Purple is a colour intermediate between red and blue. It is similar to violet, but unlike violet, which is a spectral color with its own wavelength on the visible spectrum of light, purple is a composite colour made by combining red and blue. Traditionally, purple is associated with power (as well as excess and rage). According to surveys In Europe and the U.S., purple is the colour most often associated with royalty, magic, mystery and piety. When combined with pink, it is associated with eroticism, femininity and seduction.

Purple was the colour worn by Roman magistrates; it became the imperial colour worn by the rulers of the Byzantine Empire and the Holy Roman Empire, and later by Roman Catholic bishops. Similarly in Japan, the colour is traditionally associated with the Emperor and aristocracy.

Etymology and definitions

The word 'purple' comes from the Old English word purpul which derives from the Latin purpura, in turn from the Greek πορφύρα (porphura), name of the Tyrian purple dye manufactured in classical antiquity from a mucus secreted by the spiny dye-murex snail.

The first recorded use of the word 'purple' in the English language was in the year 975 AD. In heraldry, the word purpure is used for purple.

Varieties and uses of purple

Purple vs. violet

In the traditional color wheel used by painters, violet and purple are both placed between red and blue. Purple occupies the space closer to red, between crimson and violet. Violet is closer to blue, and is usually less saturated than purple.

While the two colours look similar, from the point of view of optics there are important differences. Violet is a spectral color – it occupies its own place at the end of the spectrum of light first identified by Newton in 1672, and it has its own wavelength (approximately 380–420 nm) – whereas purple is a combination of two spectral colors, red and blue. There is no such thing as the "wavelength of purple light"; it only exists as a combination. See purple boundary.

Monochromatic violet light can't be produced by the red-green-blue (RGB) colour system, the method used to create colours on a television screen or computer display (a fact that is, indeed, true of any monochromatic colour of the spectrum besides the shades of red, green, and blue chosen for the primaries). Notwithstanding the system is capable of approximating it due to the fact that the L-cone (red cone) in the eye is uniquely sensitive to two different discontinuous regions in the visible spectrum – its primary region being the long wavelength light of the yellow-red region of the spectrum, and a secondary smaller region overlapping with the S-cone (blue cone) in the shortest wavelength, violet part. This means that when violet light strikes the eye, the S-cone should be stimulated strongly, and the L-cone stimulated weakly along with it. By lighting the red primary of the display weakly along with the blue primary, a relatively similar pattern of sensitization can be achieved, creating an illusion, the sensation of extremely short wavelength light using what's in fact mixed light of two longer wavelengths. The resulting colour has the same hue as pure violet; however, it has a lower saturation.

One curious psychophysical difference between purple and violet is their appearance with an increase in luminance (apparent brightness). Violet, as it brightens, looks more and more blue. The same effect doesn't happen with purple. This is the result of what's known as the Bezold–Brücke shift.

While the scientific definitions of violet and purple are clear, the cultural definitions are more varied. The colour known in antiquity as Tyrian purple ranged from crimson to a deep bluish-purple, depending upon how it was made. In France, purple is defined as "a dark red, inclined toward violet." The colour called purple by the French, pourpre, contains more red and half the amount of blue of the colour called purple in the United States and the U.K. In German, this colour is at times called Purpurrot ("purple-red") to avoid confusion.

In art, history and fashion

In prehistory and the ancient world: Tyrian purple

Purple first appeared in prehistoric art throughout the Neolithic era. The artists of Pech Merle cave and additional Neolithic sites in France used sticks of manganese and hematite powder to draw and paint animals and the outlines of their own hands on the walls of their caves. These works have been dated to between 16,000 and 25,000 BC.

As early as the fifteenth century BC the citizens of Sidon and Tyre, two cities on the coast of Ancient Phoenicia, (present day Lebanon), were producing purple dye from a sea snail called the spiny dye-murex. Clothing coloured with the Tyrian dye was mentioned in both the Iliad of Homer and the Aeneid of Virgil. The deep, rich purple dye made from this snail became known as Tyrian purple.

