Have you ever seen someone use the word "violet" and wondered what makes it different from purple? Today, let's learn about five ways that violet is different from purple in English.
In English, purple is just a color. However, violet is also a type of flower. In fact, before it became a color, “violet” mainly referred to the flower, which looks like this:
This flower appears in a classic poem that you often see on Valentine’s Day cards:
Roses are red, Violets are blue. Sugar is sweet, And so are you.
People often change the last two lines to give the poem different meanings or to make a joke, but they keep the first two lines the same. Here are two examples:
Roses are red, Violets are blue. I’d rather be single Than with someone like you.
Roses are red, Violets are blue. You don’t always smell good But I still love you.
As a result, most English speakers know the phrase “Roses are red, violets are blue.” Interestingly the poem says that violets are blue, not purple, even though violet is a shade of purple. More on that below.
While both violet and purple are types of colors, native English speakers refer to purple more than violet.
But that doesn’t mean violet isn’t common. When 353 American college students were asked to list as many colors as they could, purple was the 7th most commonly-listed color and violet came in 11th out of a total of 487 different colors.
So violet is still a well-known color. English speakers just don’t use it to describe things as often as they use the color purple. This is probably because violet is a specific type of purple, so anything that could be described as “violet” could also be described as “purple.”
But what does “violet” actually mean? Most major dictionaries describe it as a bluish purple, like the color of the flower.
a bluish-purple colour“Violet” | Cambridge Dictionary
between blue and purple in colour“Violet” | Oxford Learners’ Dictionaries
What about native speakers? Some agree that violet is a bluish purple.
I would say it is a cool-toned purple, which means it has more blue than other shades of purple.An Engoo staff member from the UK
However, some native speakers think of violet as a reddish purple.
I'd call it a purple with more red in it.An Engoo staff member from New Zealand
Violet is a reddish purple.An Engoo staff member from the US
And some native speakers aren’t sure how violet is different from purple.
It’s just a synonym for purple to me.An Engoo staff member from Canada
I know violet is a shade of purple, but to be honest, I’m not sure which shade it is.An Engoo staff member from the US
In sum, while violet is supposed to refer to the color of the violet flower, some native speakers think of it as a reddish purple while others see it as a blueish purple, and some aren’t even sure what it means.
So if you want to avoid any confusion, you could always just stick to the word “purple” and say if you’re talking about a “reddish purple” or a “bluish purple.”
When you look at a rainbow or shine light through a prism, violet is the dark bluish purple color that you see at one end of the range of colors.
These colors coming out of the prism are known as the “visible light spectrum,” which are the colors of light that we can see with our naked eyes.
They start with red on one side and end with violet. When English speakers talk about that last color, they use the word “violet” not “purple.”
For example, some people in English-speaking countries usually use the letters “ROY G BIV” to remember all the colors of the rainbow – the letter “V” at the end stands for “Violet.”
The V in the term “UV light” also stands for “violet.” UV stands for “ultraviolet” and it means light that we cannot see because it is too violet for our eyes to detect.
Lastly, you won’t find many women named “Purple,” but there are quite a few who are called “Violet.” You can check this list of famous women named Violet for a few examples.
This is probably because violet is also a type of flower, and some women’s names come from the names of flowers. Other examples are “Rose” and “Lily.”
Interestingly, a quarter of American women named Violet are older than 68 while another quarter of them are younger than four years old, according to data from the US government from 2014. So the name seems to be making a comeback!
We hope this post helped you better understand what the word “violet” means to native English speakers and how it’s different from purple!
If you want more help improving your English, sign up for an Engoo account and book a lesson with one of our 10,000+ professional online tutors any time of day! They’ll be happy to answer your questions about the language and also help you practice your spoken English.
As a plus, we have thousands of lesson materials you can use to take lessons with our tutors. Here’s a Daily News lesson that uses the word “violet” to get you started. Happy learning!