Is black a color? Is white a color? The answer to both of these questions is, “it all depends on your perspective.” Ask a scientist or physicist, and they’ll give you a completely different answer than an artist, a chemist, or even a child with a box of crayons. Nobody is entirely right or entirely wrong, because how we define the word “color” is completely subjective. Like many words in the English language, it has more than one meaning, and it all depends on the context. Talk about a colorful debate!


1. What is a color?

Just as our taste buds interpret molecules as different flavors for our brain, our eyes can translate different portions of the light spectrum into the colors we see. Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet are the colors in a pure rainbow or spectrum of light. What we call “color” is simply the reflection of different portions of the light spectrum that we perceive through our optic nerves, translated for our brain.

The eye interprets color for us nu_andrei / Getty Images

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