You will hardly believe the difference the use of one word rather than another will make until you begin to hunt for a word with just the right shade of meaning, just the right color for the picture you are painting with words. Have you thought that words have color? ~Laura Ingalls Wilder, speech, Mountain Grove Sorosis Club, 1936
I write for beloved friends who can see color in words, can smell the perfume of syllables in blossom, can be shocked with the fine elfish electricity of words. ~Lafcadio Hearn (1850–1904), letter to B. H. Chamberlain
The almond-tree at the bottom of my garden, having the courage of its convictions, has spoken a pink word. ~Louis Golding, “Emméline and Her Tower,” 1919
Take the word waken, now. That’s a white word, kind of still, with no sound to it. Sundown. That word has got gold edges all mixed up with red. April is a pink word and soft as moss on a tree. Bird… that’s a word you can feel in your hands, round like. Maybe the best word of all is twilight. It’s blue and it smells like spicewood. Sunday is a purple word and wind is a green word and it has a taste like ripe Mayapple. They ain’t nothin’ in all the world like words. ~Alma Robison Higbee (1893–1969), “Words for John Willie,” 1946
‘Friable’ is a dark cinnamon-colored word. Almost all words do have color and nothing is more pleasant than to utter a pink word and see someone’s eyes light up and know it is a pink word for him or her too. You can get into rather warm arguments over a definitely dark green word that someone insists is beige. ‘Murder’ is a slush-brown word edged with magenta. It is not a good idea to go around explaining about the color of words in strange company. Some people give you such a sad critical look, and their heads shake slightly. ~Gladys Bagg Taber, “May,” Stillmeadow Daybook, 1946–1955 [a little altered
My mistress spoke to me in the red-purple words of the Portuguese, in the blue-green words of the English, speaking to me as if I were a child so I could learn it easily. ~Patricia Finney, Gloriana’s Torch, 2003
You want to paint a soft and pretty picture?
Choose a pink word.
If you wish it clear and lucid, make it blue.
If you’d put the pulse of spring into expression
Make your text a lively green, and sprinkle through
The subtle tint of apple blossom hue…
Add a slight amount of citron, violet —
Just enough to punctuate the conversation…
In anger hurl a pungent, fiery red word…
Color your speech chic, or witty, wise, or gay —
There are words for every shade of what you say.
~Thelma Scott Kiser, “Shades of the King’s English,” 1966
For me words have color, form, character; they have faces, ports, manners, gesticulations; they have moods, humors, eccentricities; they have tints, tones, personalities… ~Lafcadio Hearn (1850–1904), letter, 1893
My name — Maggie — is blue; deep blue with pink piping. Your name — Etienne — is tall, golden wheat blowing in a field. I’ve always associated names and numbers with colors. My therapist calls it synesthesia or something. It’s just something that happens in my head. If I try to see the color of words in history, or science, or Spanish class, I remember better. It’s pretty cool. I do it with songs too. Jerry Garcia’s guitar notes always sound like bursting grapes; piano sounds like cool, blue running water; Hendrix is tie-dyed music. You probably think I’m crazy. ~John Gordon, Maggie’s Hope, 2012 [a little altered
Because people cannot see the color of words, the tints of words, the secret ghostly motions of words:—
Because they cannot hear the whispering of words, the rustling of the procession of letters, the dream-flutes and dream-drums which are thinly and weirdly played by words:—
Because they cannot perceive the pouting of words, the frowning and fuming of words, the weeping, the raging and racketing and rioting of words:—
Because they are insensible to the phosphorescing of words, the fragrance of words, the noisomeness of words, the tenderness or hardness, the dryness or juiciness of words; the interchange of values in the gold, the silver, the brass, and the copper of words:—
Is that any reason why we should not try to make them hear, to make them see, to make them feel? ~Lafcadio Hearn (1850–1904), letter to B. H. Chamberlain
Words have magic, and they have power. Words have color, a vivid brilliant red. Words can be drab, an old battleship gray. Words can soothe, and words can ruffle. ~Author unknown, 1940s
I have run home to my room and have lighted a light. Words flow. What has happened? Bah! Such tame, unutterably dull stuff! There was something within me, truth, facility, the color and smell of things. Why, I might have done something here. Words are everything. I swear to you I have not lost my faith in words.
Do I not know? While I walked in the street there were such words came, in ordered array! I tell you what — words have color, smell; one may sometimes feel them with the fingers as one touches the cheek of a child.
There is no reason at all why I should not have been able, by the instrumentality of these little words, why I should not have been able to give you the very smell of the little street wherein I just walked, made you feel just the way the evening light fell over the faces of the houses and the people — the half moon through the branches of that old cherry tree that was all but dead but that had the one branch alive, the branch that touched the window… ~Sherwood Anderson, A Story Teller’s Story, 1924
The long hard to say blue fat little word
The strong, surprising, shaking, long, scarey word
The great pulsating, secreteing throbbing pink word
~Student writing samples in Robert de Beaugrande, Text Production: Toward a Science of Composition, 1984
Color of Words Quotations
Original post date: 2002 Aug 26
1st major revision: 2018 Apr 10
2nd major revision: 2020 Jan 27