The process of making the dye was long, difficult and expensive. Thousands of the tiny snails had to be found, their shells cracked, the snail removed. Mountains of empty shells have been found at the ancient sites of Sidon and Tyre. The snails were left to soak, then a tiny gland was removed and the juice extracted and put in a basin, which was placed in the sunlight. There a remarkable transformation took place. In the sunlight the juice turned white, then yellow-green, then green, then violet, then a red which turned darker and darker. The process had to be stopped at exactly the right time to obtain the desired color, which could range from a bright crimson to a dark purple, the colour of dried blood. Then either wool, linen or silk would be dyed. The exact hue varied between crimson and violet, but it was always rich, bright and lasting.

Tyrian purple became the colour of kings, nobles, priests and magistrates all around the Mediterranean. It was mentioned in the Old Testament; In the Book of Exodus, God instructs Moses to have the Israelites bring him an offering including cloth "of blue, and purple, and scarlet.", to be used in the curtains of the Tabernacle and the garments of priests. The term used for purple in the 4th-century Latin Vulgate version of the Bible passage is purpura or Tyrian purple. In the Iliad of Homer, the belt of Ajax is purple, and the tails of the horses of Trojan warriors are dipped in purple. In the Odyssey, the blankets on the wedding bed of Odysseus are purple. In the poems of Sappho (6th century BC) she celebrates the skill of the dyers of the Greek kingdom of Lydia who made purple footwear, and in the play of Aeschylus (525–456 BC), Queen Clytemnestra welcomes back her husband Agamemnon by decorating the palace with purple carpets. In 950 BC, King Solomon was reported to have brought artisans from Tyre to provide purple fabrics to decorate the Temple of Jerusalem.

Alexander the Great (when giving imperial audiences as the basileus of the Macedonian Empire), the basileus of the Seleucid Empire, and the kings of Ptolemaic Egypt all wore Tyrian purple.

The Roman custom of wearing purple togas might have come from the Etruscans; an Etruscan tomb painting from the fourth century BC shows a nobleman wearing a deep purple and embroidered toga.

In Ancient Rome, the Toga praetexta was an ordinary white toga with a broad purple stripe on its border. It was worn by freeborn Roman boys who hadn't yet come of age, curule magistrates, certain categories of priests, and a few additional categories of citizens.

The Toga picta was solid purple, embroidered with gold. During the Roman Republic, it was worn by generals in their triumphs, and by the Praetor Urbanus when he rode in the chariot of the gods into the circus at the Ludi Apollinares. During the Empire, the toga picta was worn by magistrates giving public gladiatorial games, and by the consuls, as well as by the emperor on special occasions.

During the Roman Republic, when a triumph was held, the general being honoured wore an entirely purple toga bordered in gold, and Roman Senators wore a toga with a purple stripe. Notwithstanding throughout the Roman Empire, purple was more and more associated exclusively with the emperors and their officers. The Emperor Caligula had the King of Mauritania murdered for wearing a purple mantle better than his own. Nero made it punishable by death for anyone else to wear the color.

Jesus, in the hours leading up to his crucifixion, was dressed in purple (πορφύρα: porphura) by the Roman garrison to mock his claim to be 'King of the Jews'.

The actual colour of Tyrian purple seems to have varied from a reddish to a bluish purple. According to the Roman writer Vitruvius, (1st century BC), the murex coming from northern waters, probably murex brandaris, produced a more bluish colour than those of the south, probably murex trunculus. The most valued shades were said to be those closer to the colour of dried blood, as seen in the mosaics of the robes of the Emperor Justinian in Ravenna. The chemical composition of the dye from the murex is close to that of the dye from indigo, and indigo was at times used to make a counterfeit Tyrian purple, a crime which was severely punished. What seems to have mattered about Tyrian purple wasn't its color, but its luster, richness, its resistance to weather and light, and its high price.

In modern times, Tyrian purple has been recreated, at great expense. When the German chemist, Paul Friedander, tried to recreate Tyrian purple in 2008, he needed twelve thousand mollusks to create 1.4 ounces of dye, enough to colour a handkerchief. In the year 2000, a gramme of Tyrian purple made from ten thousand mollusks according to the original formula, cost two thousand euro.

