About these coordinates     Color coordinates
Hex triplet#FF2400
sRGBB (r, g, b)(255, 36, 0)
HSV (h, s, v)(8°, 100%, 100%)
CIELChuv (L, C, h)(55, 172, 14°)
ISCC–NBS descriptorVivid reddish orange
B: Normalized to [0–255] (byte)

Scarlet is a bright red color,[1][2] sometimes with a slightly orange tinge.[3] In the spectrum of visible light, and on the traditional color wheel, it is one-quarter of the way between red and orange, slightly less orange than vermilion.[4]

According to surveys in Europe and the United States, scarlet and other bright shades of red are the colors most associated with courage, force, passion, heat, and joy.[5] In the Roman Catholic Church, scarlet is the color worn by a cardinal, and is associated with the blood of Christ and the Christian martyrs, and with sacrifice.

Scarlet is also associated with immorality and sin, particularly prostitution or adultery, largely because of a passage referring to "The Great Harlot", "dressed in purple and scarlet", in the Bible (Revelation 17:1–6).[5]

Uses and varieties


Scarlet as a quaternary color on the RYB color wheel


Main article: Scarlet (cloth)

The word comes from the Middle English "scarlat", from the Old French escarlate, from the Latin "scarlatum", from the Persian سقرلات saqerlât. The term scarlet was also used in the Middle Ages for a type of cloth that was often bright red.[6] An early recorded use of scarlet as a color name in the English language dates to 1250.[7]


Ancient world

Scarlet has been a color of power, wealth and luxury since ancient times. Scarlet dyes were first mentioned in 8th century BC, under the name Armenian Red, and they were described in Persian and Assyrian writings. The color was exported from Persia to Rome. During the Roman Empire, it was second in prestige only to the purple worn by the Emperors. Roman officers wore scarlet cloaks called paludamenta,[8] and persons of high rank were referred to as the coccinati, the people of red.[9]

The color is also mentioned several times in the Bible, both in the Old and New Testament; in the Latin Vulgate version of the book of Isaiah (1:18) it says, "If your sins be as scarlet (si fuerint peccata vestra ut coccinum) they shall be made white as snow", and in the book of Revelation (17:1-6) it describes the "Great Harlot" (meretricius magnus) dressed in scarlet and purple (circumdata purpura et coccino), and riding upon a scarlet beast (besteam coccineam).

The Latin term for scarlet used in the Bible comes from coccus, a "tiny grain". The finest scarlets in ancient times were made from the tiny scale insect called kermes, which fed on certain oak trees in Turkey, Persia, Armenia and other parts of the Middle East. The insects contained a very strong natural dye, also called kermes, which produced the scarlet color. The insects were so small they were historically thought to be a kind of grain.[10] This was the origin of the expression "dyed in the grain."[11]

Middle Ages and Renaissance

The early Christian church adopted many of the symbols of the Roman Empire, including the importance of the color scarlet. The flag of the Crusaders was a scarlet cross on a white background, with scarlet indicating blood and sacrifice. By a church edict in 1295, Cardinals of the church, second in authority to the Pope, wore red robes, but a red closer in color to the purple of the Byzantine Emperors, a color coming from murex, a type of mollusk. After the fall of Constantinople to the Turks in 1453, however, the imperial purple was no longer available, and Cardinals began instead to wear scarlet made from kermes.[12][13]

During the Middle Ages and Renaissance, scarlet was the color worn by Kings, princes and the wealthy, partly because of its color and partly because of its high price. The exact shade, which varied widely, was not as important as the brilliance and richness of the color. The finest scarlet, called scarlatto or Venetian scarlet, came from Venice, where it was made from kermes by a specific guild which closely guarded the formula. Cloth dyed scarlet cost as much as ten times more than cloth dyed with blue.[14]

16th to 19th century

In the Assumption, by Titian (1516–1518), the figures of God, the Virgin Mary and two apostles are highlighted by their scarlet costumes, painted with vermilion pigment from Venice. The young Queen Elizabeth I (here in about 1563) liked to wear bright reds, before she adopted the more sober image of the Virgin Queen. Her satin gown was probably dyed with kermes. In the 16th century, an even more vivid scarlet began to arrive in Europe from the New World. When the Spanish conquistadores conquered Mexico, they found that the Aztecs were making brilliant red shades from another variety of scale insect called cochineal, similar to the European kermes vermiilo, but producing better shades of red at lower costs. The first shipments were sent from Mexico to Seville in 1523. The Venetian guilds at first tried to block the use of the cochineal in Europe, but before the century was over, it was being used to make scarlet dye in Spain, France, Italy, and Holland, and almost all the fine scarlet garments of Europe were made with cochineal.[15]

Scarlet was the traditional color of the British nobility in the 17th and 18th century. The members of the House of Lords wore red ceremonial gowns for the opening of Parliament, and today sit on red benches.

