Pink is a pale red color, which takes its name from the flower of the same name. According to surveys in Europe and the United States, pink is the colour most often associated with charm, politeness, sensitivity, tenderness, sweetness, childhood, femininity, and the romantic. When combined with white, it is associated with innocence. When combined with violet or black, it is associated with eroticism and seduction.
Pink was first used as a colour name in the late seventeenth century.
In nature and culture
Etymology and definitions
The colour pink is named after the flowers called pinks, flowering plants in the genus Dianthus. The name derives from the frilled edge of the flowers—the verb "to pink" dates from the fourteenth century and means "to decorate with a perforated or punched pattern" (possibly from German pinken, "to peck"). While the word "pink" was first used as a noun to refer to a colour in the seventeenth century, the verb "pink" continues to be reflected today in the name of those hand-held scissors that cut a zig-zagged line referred to as pinking shears.
History, art and fashion
From the ancient world to the Renaissance
The colour pink has been described in literature after ancient times. In the Odyssey, written in approximately 800 BCE, Homer wrote "Then, when the child of morning, rosy-fingered dawn appeared..." Roman poets additionally described the color. Roseus is the Latin word meaning "rosy" or "pink." Lucretius used the word to describe the dawn in his epic poem On the Nature of Things (De rerum natura).
Pink wasn't a common colour in the fashion of the Middle Ages; nobles usually preferred brighter reds, such as crimson. Notwithstanding it did appear in women's fashion, and in religious art. In the thirteenth and fourteenth century, in works by Cimabue and Duccio, the Christ child was at times portrayed dressed in pink, the colour associated with the body of Christ.
In the high Renaissance painting the Madonna of the Pinks by Raphael, the Christ child is presenting a pink flower to the Virgin Mary. The pink was a symbol of marriage, showing a spiritual marriage between the mother and child.
During the Renaissance, pink was mainly used for the flesh colour of faces and hands. The pigment commonly used for this was called light cinabrese; it was a mixture of the red earth pigment called sinopia, or Venetian red, and a white pigment called Bianco San Genovese, or lime white. In his famous fifteenth century manual on painting, Il Libro Dell'Arte, Cennino Cennini described it this way: "This pigment is made from the loveliest and lightest sinopia that's found and is mixed and mulled with St. John’s white, as it is called in Florence; and this white is made from thoroughly white and thoroughly purified lime. And when these two pigments have been thoroughly mulled together (that is, two parts cinabrese and the third white), make little loaves of them like half walnuts and leave them to dry. When you need some, take however much of it seems appropriate. And this pigment does you great credit if you use it for painting faces, hands and nudes on walls..."
The eighteenth century
The golden age of the colour pink was the Rococo Period (1720–1777) in the eighteenth century, when pastel colours became quite fashionable in all the courts of Europe. Pink was particularly championed by Madame de Pompadour (1721–1764), the mistress of King Louis XV of France. who wore combinations of pale blue and pink, and had a particular tint of pink made for her by the Sevres porcelain factory, created by adding nuances of blue, black and yellow.
While pink was quite evidently the colour of seduction in the portraits made by George Romney of Emma, Lady Hamilton, the future mistress of Admiral Horatio Nelson, in the late eighteenth century, it had the completely opposite meaning in the portrait of Sarah Barrett Moulton painted by Thomas Lawrence in 1794. In this painting, it symbolised childhood, innocence and tenderness. Sarah Moulton was just eleven years old when the picture was painted, and died the following year.
The nineteenth century
In nineteenth century England, pink ribbons or decorations were often worn by young boys; boys were simply considered small men, and while men in England wore red uniforms, boys wore pink. In fact the clothing for children in the nineteenth century was almost always white, since, before the invention of chemical dyes, clothing of any colour would quickly fade when washed in boiling water. Queen Victoria was painted in 1850 with her seventh child and third son, Prince Arthur, who wore white and pink.