Purple in the Byzantine Empire and Carolingian Europe

Through the early Christian era, the rulers of the Byzantine Empire continued the use of purple as the imperial color, for diplomatic gifts, and even for imperial documents and the pages of the Bible. Gospel manuscripts were written in gold lettering on parchment that was coloured Tyrian purple. Empresses gave birth in the Purple Chamber, and the emperors born there were known as "born to the purple," to separate them from emperors who won or seized the title through political intrigue or military force. Bishops of the Byzantine church wore white robes with stripes of purple, while government officials wore squares of purple fabric to show their rank.

In western Europe, the Emperor Charlemagne was crowned in 800 wearing a mantle of Tyrian purple, and was buried in 814 in a shroud of the same color, which still exists (see below). Notwithstanding after the fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Turks in 1453, the colour lost its imperial status. The great dye works of Constantinople were destroyed, and gradually scarlet, made with dye from the cochineal insect, became the royal colour in Europe.

The Middle Ages and Renaissance

In 1464, Pope Paul II decreed that cardinals should no longer wear Tyrian purple, and instead wear scarlet, from kermes and alum, after the dye from Byzantium was no longer available. Bishops and archbishops, of a lower status than cardinals, were assigned the colour purple, but not the rich Tyrian purple. They wore cloth dyed first with the less expensive indigo blue, then overlaid with red made from kermes dye.

While purple was worn less frequently by Medieval and Renaissance kings and princes, it was worn by the professors of a large number of of Europe's new universities. Their robes were modelled after those of the clergy, and they often wore square violet or purple caps and robes, or black robes with purple trim. Purple robes were particularly worn by students of divinity.

Purple and violet additionally played an important part in the religious paintings of the Renaissance. Angels and the Virgin Mary were often portrayed wearing purple or violet robes.

18th and nineteenth centuries

In the eighteenth century, purple was still worn on occasion by Catherine the Great and additional rulers, by bishops and, in lighter shades, by members of the aristocracy, but rarely by ordinary people, because of its high cost. But in the nineteenth century, that changed.

In 1856, an eighteen-year-old British chemistry student named William Henry Perkin was trying to make a synthetic quinine. His experiments produced instead the first synthetic aniline dye, a purple shade called mauveine, shortened simply to mauve. It took its name from the mallow flower, which is the same color. The new colour quickly became fashionable, particularly after Queen Victoria wore a silk gown dyed with mauveine to the Royal Exhibition of 1862. Prior to Perkin's discovery, mauve was a colour which only the aristocracy and rich could afford to wear. Perkin developed an industrial process, built a factory, and produced the dye by the ton, so almost anyone could wear mauve. It was the first of a series of modern industrial dyes which completely transformed both the chemical industry and fashion.

Purple was popular with the pre-Raphaelite painters in Britain, including Arthur Hughes, who loved bright colours and romantic scenes.

20th and twenty-first centuries

At the turn of the century, purple was a favourite colour of the Austrian painter Gustav Klimt, who flooded his pictures with sensual purples and violets.

In the twentieth century, purple retained its historic connexion with royalty; George VI (1896–1952), wore purple in his official portrait, and it was prominent in every feature of the coronation of Elizabeth II in 1953, from the invitations to the stage design inside Westminster Abbey. But at the same time, it was fitting associated with social change; with the Women's Suffrage movement for the right to vote for women in the early decades of the century, with Feminism in the 1970s, and with the psychedelic drug culture of the 1960s.

In the early twentieth century, purple, green, and white were the colours of the Women's Suffrage movement, which fought to win the right to vote for women, finally succeeding with the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1920. Later, in the 1970s, in a tribute to the Suffragettes, it became the colour of the women's liberation movement.

In the concentration camps of Nazi Germany, prisoners who were members of non-conformist religious groups, such as the Jehovah's Witnesses, were required to wear a purple triangle.

During the 1960s and early 1970s, it was additionally associated with counterculture, psychedelics, and musicians like Jimi Hendrix with his 1967 song "Purple Haze", or the English rock band of Deep Purple which formed in 1968. Later, in the 1980s, it was featured in the song and album Purple Rain (1984) by the American musician Prince.

