Grey or gray is an intermediate color between black and white.
It is a neutral color or achromatic color, meaning literally that it is a color “without color”, because it can be composed of black and white.
The word “grey” comes from the Middle English grai or grei, from the Anglo-Saxon grǣġ, and is related to the Dutch grauw and German grau. The first recorded use of grey as a color name in the English language was in AD 700.
Gray is more frequent in American English, whereas grey is more common in British English.
The varying usage of both grey and gray extends to specialized terms such as animal species (gray/grey whale) and scientific terms (gray/grey matter). Greyhound is an exception, which has a different derivation than the color.
Grey is the color of a cloud-covered sky, cement, pencil, writing of ash and of lead.
It is a very common color for animals, birds, and fish, ranging in size from whales to mice. It provides a natural camouflage and allows them to blend with their surroundings.
In the Christian religion, grey is the color of ashes, and so a biblical symbol of mourning and repentance, described as sackcloth and ashes. It can be used during Lent or on special days of fasting and prayer. As the color of humility and modesty, grey is worn by friars of the Order of Friars Minor
Capuchin and Franciscan order as well as monks of the Cistercian order. Grey cassocks are worn by clergy of the Brazilian Catholic Apostolic Church.
Over the centuries, artists have traditionally created grey by mixing black and white in various proportions. They added a little red to make a warmer grey, or a little blue for a cooler grey. Artists could also make a grey by mixing two complementary colors, such as orange and blue.
In antiquity and the Middle Ages, grey was the color of undyed wool, and thus was the color most commonly worn by peasants and the poor. It was also the color worn by Cistercian monks and friars of the Franciscan and Capuchin orders as a symbol of their vows of humility and poverty. Franciscan friars in England and Scotland were commonly known as the grey friars, and that name is now attached to many places in Great Britain.
During the Renaissance and the Baroque, grey began to play an important role in fashion and art. Black became the most popular color of the nobility, particularly in Italy, France, and Spain, and grey and white were harmonious with it.
Grey became a highly fashionable color in the 18th century, both for women’s dresses and for men’s waistcoats and coats. It looked particularly luminous coloring the silk and satin fabrics worn by the nobility and wealthy.
Women’s fashion in the 19th century was dominated by Paris, while men’s fashion was set by London. The grey business suit appeared in the mid-19th century in London – light grey in summer, dark grey in winter – replacing the more colorful palette of men’s clothing early in the century.
Grey was the color of the uniforms of the Confederate Army during the American Civil War, and of the Prussian Army for active service wear from 1910 onwards.
In the late 1930s, grey became a symbol of industrialization and war.
Today the grey on televisions, computer displays, and telephones is usually created using the RGB color model. Red, green, and blue light combined at full intensity on the black screen makes white – by lowering the intensity, it is possible to create shades of grey.
For architects, interior designers, and fashion designers, gray has long been a color to turn to for its ability to add instant style and a timeless elegance to designs.
As a stand-alone color gray can be calming or oppressive, depending on the intensity of the shade, and when paired with brighter colors it can be a beautiful complementary color. When infused with pinks, greens, or blues, such as dove gray or seafoam, gray has the ability to take on the hues of these colors in a way that gives gray a completely fresh look.
There are several tones of grey available for use with HTML and Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) as named colors, while 254 true greys are available by specification of a hex triplet for the RGB value.
The color of a person’s hair is created by the pigment melanin, found in the core of each hair. Melanin is also responsible for the color of the skin and of the eyes.
Gray eyes are very rare. They are most common in Northern and Eastern Europe. Scientists think gray eyes have even less melanin than blue eyes.
The substance that composes the brain is sometimes referred to as grey matter, or “the little grey cells”, so the color grey is associated with things intellectual. However, the living human brain is actually pink in color – it only turns grey when dead.
Grey goo is a hypothetical end-of-the-world scenario, also known as ecophagy: out-of-control self-replicating nanobots consume all living matter on Earth while building more of themselves.
Buddhist monks and priests in Japan and Korea will often wear a sleeved grey, brown, or black outer robe.
Taoist priests in China also often wear grey.
In America and Europe, grey is one of the least popular colors – In a European survey, only one percent of men said it was their favorite color, and thirteen percent called it their least favorite color – the response from women was almost the same.