The twentieth century
In the twentieth century, pinks became bolder, brighter, and more assertive, in part because of the invention of chemical dyes which didn't fade. The pioneer in the creation of the new wave of pinks was the Italian designer Elsa Schiaparelli, (1890-1973) who was aligned with the artists of the surrealist movement, including Jean Cocteau. In 1931 she created a new variety of the color, called Shocking pink, made by mixing magenta with a small amount of white. She launched a perfume called Shocking, sold in a bottle in the shape of a woman's torso, said to be modelled on that of Mae West. Her fashions, co-designed with artists such as Cocteau, featured the new pinks.
In Nazi Germany in the 1930s and 1940s, inmates of Nazi concentration camps who were accused of homosexuality were forced to wear a pink triangle. Because of this, the pink triangle has become a symbol of the modern gay rights movement.
The transition to pink as a sexually differentiating colour for girls occurred gradually, through the selective process of the marketplace, in the 1930s and 40s. In the 1920s, a few groups had been describing pink as a masculine color, an equivalent of the red that was considered to be for men, but lighter for boys. But stores nonetheless found that people were increasingly choosing to buy pink for girls, and blue for boys, until this became an accepted norm in the 1940s.
The US presidential inauguration of Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1953 when Eisenhower's wife Mamie Eisenhower wore a pink dress as her inaugural gown is thought to have been a key turning point to the association of pink as a colour associated with girls. Mamie's strong liking of pink led to the public association with pink being a colour that "ladylike women wear." The 1957 American musical Funny Face additionally played a role in cementing the color's association with women.
In 1973, Sheila Levrant de Bretteville created "Pink," a broadside (poster) meant to explore the notions of gender as associated with the colour pink, for an American Institute of Graphic Arts exhibition about color. This was the only entry about the colour pink. Various women including a large number of in the Feminist Studio Workshop at the Woman's Building submitted entries exploring their association with the color. De Bretteville arranged the squares of paper to form a "quilt" from which posters were printed and disseminated throughout Los Angeles. She was often called "Pinky" as a result.
Christo and Jeanne-Claude's Surrounded Islands wrapped wooded islands in Miami's Biscayne Bay with 6,500,000 sq ft (600,000 m2) of bright pink fabric. Thomas von Taschitzki has said that "the monochrome pink wrappings"..."form a counterpoint to the small green wooded islands."
Science and nature
In optics, the word "pink" can refer to any of the colors between bluish red (purple) and red, of medium to high brightness and of low to moderate saturation. Although pink is generally considered a tint of red, most variations of pink lie between red, white and magenta colors. This means that the pink's hue is between red and magenta.
Why sunrises and sunsets at times look pink
As a ray of white sunlight travels through the atmosphere, a few of the colours are scattered out of the beam by air molecules and airborne particles. This is called Rayleigh scattering. Colors with a shorter wavelength, such as blue and green, scatter more strongly, and are removed from the light that finally reaches the eye. At sunrise and sunset, when the path of the sunlight through the atmosphere to the eye is longest, the blue and green components are removed almost completely, leaving the longer wavelength orange, red and pink light. The remaining pinkish sunlight can additionally be scattered by cloud droplets and additional relatively large particles, which give the sky above the horizon a pink or reddish glow.
Why cooked beef, cured ham, steamed shrimp and salmon are pink
Raw beef is red, because the muscles of vertebrate animals, such as cows and pigs, contain a protein called myoglobin, which binds oxygen and iron atoms. When beef is cooked, the myoglobin proteins undergo oxidation, and gradually turn from red to pink to brown; that is, from rare to medium to well-done. Pork contains less myoglobin than beef and therefore is less red; when heated, it changes from pinkish-red to less pink to tan or white.