The Purple Rain Protest was a protest against apartheid that took place in Cape Town, South Africa on 2 September 1989, in which a police water cannon with purple dye sprayed thousands of demonstrators. This led to the slogan The Purple Shall Govern.

The violet or purple necktie became quite popular at the end of the first decade of the twenty-first century, particularly among political and business leaders. It combined the assertiveness and confidence of a red necktie with the sense of peace and cooperation of a blue necktie, and it went well with the blue business suit worn by most national and corporate leaders.

In science and nature

The optics of purple

Purple, unlike violet, isn't one of the colours of the visible spectrum. It wasn't one of the colours of the rainbow identified by Isaac Newton, and it doesn't have its own wavelength of light. For this reason, it is called a non-spectral color. It exists in culture and art, but not, in the same way that violet does, in optics. It is simply a combination, in various proportions, of two primary colors, red and blue.

In color theory, a "purple" is defined as any non-spectral color between violet and red (excluding violet and red themselves). The spectral colors violet and indigo aren't purples according to colour theory, but they're purples according to common English usage after they're between red and blue.

In the traditional colour wheel long used by painters, purple is usually placed between crimson and violet. In a slightly different variation, on the color wheel, it is placed between magenta and violet. This shade is at times called electric purple (See Shades of purple).

In the RGB colour model, named for the colours red, green, and blue, used to create all the colours on a computer screen or television, the range of purples is created by mixing red and blue light of different intensities on a black screen. The standard HTML colour purple is created by red and blue light of equal intensity, at a brightness that's halfway between full power and darkness.

In colour printing, purple is at times represented by the colour magenta, or at times by mixing magenta with red or blue. It can additionally be created by mixing just red and blue alone, but in that case the purple is less bright, with lower saturation or intensity. A less bright purple can additionally be created with light or paint by adding a certain quantity of the third primary colour (green for light or yellow for pigment).

On a chromaticity diagram, the straight line connecting the extreme spectral colours (red and violet) is known as the line of purples (or 'purple boundary'); it represents one limit of human color perception. The colour magenta used in the CMYK printing process is near the centre of the line of purples, but most people associate the term "purple" with a somewhat bluer tone, such as is displayed by the colour "electric purple" (a colour additionally directly on the line of purples), shown below. Some common confusion exists concerning the color names "purple" and "violet". Purple is a mixture of red and blue light, whereas violet is a spectral color.

On the CIE xy chromaticity diagram, violet is on the curved edge in the lower left, while purples are on the straight line connecting the extreme colours red and violet; this line is known as the line of purples, or the purple line.


  • Hematite and manganese are the oldest pigments used for the colour purple. They were used by Neolithic artists in the form of sticks, like charcoal, or ground and powdered and mixed with fat, and used as a paint. Hematite is a reddish iron oxide which, when ground coarsely, makes a purple pigment. Manganese was additionally used in Roman times to colour glass purple.
  • Han purple was the first synthetic purple pigment, invented in China in about 700 BC. It was used in wall paintings and pottery and additional applications. In color, it was quite close to indigo, which had a similar chemical structure. Han purple was quite unstable, and at times was the result of the chemical breakdown of Han blue.

During the Middle Ages, artists usually made purple by combining red and blue pigments; most often blue azurite or lapis-lazuili with red ochre, cinnabar, or minium. They additionally combined lake colours made by mixing dye with powder; using woad or indigo dye for the blue, and dye made from cochineal for the red.

  • Cobalt violet was the first modern synthetic colour in the purple family, manufactured in 1859. It was found, along with cobalt blue, in the palette of Claude Monet, Paul Signac, and Georges Seurat. It was stable, but had low tinting power and was expensive, so quickly went out of use.
  • Manganese violet was a stronger colour than cobalt violet, and replaced it on the market.
  • Quinacridone violet, one of a modern synthetic organic family of colors, was discovered in 1896 but not marketed until 1955. It is sold today under a number of brand names.


The most famous purple dye in the ancient world was Tyrian purple, made from a type of sea snail called the murex, found around the Mediterranean. (See history section above).

