Any attempt to define any particular colour merely by means of words is doomed
to failure. We can illustrate the general nature of any particular colour by reference
to an object having the same quality (which begs the question) or by reference
to its wavelength (which is of interest only as a matter of physics) or by reference
to another colour (which becomes circular). For example, ‘Purple’ is defined in
the new Oxford Dictionary as ‘a colour intermediate between red and blue’. Blue
is defined as ‘a colour intermediate between green and violet’ and violet is ‘a
This work variously employs each of the above methods, but not with a view to
providing definitions of colours. The vocabulary of colour is far too imprecise to
make that objective a realistic one. The best way to indicate the ‘meaning’ of a
particular colour word is to display its actual colour...
Dabbling in this Dictionary will immediately indicate the important role which
colour performs in our everyday lives. Colour is used not merely to decorate or
to adorn. It provides us with a means of distinction. Colour is nature’s way of
helping animals to avoid predators; to attract mates; of showing when fruit is
ripe to eat or when it is rotten. Colours serve the everyday function of giving us
instructions in an effective and simple way – such as with traffic lights. Colours
provide a simple and immediate way to convey the degree or seriousness of
situations such as flood warnings, traffic congestion, danger and security alerts,
to highlight differences and to make it easier to assimilate information whether
in written form or on a computer or monitor. Colour is used as a means of
diagnosing illness or indicating the seriousness of a particular medical condition.
Doctors have, for example, recently discovered that the colour of the spit of patients
can show the severity of their lung disease...