Ham, though it contains myoglobins like beef, undergoes a different transformation. Traditional hams, such as prosciutto, are made by taking the hind leg or thigh of a pig, covering it with sea salt, which removes the moisture content, and then letting it dry or cure for as long as two years. The salt (sodium nitrate) permits the ham to retain its original pink color, even when dried out. Supermarket hams are made by a different and faster process; they're brined, or infused with a salt-water solution, containing sodium nitrite, which transfers nitric oxide, which bonds with the myoglobin to form the traditional pink cured ham color.
The shells and flesh of crustaceans such as crabs, lobsters and shrimp contain a pink carotenoid pigment called astaxanthin. Their shells, naturally blue-green, turn pink or red when cooked. The flesh of the salmon additionally contains astaxanthins, which makes it pink. Farm-bred salmon are at times fed these pigments to improve their pinkness, and it is at times additionally used to enhance the colour of egg yolks.
Plants and flowers
Pink is one of the most common colours of flowers; it serves to attract the insects and birds necessary for pollination and perhaps additionally to deter predators. The colour comes from natural pigments called anthocyanins, which additionally provide the pink in raspberries.
Pigments - Pinke
In the seventeenth century, the word pink or pinke was additionally used to describe a yellowish pigment, which was mixed with blue colours to yield greenish colors. Thomas Jenner's A Book of Drawing, Limning, Washing (1652) categorises "Pink & blew bice" amongst the greens (p. 38), and specifies several admixtures of greenish colours made with pink—e.g. "Grasse-green is made of Pink and Bice, it is shadowed with Indigo and Pink … French-green of Pink and Indico [shadowed with] Indico" (pp. 38–40). In William Salmon's Polygraphice (1673), "Pink yellow" is mentioned amongst the chief yellow pigments (p. 96), and the reader is instructed to mix it with either Saffron or Ceruse for "sad" or "light" shades thereof, respectively.
- Pink noise ( ), additionally known as 1/f noise, in audio engineering is a signal or process with a frequency spectrum such that the power spectral density is proportional to the reciprocal of the frequency.
- Grow lights often use a combination of red and blue wavelengths, which generally appear pink to the human eye.
- Pink neon signs are generally produced using one of two different methods. One method is to use neon gas and a blue or purple phosphor, which generally produces a warmer (more reddish) or more intense shade of pink. An Additional method is to use an argon/mercury blend and a red phosphor, which generally produces a cooler (more purplish) or softer shade of pink.
- Pink LEDs can be produced using two methods, either with a blue LED using two phosphors (yellow for the first phosphor, and red, orange, or pink for the second), or by placing a pink dye on top of a white LED. Color shifting was a common issue with early pink LEDs, where the red, orange, or pink phosphors or dyes faded over time, causing the pink colour to eventually shift towards white or blue. These issues have been mitigated by the more recent introduction of more fade-resistant phosphors.
- Insulation manufactured by Owens Corning is dyed pink, with The Pink Panther as its corporate mascot. The company holds a trademark on the colour pink for insulation products in order to prevent competitors from using it, and is the first company in the United States to trademark a color.
- The United States Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices specifies fluorescent pink as an optional colour for traffic signs used for incident management as an alternative to the traditional orange in order to distinguish them from construction zone signs.
Pink in symbolism and world culture
Common associations and popularity
According to public opinion surveys in Europe and the United States, pink is the colour most associated with charm, politeness, sensitivity, tenderness, sweetness, softness, childhood, the feminine, and the romantic. Although it didn't have any strong negative associations in these surveys, few respondents chose pink as their favourite color. Pink was the favourite colour of only two-percent of respondents, compared with forty-five-percent who chose blue. Pink was the least-favorite colour of seventeen percent of respondents; the only colour more disliked was brown, with twenty percent. There was a notable difference between men and women; three percent of women chose pink as their favourite color, compared with less than one percent of men. Many of the men surveyed were unable to even identify pink correctly, confusing it with mauve. Pink was additionally more popular with older people than younger; twenty-five percent of women under twenty-five called pink their least favourite color, compared with only eight percent of women over fifty. Twenty-nine percent of men under the age of twenty-five said pink was their least favourite color, compared with eight percent of men over fifty.