In western Polynesia, residents of the islands made a purple dye similar to Tyrian purple from the sea urchin. In Central America, the inhabitants made a dye from a different sea snail, the purpura, found on the coasts of Costa Rica and Nicaragua. The Mayans used this colour to dye fabric for religious ceremonies, while the Aztecs used it for paintings of ideograms, where it symbolised royalty.

In the Middle Ages, those who dyed blue fabric and red fabric were members of different guilds, and were forbidden to dye any additional colours than those of their own guild. Most purple fabric was made by the dyers who worked with red, and who used dye from madder or cochineal, so Medieval violet colours were inclined toward red.

Orcein, or purple moss, was another common purple dye. It was known to the ancient Greeks and Hebrews, and was made from a Mediterranean lichen called archil or dyer's moss (Roccella tinctoria), combined with an ammoniac, usually urine. Orcein began to achieve popularity again in the nineteenth century, when violet and purple became the colour of demi-mourning, worn after a widow or widower had worn black for a certain time, before he or she returned to wearing ordinary colors.

From the Middle Ages onward, purple and violet dyes for the clothing of common people were often made from the blackberry or additional red fruit of the genus rubus, or from the mulberry. All of these dyes were more reddish than bluish, and faded easily with washing and exposure to sunlight.

A popular new dye which arrived in Europe from the New World throughout the Renaissance was made from the wood of the logwood tree (Haematoxylum campechianum), which grew in Spanish Mexico. Depending on the different minerals added to the dye, it produced a blue, red, black or, with the addition of alum, a purple color, It made a good color, but, like earlier dyes, it didn't resist sunlight or washing.

In the eighteenth century, chemists in England, France and Germany began to create the first synthetic dyes. Two synthetic purple dyes were invented at about the same time. Cudbear is a dye extracted from orchil lichens that can be used to dye wool and silk, without the use of mordant. Cudbear was developed by Dr Cuthbert Gordon of Scotland: production began in 1758, The lichen is first boiled in a solution of ammonium carbonate. The mixture is then cooled and ammonia is added and the mixture is kept damp for 3–4 weeks. Then the lichen is dried and ground to powder. The manufacture details were carefully protected, with a ten-feet high wall being built around the manufacturing facility, and staff consisting of Highlanders sworn to secrecy.

French purple was developed in France at about the same time. The lichen is extracted by urine or ammonia. Then the extract is acidified, the dissolved dye precipitates and is washed. Then it is dissolved in ammonia again, the solution is heated in air until it becomes purple, then it is precipitated with calcium chloride; the resulting dye was more solid and stable than additional purples.

Cobalt violet is a synthetic pigment that was invented in the second half of the nineteenth century, and is made by a similar process as cobalt blue, cerulean blue and cobalt green. It is the violet pigment most commonly used today by artists.

Mauveine, additionally known as aniline purple and Perkin's mauve, was the first synthetic organic chemical dye, discovered serendipitously in 1856. Its chemical name is 3-amino-2,±9-dimethyl-5-phenyl-7-(p-tolylamino)phenazinium acetate.

Fuchsine was another synthetic dye made shortly after mauveine. It produced a brilliant fuchsia color.

In the 1950s, a new family of purple and violet synthetic organic pigments called quinacridone came onto the market. It had originally been discovered in 1896, but weren't synthetized until 1936, and not manufactured until the 1950s. The colours in the group range from deep red to bluish purple in color, and have the molecular formula C20H12N2O2. They have strong resistance to sunlight and washing, and are widely used today in oil paints, water colors, and acrylics, as well as in automobile coatings and additional industrial coatings.


Why grapes, eggplants and pansies are purple

Grapes, eggplants, pansies and additional fruits, vegetables and flowers are purple because they contain natural pigments called anthocyanins. These pigments are found in the leaves, roots, stems, vegetables, fruits and flowers of all plants. They aid photosynthesis by blocking harmful wavelengths of light that would damage the leaves. In flowers, the purple anthocyanins help attract insects who pollinate the flowers. Not all anthocyanins are purple; they vary in colour from red to purple to blue, green, or yellow, depending upon the level of their pH.

