The origin of…White

“White lies always introduce others of a darker complexion.” William S. Paley


White is a color without hue, it is an achromatic color and is formed by a combination of the frequencies of all the colors of the visible spectrum. White can be seen when the incoming light stimulates all three types of color sensitive cone cells in the eye in nearly equal amounts. In 1666, Isaac Newton demonstrated that white light could be broken up into its composite colors by passing it through a prism, then using a second prism to reassemble them. Before this, most scientists believed that white was the fundamental color of light.
White is mostly associated with the good, purity, the new and cleanliness.
It was one of the first colors used by Paleolithic artists, using calcite or chalk together with charcoal and red and yellow ochre in their cave paintings.
In Ancient Egypt, the color was associated with the goddess Isis and priests and priestesses of Isis dressed in white linen and mummies were wrapped in it.
Ancient Romans had two words for white: albus for plain white (see albino), and candidus, a brighter white (see candid and candle). Somebody who wanted public office in Rome wore a white toga brightened with chalk, called a toga candida, the origin of the word candidate.
The early Christian church adopted the Roman symbolism of white as the color of purity and virtue and priests wore white during Mass and under Pope Pius V it became the official color worn by the pope himself (in 1566). In Islam, white clothing is worn during the Hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca.

Snow appears to be white because when sunlight enters snow, very little of the spectrum is absorbed. Almost all of the light is scattered or reflected by the air and water molecules that snow is made of (when you think that snow sparkles, the light bounces around inside the ice crystals before being scattered). Clouds are white for the same reason.

1. light or pale in color
2. of or relating to a race of people who have light-colored skin and who come originally from Europe (source: Merriam Webster).

The English word white comes from Old English hwit, bright/radiant/clear/fair, from Proto-Germanic *hwitaz, from Proto Indo European *kweid-o-, suffixed form of root *kweit-, white/to shine.
Dutch wit has the same origins.
Spanish blanco and Italian bianco come from Germanic blank, from blinken, to shine, from the Indo European root *bhel/*bheleg, to burn/to sparkle.

White in other languages:
Dutch: wit
Spanish: blanco
Italian: bianco


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