In Japan, pink is the colour most commonly associated with springtime due to the blooming cherry blossoms. This is different from surveys in the United States and Europe where green is the colour most associated with springtime.
Pink in additional languages
In a large number of languages, the colour pink is the name of the rose flower; like rose in French; roze in Dutch; rosa in German, Latin, Portuguese, Catalan, Spanish and Italian; rozoviy in Russian; różowy in Polish; and گلابی gulabi in Urdu.
In the Japanese language, the traditional word for pink, momo-iro (ももいろ), takes its name from the peach blossom. There is a separate word for the colour of the cherry blossom: sakura-iro. In recent times a word based on the English version, pinku (ピンク), has begun to be used.
In Chinese, the colour pink is named with a compound noun 粉紅色, meaning "powder red" where the powder refers to substances used for women's make-up.
Idioms and expressions
- In the pink. To be in top form, in good health, in good condition. In Romeo and Juliet, Mercutio says; "I am the quite pink of courtesy." Romeo: Pink for flower? Mercutio: Right. Romeo: Then my pump is well flowered."
- To see pink elephants means to hallucinate from alcoholism. The expression was used by American novelist Jack London in his book John Barleycorn in 1913.
- Pink slip. To be given a pink slip means to be fired or dismissed from a job. It was first recorded in 1915 in the United States.
- The phrase "pink-collar worker" refers to persons working in jobs conventionally regarded as "women's work."
- Pink Money, the pink pound or pink dollar is an economic term which refers to the spending power of the LGBT community. Advertising agencies at times call the gay market the pink economy.
- Tickled pink means extremely pleased.
Early pink buildings were usually built of brick or sandstone, which takes its pale red colour from hematite, or iron ore. In the eighteenth century - the golden age of pink and additional pastel colours - pink mansions and churches were built all across Europe. More modern pink buildings usually use the colour pink to seem exotic or to attract attention.
Food and beverages
According to surveys in Europe and the United States, pink is the colour most associated with sweet foods and beverages. Pink is additionally one of the few colours to be strongly associated with a particular aroma, that of roses. Many strawberry and raspberry-flavored foods are coloured pink and light red as well, at times to distinguish them from cherry-flavored foods that are more commonly coloured dark red (although raspberry-flavored foods, particularly in the United States, are often coloured blue as well). The drink Tab was packaged in pink cans, presumably to subconsciously convey a sweet taste.
The pink colour in most packaged and processed foods, ice creams, candies and pastries is made with artificial food coloring. The most common pink food colouring is erythrosine, additionally known as Red No. 3, an organoiodine compound, a derivative of fluorone, which is a cherry-pink synthetic. It is usually listed on package labels as E-127. An Additional common red or pink (particularly in the United States where erythrosine is less frequently used) is Allura Red AC (E-129), additionally known as Red No. 40. Some products use a natural red or pink food coloring, Cochineal, additionally called carmine, made with crushed insects of the family Dactylopius coccus.
In Europe and the United States, pink is often associated with girls, while blue is associated with boys. These colours were first used as gender signifiers just prior to World War I (for either girls or boys), and pink was first established as a female gender signifier in the 1940s. In the twentieth century, the practise in Europe varied from country to country, with a few assigning colours based on the baby's complexion, and others assigning pink at times to boys and at times to girls.
Many have noted the contrary association of pink with boys in 20th-century America. An article in the trade publication Earnshaw's Infants' Department in June 1918 said:
The generally accepted rule is pink for the boys, and blue for the girls. The reason is that pink, being a more decided and stronger color, is more suitable for the boy, while blue, which is more delicate and dainty, is prettier for the girl.
One reason for the increased use of pink for girls and blue for boys was the invention of new chemical dyes, which meant that children's clothing can be mass-produced and washed in hot water without fading. Prior to this time, most small children of both sexes wore white, which can be frequently washed. An Additional factor was the popularity of blue and white sailor suits for young boys, a fashion that started in the late nineteenth century. Blue was additionally the usual colour of school uniforms, for boys and girls. Blue was associated with seriousness and study, while pink was associated with childhood and softness.