Plants and flowers


  • In April 2007 it was suggested that early archaea might have used retinal, a purple pigment, instead of chlorophyll, to extract energy from the sun. If so, large areas of the ocean and shoreline would have been coloured purple; this is called the Purple Earth hypothesis.



Why distant mountains look blue or purple

The greater the distance from the eye to mountains, the lighter and more blue they appear. This effect, long recognised by Leonardo da Vinci and additional painters, is called aerial perspective or atmospheric perspective. The more distant the mountains are, the less contrast the eye sees between the mountains and the sky.

The bluish colour is caused by an optical effect called Rayleigh scattering. The sunlit sky is blue because air scatters short-wavelength light more than longer wavelengths. Since blue light is at the short wavelength end of the visible spectrum, it is more strongly scattered in the atmosphere than long wavelength red light. The result is that the human eye perceives blue when looking toward parts of the sky additional than the sun.

At sunrise and sunset, the light is passing through the atmosphere at a lower angle, and travelling a greater distance through a larger volume of air. Much of the green and blue is scattered away, and more red light comes to the eye, creating the colours of the sunrise and sunset and making the mountains look purple.

Associations and symbolism


  • In Europe, after the time of the Tyrian purple worn by Roman emperors, purple has been the colour most associated with royalty. It is still used by the British Royal Family and additional royalty in Europe as a ceremonial colour on special occasions.

Piety, faith, penitence, theology

In the west, purple or violet is the colour most associated with piety and faith. In the year 1464, shortly after the fall of Constantinople, which stopped the supply of Tyrian purple to Europe, Pope Paul II changed the colour worn by cardinals from purple to red, dyed with expensive cochineal. Bishops were given the purple colour made then from a less-expensive mixture of indigo and cochineal.

In the Roman Catholic liturgy, purple symbolises penitence; priests wear a purple garment when they hear confession. Purple is additionally worn by priests throughout Lent. Since the Vatican II Council (1962–65), priests might wear purple rather than black when officiating at funerals – it was decided that black, as the colour of mourning, shouldn't be a formal part of a religious service. Purple robes are additionally worn as part of the academic dress worn at graduation and university ceremonies by students of theology.

Purple is additionally often worn by senior pastors of Protestant churches and by bishops of the Anglican Communion.

The colour purple is additionally associated with royalty in the Christian aspect.

Vanity, extravagance, individualism

In Europe and America, purple is the colour most associated with vanity, extravagance, and individualism. Among the seven major sins, it represents vanity. It is a colour which is used to attract attention.

The artificial and the unconventional

Purple is the colour most often associated with the artificial and the unconventional. It is the major colour that occurs the least frequently in nature, and was the first colour to be synthesized.

Ambiguity and ambivalence

Purple is the colour most associated with ambiguity. Like additional colours made by combining two primary colors, it is seen as uncertain and equivocal.


In Britain, purple is at times associated with mourning. In Victorian times, close relatives wore black for the first year following a death ("deep mourning") , and then replaced it with purple or dark green trimmed with black. This is rarely practised today.

In culture and society

Asian culture

  • In China, purple represents spiritual awareness, physical and mental healing, strength and abundance. A red purple symbolises luck and fame. The Chinese word for purple, zi, is connected with the North Star, Polaris, or zi Wei in Chinese.
  • In Chinese astrology the North Star was the home of the Celestial Emperor, the ruler of the heavens (As noted above, the area around the North Star is called the Purple Forbidden Enclosure in Chinese astronomy.). For that reason the forbidden city in Beijing was additionally known as the purple forbidden city (zi Jin cheng).
  • In Chinese painting, the colour purple represents the harmony of the universe because it is a combination of red and blue (yang and yin respectively).
  • In Japan, purple is the colour of privilege and wealth, the colour associated with the Japanese aristocracy. The word for purple is murasaki, which is additionally the name of the purple gromwell flower
  • Purple was a popular colour introduced into Japanese dress throughout the Heian Period (794–1185). The dye was made from the root of the alkanet plant (Anchusa officinalis), additionally known as murasaki in Japanese. At about the same time, Japanese painters began to use a pigment made from the same plant.
  • In Thailand, widows in mourning wear the colour purple. Purple is additionally associated with Saturday on the Thai solar calendar.


