Sports Illustrator Sepp Mauder and his FC Bayern” (2013)
  16. see list of German idioms #R
  17. Duden, Volume 11: Redewendung, 3rd edition 2008, p. 631. Quotation: “last place in a ranking”.
  18. ^ Russell A. Hill, Robert A. Barton: Sporting contests: Seeing red? Putting sportswear in context (reply) . In: Nature . tape 437 , no. 7063 , October 2005, ISSN  1476-4687 , p. E10 – E11 , doi : 10.1038 / nature04307 ( [accessed January 30, 2019]).
  19. The red scarf on IMDb (accessed March 8, 2020)
  20. Munich as the place of publication on the main title page .