The Meaning of the Color Brown in Psychology

brown color psychology

Illustration by Cindy Chung, Verywell

According to color psychology, colors can evoke psychological reactions and influence how people feel and behave. The meaning of the color brown is influenced by individual experiences, cultural associations, and even the specific shade of the color.

Like most colors, brown can have positive and negative associations and meanings. Some of the key characteristics associated with brown in color psychology include:

  • A sense of strength and reliability. Brown is often seen as solid, much like the earth, and it's a color often associated with resilience, dependability, security, and safety.
  • Feelings of loneliness, sadness, and isolation. In large quantities, it can seem vast, stark, and empty, like an enormous desert devoid of life.
  • Feelings of warmth, comfort, and security. Brown is often described as natural, down-to-earth, and conventional, but brown can also be sophisticated.
  • Negative emotions. Like other dark colors, is associated with more negative emotions.

Symbolism of the Color Brown

The color brown is used to symbolize a variety of meanings. However, it is important to note that this can vary depending on the context and the cultural associations. Some common symbolism of brown includes:

  • Boredom
  • Earthiness
  • Simplicity
  • Appreciation
  • Warmth
  • Dullness
  • Timidity
  • Predictability
  • Protection
  • Groudedness
  • Honesty
  • Death
  • Decay
  • Comfort
  • Loneliness
  • Emptiness
  • Isolation
  • Wisdom

Because brown is the color of the earth, it is often used to symbolize nature, autumn, melancholy, or death.

Such symbolism can also be highly individual. One person might find brown a warm, comforting color because of their personal associations and experiences. Another person might find it a lonely, drab, or sad color because they associate it with those emotions.

Color Brown Meaning in Feng Shui

In feng shui, a system of harmonizing your environment, each color correlates to a specific feng shui element. Brown represents either wood, if it's dark and rich, or earth if it's light. Though it has an energetic, nurturing quality, brown should be used sparingly in your decorating and be well balanced with other colors to avoid a lack of ambition and drive. Blue is a good color to combine with brown because of the earth-water harmony.

Color Brown Meaning in Marketing

Color plays an important part in the psychology of marketing and branding and can influence people's perception of a brand's personality. It's more important to pick a color that supports the personality of your brand than it is to try to instill certain feelings in potential customers since everyone has different experiences and opinions.

In branding and marketing, brown is associated with reliability, dependability, and nurturing. Popular brands that use brown in their logos and marketing include UPS, Hershey's, Cotton, Edy's, J.P. Morgan, and M&Ms.

Color Brown Meaning in Love

In love, the color brown is often used to symbolize feelings of affection and closeness. It is often seen as a warm and comforting color, so it can be used to convey a sense of groundedness and close bonds.

What Does Brown Mean to You?

While there are generalities we can make about colors and what people associate with them, colors and our affinity toward them have a lot to do with our personalities, upbringing, environment, and experiences.

One recent study on how adults perceive color showed that more females than males chose brown as their overall favorite color. But it was still one of the three least favorite colors for both genders.

However, when it comes to clothing, brown was chosen as the fifth favorite color out of 18 total colors, including no preference. Brown was the second color choice for both men and women for their living rooms and the fourth choice for their bedrooms.

4 Sources
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."