Rainbows give us such fascinating displays. How could they not when their seven colors bleed so seamlessly? Speaking of the rainbow colors, have you tried naming the seven colors from memory? It’s a lot more difficult than it seems, especially when you want to list them in order.
In their correct order, the seven rainbow colors are red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet.
If you put the first letter of each color together, you get ROYGBIV, commonly pronounced as Roy G. Biv. So, remember this acronym the next time you want to list the rainbow colors in order! Also, you can use this rhyme to remember the order: “Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain.”
The Secret Behind Rainbows
We can understand the colors of the rainbow and their order better by looking at them from multiple lenses.
The Scientifical Lens
The order of rainbow colors isn’t something that happens at random. There’s a good reason behind that. It all starts with light refraction, so sunlight travels through the air and hits an object (like raindrops or mist).
As a result, the rays get bent or refracted. Then, they reflect off the inside of the raindrops, and this bending of light wavelengths happens at different angles, which we see as different colors.
To illustrate, the color red is at the top of the rainbow because it bends the most, whereas violet is at the bottom because it bends the least. So, in that sense, these wavelength angles explain the seven colors of the rainbow and their order.
Although the rainbow colors are indeed ordered from red to violet, that’s true for a primary rainbow.
But is there such a thing as a secondary rainbow, you may ask. Yes, the difference is that light experiences two internal reflections in a secondary rainbow (instead of one in the primary rainbow). The result is a reversal of the rainbow colors order.
See also: 30 Cool Things to Draw
The Historical Lens
In the 17th century, Sir Isaac Newton originally described five primary rainbow colors, but he later added two more, orange and indigo (a shade between violet and blue).
Of course, you know that the seven colors aren’t broken apart but bleed into each other. So, why is it that Newton chose to name seven colors in a broad spectrum of colors?
Well, allow us to take you back even more to Ancient Greece in the 6th century BCE, where Pythagoras believed that numbers and the natural world were connected.
To illustrate, the number seven had a particular mathematical and mystical significance, and you could see it mirrored frequently in the old world. For instance, there are seven wonders in the world, seven days in the week, seven musical notes, and so on.
Because Pythagoras influenced Newton, he believed in the relation between music and color. So, he decided that there should be seven colors in the rainbow to match the seven notes of a musical scale. For that reason, he added orange and indigo.
However, indigo has been the subject of debate for a long time. Some people find that Newton’s indigo is what we’d call blue and his blue is what we’d call cyan. Also, many don’t believe indigo should be recognized as a separate color.
For instance, Issac Asimov states that “It is customary to list indigo as a color lying between blue and violet, but it has never seemed to me that indigo is worth the dignity of being considered a separate color.”
The Lexical Lens
Let’s take a brief look at the rainbow colors and their significance:
- Red: Intensity, passion, vitality, energy, anger, security, enthusiasm, and even violence and danger
- Orange: Perseverance, endurance, and strength
- Yellow: Happiness, cheerfulness, energy, awareness, clarity, and memory improvement
- Green: Growth, abundance, health, nature, expansion, balance, fertility, harmony, sympathy, and renewal
- Blue: Peace, tranquility, harmony, loyalty, trust, and knowledge
- Indigo: Intuition, wisdom, psychic abilities, and awareness
- Violet: Stability, Creativity, royalty, luxury, imagination, and mystery
It’s worth noting that the meanings associated with colors make sense when you consider their actual composition and order on the rainbow. To illustrate, orange is a middle ground between red and yellow, neutralizing the intensity of the former with the cheerfulness of the latter. Violet’s stability is the polar opposite of red’s vitality and so on.
Overall, the rainbow colors are red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet in that order, and you can use the acronym Roy G. Biv to remember them. Also, this order depends on the angle at which each light wavelength is bent.
However, recognizing only these seven colors (to mirror the seven notes of a musical scale) on a color spectrum is much more arbitrary. Do you agree that the number of the colors on a rainbow should be seven, or do you think it’s time for a reform?