May 2008
Volume 8, Issue 6
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   May 2008
Diversity in English color name usage
Author Affiliations
  • Delwin Lindsey
    Department of Psychology, Ohio State University
  • Angela Brown
    College of Optometry, Ohio State University
Journal of Vision May 2008, Vol.8, 578. doi:
  • Views
  • Share
  • Tools
    • Alerts
      This feature is available to authenticated users only.
      Sign In or Create an Account ×
    • Get Citation

      Delwin Lindsey, Angela Brown; Diversity in English color name usage. Journal of Vision 2008;8(6):578.

      Download citation file:

      © ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)

  • Supplements

Background: A striking feature of color naming in the World Color Survey (WCS) ( is the great diversity among the color vocabularies of informants speaking each of these unwritten, third-world languages. In this project, we examined English speakers to determine whether this prominent diversity in color naming applies to a written, Indo-European language.

Methods: We collected free color-naming data on educated native English speakers (N=23) using the same 330-color stimulus set and the same instructions as were used for the WCS. Then we followed up with color names restricted to the 11 English “Basic” Color Terms (BCTs).

Results: English-speaking subjects showed remarkable diversity in their usage of color terms. The average pair-wise similarity under restricted instructions was 0.80 ±0.04, reflecting variations in the locations of boundaries between BCTs. Average similarity under WCS instructions dropped to 0.68 ±0.06 (85th percentile of the WCS, which averaged 0.54 ±0.13), reflecting non-BCT (nBCT) usage. Subjects averaged 8 nBCTs (males averaging fewer color terms than females, pDiscussion: Our results indicate that the low concordances observed in the WCS are a general feature of world languages, not restricted to unwritten languages spoken far from the influence of Western culture. We do not know why pink is a BCT, used by all speakers of English, whereas peach and lavender are not, or why no language (in the WCS or elsewhere) has a one-word term for *pale-green.

Lindsey, D. Brown, A. (2008). Diversity in English color name usage [Abstract]. Journal of Vision, 8(6):578, 578a,, doi:10.1167/8.6.578. [CrossRef]
 This research was supported by the Ohio Lions Eye Research Foundation.

This PDF is available to Subscribers Only

Sign in or purchase a subscription to access this content. ×

You must be signed into an individual account to use this feature.