What Does the Color Green Mean?

The Color Psychology of Green

Research in color psychology suggests that colors evoke psychological reactions, affecting moods and emotions. Sometimes, these reactions are related to the intensity of a color. In other cases, they're products of experience and cultural influences.

For many people, the color green has strong associations with nature and brings to mind lush grass, trees, and forests. Green is often described as a refreshing and tranquil color. Other common associations with the color green are money, luck, health, and envy.

Green color psychology
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Green Color Meaning and Psychology

In color psychology, colors made up of long wavelengths are considered "arousing or warm," whereas colors such as green that have shorter wavelengths are "relaxing or cool." Whereas our eyes must adjust to see colors with longer wavelengths, they don't need to adjust at all to see cool colors.

The color green can positively affect thinking, relationships, and physical health. Green is also thought to relieve stress and help heal. You'll often find green in the decor of medical facilities.

Green Is Calming

Shades of green can help put people at ease in a new places. For this reason, designers often feature green in public spaces such as restaurants and hotels.

One study found a "green exercise effect" on participants who exercised indoors while watching a video of outdoor space with a green overlay. They experienced less mood disturbance and perceived less exertion than when they watched the same video with a red or gray overlay.

Green Is Natural

Green's calming effects might derive from its association with nature, which people typically experience as relaxing and refreshing. Some researchers think the positive association with green is hardwired in our brains from evolution: Early humans knew that green in nature indicated a place where they could find food, water, and shelter.

In ancient mythology, green commonly represented fertility. For example, ancient Iranians called the last month of winter “Esfand” because, at this time, spring and greenness return to the earth. In particular, they devoted the fifth day to the earth and women. Likewise, ancient Greeks portrayed Osiris, their god of the underworld, birth, rebirth, agriculture, and fertility, with a green face.

Spending time in natural green environments or even looking at pictures of green scenery in nature has been linked to stress relief, better impulse control, and improved focus.

Because green has such strong ties to nature, we might be more likely to perceive something green as healthy and natural, even when it isn't. For example, one study found that people were more likely to consider a candy bar with a green label as a healthier option than a candy bar with a red label, even when the nutrition of the two bars was identical.

The term "green" has also come to mean "ecologically beneficial"; think green initiatives, green energy, green spaces, Greenpeace, etc.

Green Is Motivating

Although some find green a relaxing color, others say it motivates them. One study found that people with a "high need for achievement" more consistently chose the color green over the color red, which was more often chosen by those with a "low need for achievement." Study participants also associated words related to failure with the color red, and words related to success with the color green.

In stoplights, green indicates safety and permission to go, whereas red means "stop." In turn, the expression "to give the green light" conveys approval.

Your reaction to the color green is highly personal. Experience, as well as personal and cultural associations, plays a role in how this color makes you feel.

Research also has shown that creativity is likely to increase when people are surrounded by green plants and have access to green views of nature. Studies have shown that the color green can inspire creativity, too.

In one study, a green-lit environment improved reading ability in participants, whereas a red-lit environment reduced it.

Green Is Optimistic

Color influences not only our emotions but also our memories. One study presented people with a list of emotionally charged words written in different colors. They were then asked to recall specific words. They were more likely to recall positive words written in green, leading researchers to theorize that green carries more positive emotional connotations. Thus, the color green might elicit an optimism bias when it comes to remembering information.

Paper money is green in the United States, where the color is also associated with Irish-American culture, St. Patrick's Day, and good luck. Interestingly, one study found green may function as a good luck charm of sorts. Participants exposed to the color green experienced increased feelings of hope and decreased fear of failure.

Green Is Envious

For as much as green is associated with positive feelings, it can also indicate jealousy. You've probably heard the expression "green with envy." The origins of this phrase are unclear.

Green can also indicate physical illness, such as when someone's complexion turns green. The link between green and illness might have created the association between green and envy—as if envy were an illness of its own.

Shades of Green

The meanings of green can vary by shade. For example:

  • Bright green: Rebirth, spring
  • Olive green: Tranquility, earthiness, elegance
  • Dark green: Fertility, greed, money, drive
  • Yellowish green: Illness, envy, decay
  • Aqua: Cleanliness, freshness, water
  • Pale green: Peace

Uses of Green

The psychology of green is evident throughout daily life.

Manufacturers, advertisers, and others harness green's various connotations to convey an impression. For example, the packaging of sustainably made products often features green. Likewise, it's used in cleaning products, often along with blue, to convey freshness and purity.

Military gear, of course, is green to camouflage soldiers and equipment, and use of the color extends to apparel and other products meant to be associated with the military (e.g., fatigues, binoculars, etc.).

Concepts and practices relating to environmental concerns are frequently referred to as green (e.g., green energy, green initiative, the Green Party, Greenpeace).

Green cards, green lights, green thumb, green room—all are expressions that in one way or another draw on the various meanings of green.

A Word From Verywell

Because the color green is strongly associated with nature, people often describe it as natural, fresh, and restful. However, remember that cultural influences and individual experiences also help shape our reactions to color.

The next time you see the color green, take a moment to consider the emotions and moods that the color evokes for you. 

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is the biblical meaning of the color green?

    The Bible mentions the color green often. Typically, it symbolizes life, fertility, renewal, and resurrection. Green is a mix of yellow (which symbolizes glory and energy) and blue (which relates to God and the heavens).

  • What is the spiritual meaning of the color green?

    In spiritual terms, the color green implies beginnings, new growth, vibrant health, and other ideas connected with life, rebirth, and renewal. If you're noticing green in your environment or dreams, you might be discovering new aspects of yourself, beginning a new phase of life, or undergoing a renewal.

  • What does it mean if my favorite color is green?

    If you prefer the color green over all others, you are likely straightforward but loving. Others' opinions of you matter, as does the search for knowledge and understanding. You tend to value peace, loyalty, and logic.

  • What does it mean if I dream about the color green?

    You might be on the verge of having new experiences, changing your circumstances, learning new skills, or discovering new abilities. In dreams, green also symbolizes wealth and fertility. Generally, dreaming about green is regarded as a positive sign.

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Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Kendra Cherry, MSEd
Kendra Cherry, MS, is a psychosocial rehabilitation specialist, psychology educator, and author of the "Everything Psychology Book."