The colour purple plays a significant role in the traditions of engineering schools across Canada. This fascination with purple is commonly attributed to the storey of the sinking of the Titanic, in which the purple-clad Marine Engineers remained on board to delay the ship's sinking. Purple is additionally the colour of the Engineering Corp in the British Military. It is common for engineers across schools in Canada to dye themselves (and their leather jackets, in the case of Queen's University engineers) purple using the medical dye Gentian Violet, especially throughout events such as Frosh Week.

Idioms and expressions

  • Purple prose refers to pretentious or overly embellished writing. For example, a paragraph containing an excessive number of long and unusual words is called a purple passage.
  • Born to the purple means someone who's born into a life of wealth and privilege. It originally was used to describe the rulers of the Byzantine Empire. The Empresses gave birth in a purple chamber in the palace in Constantinople.
  • A purple patch is a period of exceptional success or good luck. The origins are obscure, but it probably refers to the symbol of success of the Byzantine Court. Bishops in Byzantium wore a purple patch on their costume as a symbol of rank.
  • Purple haze refers to a state of mind induced by psychedelic drugs, particularly LSD. It is said to have originated because the first LSD manufactured by the pharmaceutical company Sandoz was contained in purple capsules. Owsley Stanley additionally produced a batch of LSD in 1966 that was contained in purple pills. In addition, there's a strain of cannabis called Purple Haze that has purple buds. The expression purple haze gave its name to a 1967 song by Jimi Hendrix. Hendrix denied that his song was about drugs, saying that he took the expression from a science fiction novel that he had read.
  • Wearing purple is a military slang expression in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. for an officer who's serving in a joint assignment with another service; an Army officer on assignment to the Navy, an Air Force officer in the Marines, etc. The officer is symbolically putting aside their traditional uniform colour and exclusive loyalty to their service throughout the joint assignment, though in fact they continue to wear their own service's uniform.
  • Purple squirrel is a term used by employment recruiters to describe a job candidate with precisely the right education, experience, and qualifications that perfectly fits a job’s multifaceted requirements. The assumption is that the perfect candidate is as rare as a real-life purple squirrel.


  • The Purple Heart is a United States military decoration awarded in the name of the President to those who have been wounded or killed throughout their service.


Stage costume of Prince


  • In parapsychology, people with purple auras are said to have a love of ritual and ceremony.



others are obscure perfect rhymes, such as hirple:

    • Robert Burns rhymes purple with curple in his Epistle to Mrs. Scott. A curple refers to 1) the small of the waist before the flare of the hips or 2) a derriere, rump or behind.
  • Examples of imperfect rhymes or non-word rhymes with purple:
Roses are red, violets are purple
Sugar is sweet and so is maple surple [sic]


Purple is at times associated with the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community. It is the symbolic colour worn on Spirit Day, a commemoration that began in 2010 to show support for young people who're bullied because of their sexual orientation. The purple hand is another symbol at times used by the LGBT community throughout parades and demonstrations.

Sports and games

Billiard games

  • Purple is the colour of the ball in Snooker Plus with a 10-point value.
  • In the game of pool, purple is the colour of the 4-solid and the 12-striped balls.


  • Today only one nation in the world has purple or violet in its national flag; the Flag of Dominica, an island in the Caribbean, features a sisserou parrot, a national symbol.
  • The lower band of the flag of the second Spanish republic (1931–39) was coloured a tone of purple, to represent the common people as opposed to the red of the Spanish monarchy, unlike additional nations of Europe where purple represented royalty and red represented the common people.
  • In Japan, the prefecture of Tokyo's flag is purple, as is the flag of Ichikawa.
  • Porpora, or purpure, a shade of purple, was added late to the list of colours of European heraldry. A purple lion was the symbol of the old Spanish Kingdom of León (910–1230), and it later appeared on the flag of Spain, when the Kingdom of Castile and Kingdom of León merged together.