By the 1950s, pink was strongly associated with femininity but to an extent that was "neither rigid nor universal" as it later became.
One study by two neuroscientists in Current Biology examined colour preferences across cultures and found significant differences between male and female responses. Both groups favoured blues over additional hues, but women had more favourable responses to the reddish-purple range of the spectrum and men had more favourable responses to the greenish-yellow end of the spectrum. Despite the fact that the study used adults, and both groups preferred blues, and responses to the colour pink were never even tested, the popular press represented the research as an indication of an innate preference by girls for pink. The misreading has been often repeated in market research, reinforcing American culture's association of pink with girls on the basis of imagined innate characteristics.
Toys aimed at girls often display pink prominently on packaging and the toy themselves. In its 1957 catalog, Lionel Trains offered for sale a pink model freight train for girls. The steam locomotive and coal car were pink and the freight cars of the freight train were various pastel colors. The caboose was baby blue. It was a marketing failure because any girl who might want a model train would want a realistically coloured train, while boys in the 1950s didn't want to be seen playing with a pink train. Notwithstanding today it is a valuable collector's item.
As of 2008 various feminist groups and the Breast Cancer Awareness Month use the colour pink to convey empowerment of women. Breast cancer charities around the world have used the colour to symbolise support for people with breast cancer and promote awareness of the disease. A key tactic of these charities is encouraging women and men to wear pink to show their support for breast cancer awareness and research.
Pink has symbolised a "welcome embrace" in India and masculinity in Japan.
As noted above, pink combined with black or violet is commonly associated with eroticism and seduction.
- In street slang, the pink at times refers to the vagina.
- In Russian, pink (розовый, rozovyj) is used to refer to lesbians, and light blue (голубой, goluboj) refers to gay men.
- In Japan, a genre of low budget, erotic cinema is referred to as Pink films (ピンク映画 Pinku Eiga).
- Pink, being a 'watered-down' red, is at times used in a derogatory way to describe a person with mild communist or socialist beliefs (see Pinko).
- The term pink revolution is at times used to refer to the overthrow of President Askar Akayev and his government in the Central Asian republic of Kyrgyzstan after the parliamentary elections of February 27 and of March 13, 2005, although it is more commonly called the tulip revolution.
- The Swedish feminist party Feminist Initiative uses pink as their color.
- Code Pink is an American women's anti-globalization and anti-war group founded in 2002 by activist Medea Benjamin. The group has disrupted Congressional hearings and heckled President Obama at his public speeches.
- It was a common practise to colour British Empire pink on maps.
Pink is often used as a symbolic colour by groups involved in issues important to women, and the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual people.
- A Dutch newsgroup about homosexuality is called nl.roze (roze being the Dutch word for pink), while in Britain, Pink News is a gay newspaper and online news service. There is a magazine called Pink for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community which has different editions for various metropolitan areas. In France Pink TV is an LGBT cable channel.
- In Ireland, Support group for Irish Pink Adoptions defines a pink family as a relatively neutral umbrella term for the single gay men, single lesbians, or same-gender couples who intend to adopt, are in the process of adopting, or have adopted. It additionally covers adults born/raised in such families. The group welcome the input of additional people touched by adoption, especially people who were adopted as children and are now adults.
- Pinkstinks, a campaign founded in London in May 2008 to raise awareness of what they claim is the damage caused by gender stereotyping of children.
- The Pink Pistols is a gay gun rights organization.
- The pink ribbon is the international symbol of breast cancer awareness. Pink was chosen partially because it is so strongly associated with femininity.
- In the French academic dress system, the five traditional fields of study (Arts, Science, Medicine, Law and Divinity) are each symbolised by a distinctive color, which appears in the academic dress of the people who graduated in this field. Redcurrant, an extremely red shade of pink, is the distinctive colour for Medicine (and additional health-related fields) fr:Groseille (couleur).
