Study: Lilac and turquoise are universally recognized

Lilac was the ninth most recognized and named color, while turquoise was tenth -- beating out plainer shades like red, white and orange.
By Brooks Hays  |  Feb. 4, 2015 at 3:27 PM
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LONDON, Feb. 4 (UPI) -- People from all different cultures and languages agree on a certain set of recognizable, nameable colors. Though it's never been established as a ceiling, most studies have confirmed a universal agreement on 11 basic colors.

But a new study suggests two less-obvious shades, lilac and turquoise, are consistently distinguished and identified by English-speaking test-takers.

One of the first studies to arrive at a universal color palette was conducted in 1969. After analyzing over 100 different languages, researchers found common words for black, white, red, green, yellow, blue, brown, purple, pink, orange and grey. All of these colors were easily distinguishable and were referenced via single words in the majority of the world's most common languages.

This latest study focused on English speakers, but its 330 participants are enough -- researchers say -- to suggest both turquoise and lilac are commonly recognized. The test had participants name a single color at a time. The collected data allowed researchers to rank the most recognized colors.

Lilac was the ninth most recognized and named color, while turquoise was tenth. Both beat out white, red and orange. While turquoise was comparatively easy to correctly recognize, it took slightly longer for test-takers to type in the color's name.

"Our observers had problems spelling it correctly," Dimitris Mylonas, a researcher at Queen Mary University of London, told New Scientist.

"We don't suggest this is a definitive number of basic color terms," Mylonas said of his results. But it does suggest that language may adapt over time to account for new commonly recognized colors.

The results of the latest color recognition test were detailed in the journal Color Research and Application.

"Our future plans include the extension of the research into multiple languages, comparing the responses of observers in many cultures," the researchers wrote in a summary of their work.

Topics: Queen Mary
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