Yellow is a great color. It is the color of popular children’s characters, or a Coldplay song, and of the sunshine. It can be bright and resplendent or dark and rich. Yellow is a versatile color and one that is underutilized by most in their wardrobes.

To help give you a better understanding of yellow – where it comes from, what it means, where it can be found, how you can wear it, and more – we have put together a detailed explainer about the color yellow for you. This will provide you with a greater understanding and a greater appreciation of this wonderful color. Here is a brief history of the color yellow.

Where the Word “Yellow” Comes From

The term “yellow” as we say it today has its roots in several European languages. In Old English, the word to describe this color was “geolu” and in proto-Germanic, it was “gelwaz.” Furthermore, the prefix gel- was used to describe things that were gold in Germanic languages and the prefix yell- was used to describe bright things. These words came together to create the English word for yellow in the year 700.

History of the Color Yellow

The Symbolism of Yellow 

Yellow means very specific and important things to cultures around the world. It is often associated with gold which also has a large cultural significance in different locales. It has meant different things to different people at different times but there are some similarities about the way people feel about yellow no matter where you are. Here are a few of the different types of symbolism people around the world associate with yellow.

Warmth and Light

Yellow is the color of the sun, which provides warmth, and it is the color of many flowers and birds that people associate with spring and summertime. These are times where we emerge from the cold winter and start feeling warmth again. It is the brightest color we have and, again, as the color of the light-giving sun is often associated with brightness.


In many cultures, yellow symbolizes wisdom. In English and other languages, the terms “brilliant” or “bright” are used to describe both the color yellow as well as people who have exceeding intelligence.


Because yellow is such an eye-catching color, it is also associated with caution or warning. It is the color of school buses and emergency vehicles in many places so that these important vehicles stand out. It is also the traffic light color between green and red in many places and even the color of the warning penalty card in soccer.


Not all associations with yellow are positive though. To call someone “yellow” or “yellow-bellied” in certain times and in certain cultures is to say that they are afraid or cowardly. This comes from chickens and other yellow birds that are skittish and run away.


For many of the reasons above and more, yellow is often related to happiness. This is especially true in the Chinese culture where yellow has long held incredible cultural significance. This is true all the way back to their first emperor who was named the Yellow Emperor. In other places, the warmth and brightness that the color provides just make people happy.

This phenomenon isn’t just psychological though, it is physiological as well. The color yellow stimulates our nerves and gives us more energy. It makes us feel like we want to take action and interact with others. This all leads to warm, happy feelings as well.

Yellow in fashion

Yellow in fashion

Yellow isn’t just a color you find in nature or in art. It is a great color to wear as well. Yes, if you wear too much yellow you might drift into Big Bird territory, but when done right, yellow is a very fashion-forward color that almost anyone can pull off.

Yellow Suits and Sports Jackets

yellow jackets

This is a very bold and potentially risky fashion choice but it can be pulled off. A bright, canary yellow suit is not something that many people can wear but if you are the boldest of dressers, you can make it work. A pale yellow suit in the spring or a dark, mustard yellow suit in the fall is a little easier to get away with. A nice yellow blazer in the spring with some khaki pants is also an eye-catching look that isn’t as crazy as you may initially think.

Yellow Pants and Shirts

Yellow Pants and Shirts

Speaking of spring looks, yellow is the perfect color for spring. A yellow sweater, t-shirt, or button-down is very fashionable these days, especially if you experiment with the best shades of yellow for your skin tone. A look that is also very on-trend in 2021 is yellow pants in the spring. These pants with a white, light, or pastel top will make you look like a springtime fashionista and surely get you compliments wherever you go.

Yellow Socks and Accessories

Yellow Socks and Accessories

Yellow socks and other accessories are a more subtle way to incorporate yellow into an outfit. No Cold Feet has a great guide on yellow socks. Wearing yellow this way is a great way to get a happy pop of color without the yellow overtaking your entire outfit. You can wear socks and accessories that are the traditional bright yellow or make it more modern with a darker or mellower yellow. It all depends on how bold you want your use of yellow to be with your outfit.


Yellow is a color with tons of meaning and importance around the world. It is also a fashionable color that will help you look good when you implement it correctly. The important part to remember about yellow is that yes, yellow is the color of fire hydrants and Minions but it is also the color of happiness, wisdom, and spring. Use it wisely and in a way that makes you happy and yellow will be your friend and not a color you have to shy away from.

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