The word pink isn't used for any tincture (color) in heraldry, but there are two fairly uncommon tinctures which are both close to pink:
- The heraldic colour of rose is a modern innovation, mostly used in Canadian heraldry, depicting a reddish pink colour like the shade usually called rose.
- In French heraldry, the colour carnation is at times used, corresponding to the skin colour of a light skinned Caucasian human. This can additionally be seen as a pink shade but is usually depicted slightly more brownish beige than the rose tincture.
- In Thailand, pink is associated with Tuesday on the Thai solar calendar. Anyone might wear pink on Tuesdays, and anyone born on a Tuesday might adopt pink as their color.
Pink is used for the newsprint paper of several important newspapers devoted to business and sports, and the colour is additionally connected with the press aimed at the gay community.
Since 1893 the London Financial Times newspaper has used a distinctive salmon pink colour for its newsprint, originally because pink dyed paper was less expensive than bleached white paper. Today the colour is used to distinguish the newspaper from competitors on a press kiosk or news stand. In a few countries, the salmon press identifies economic newspapers or economics sections in "white" newspapers. Some sports newspapers, such as La Gazzetta dello Sport in Italy, additionally use pink paper to stand out from additional newspapers. It awards a pink jersey to the winner of Italy's most important bicycle race, the Giro d'Italia. (See ).
- In England and Wales, a brief delivered to a barrister by a solicitor is usually tied with pink ribbon. Pink was traditionally the colour associated with the defense, while white ribbons might have been used for the prosecution.
- In Spanish and Italian, a "pink novel" (novela rosa in Spanish, romanzo rosa in Italian) is a sentimental novel marketed to women.
- In Nathaniel Hawthorne's Young Goodman Brown, Faith is wearing a pink ribbon in her hair which represents her innocence.
- Carl Surely's short storey "Dinsdale's Pink" is a coming of age tale of a young man growing up in Berlin in the 1930s, dealing with issues of gender, sexuality and politics.
- In the Yogic Hindu, Shaktic Hindu and Tantric Buddhist traditions rose is one of the colours of the fourth primary energy center, the heart chakra Anahata. The additional colour is green.
- In Catholicism, pink (called rose by the Catholic Church) symbolises joy and happiness. It is used for the Third Sunday of Advent and the Fourth Sunday of Lent (see Laetare Sunday) to mark the halfway point in these seasons of penance. For this reason, one of the candles in an Advent wreath might be pink, rather than purple.
- Pink is the colour most associated with Indian spiritual leader Meher Baba, who often wore pink coats to please his closest female follower, Mehera Irani, and today pink remains an important color, symbolising love, to Baba's followers.
- In Major League Baseball, pink bats are used by baseball players on Mother's Day as part of a week-long programme to benefit Susan G. Komen for the Cure.
- Pink can mean the scarlet coat worn in fox hunting (a.k.a. "riding to hounds"). One legend about the origin of this meaning refers to a tailor named Pink (or Pinke, or Pinque).
- The leader in the Giro d'Italia cycle race wears a pink jersey (maglia rosa); this reflects the distinctive pink-colored newsprint of the sponsoring Italian La Gazzetta dello Sport newspaper.
- The University of Iowa's Kinnick Stadium visitors' locker room is painted pink. The decor has sparked controversy, perceived by a few people as suggesting sexism and homophobia.
- Palermo, a soccer team based in Palermo, Italy, traditionally wears pink home jerseys.
- WWE Hall of Famer Bret Hart, as well as additional members of the Hart wrestling family, is known for his pink and black wrestling attire.
- The Western Hockey League team Calgary Hitmen originally wore pink as a tribute to the aforementioned Bret Hart, who was a part team owner at the time.
- The Penrith Panthers of the NRL, wear a pink away jersey.