The red military uniform was adopted by the English New Model Army in 1645,[16] and was still worn as a dress uniform until the outbreak of the First World War in August 1914. Ordinary soldiers wore red coats dyed with madder, while officers wore scarlet coats dyed with the more expensive cochineal.[17] This led to British soldiers being known as red coats.

20th and 21st century

From the 8th century until the early 20th century, the most important scarlet pigment used in western art was vermilion, made from the mineral cinnabar. It was used, along with red lake pigments, by artists from Botticelli and Raphael to Renoir. However, in 1919 commercial production began of an intense new synthetic pigment, cadmium red, made from cadmium sulfide and selenium. The new pigment became the standard red of Henri Matisse and the other important painters of the 20th century.

In the 20th century, scarlet also became associated with revolution. Red flags had first been used as revolutionary emblems, symbolizing the blood of martyrs, during the French Revolution and Paris uprisings in 1848. Red became the color of socialism, then communism, and became the color of the flags of both the Soviet Union and Communist China. China still uses a scarlet flag; in Chinese culture red is also the color of happiness. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, the flag of Russia consists of red, blue and white, the colors of the historic Russian flag from the time of Peter the Great that were adapted by him from the colors of the flag of the Netherlands.

In science and nature

Scarlet in culture

Academic dress

Traditional academic dress of a PhD candidate receiving his degree at McGill University

Scarlet is the color worn in traditional academic dress in the United Kingdom for those awarded doctorates. It is also the color of many of the undergraduate gowns worn by students of the ancient universities of Scotland.

In academic dress in the United States, scarlet is used for hood bindings (borders) and, depending on the university or school, other parts of the dress (velvet chevrons, facings, etc.) to denote a degree in some form or branch of Theology (e.g., Sacred Theology, Canon Law, Divinity, Ministry).

In the French academic dress system, the five traditional fields of study (Arts, Science, Medicine, Law and Divinity) are each symbolized by a distinctive color, which appears in the academic dress of the people who graduated in this field. Scarlet is the distinctive color for Law. As such, it is also the color worn on their court dress by French high magistrates.

Film and television


A Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle (1887)


Orders and decorations


In the Roman Catholic Church, scarlet robes—symbolizing the color of the blood of Christ and the Christian martyrs—are worn by cardinals as a symbol of their willingness to defend their faith with their own blood. Scarlet red, with or without the use of gold stripes, is the proper color in the Catholic church's liturgy for Palm Sunday, for Good Friday, for Pentecost, for memorials and feasts of saints who were martyred, and for funerals of the Pope or for cardinals. In the Lutheran tradition, scarlet is the color for paraments for Palm or Passion Sunday, and for all of Holy Week through Maundy Thursday.[20]


In countries that have traditionally been dominated by Christian ideas, scarlet is associated with prostitution. The Book of Revelation refers to the Whore of Babylon riding upon a "scarlet beast" and dressed in purple and scarlet.[21] The phrase Great Scarlet Whore has been used by Puritans in the 17th century, and the phrase The Scarlet Woman was used by many Protestants and later Mormons in North America well into the 20th century.[22][23][24] Scarlet and crimson are also linked to the Judeo-Christian concept of sin in the Book of Isaiah, rendered in the King James Version "though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool."[25]

The connection of red or scarlet with prostitution was very common in Europe and America. Prostitutes were obliged to wear red in some European cities, and even today areas in European cities where prostitutes can work legally are known as red-light districts. Sex worker advocacy groups like the Scarlet Alliance use the striking color to associate themselves with prostitution.

The Scarlets, a professional rugby team in Wales


Variations of scarlet

Websafe scarlet

Scarlet (Websafe)
About these coordinates     Color coordinates
Hex triplet#FF3300
sRGBB (r, g, b)(255, 51, 0)
HSV (h, s, v)(12°, 100%, 100%)
CIELChuv (L, C, h)(56, 166, 15°)
ISCC–NBS descriptorVivid reddish orange
B: Normalized to [0–255] (byte)

This is a variation on the standard RGB or Hex combination that produces a truer Scarlet color on some monitors. It is slightly more orange than the standard Scarlet RGB value of 255, 36, 0, but does give a truer color on displays where the red dominates over the orange and would otherwise make the color appear more as a normal red rather than a genuine Scarlet.

Torch red

Scarlet (Crayola)
About these coordinates     Color coordinates
Hex triplet#FC2847
sRGBB (r, g, b)(252, 40, 71)
HSV (h, s, v)(351°, 84%, 99%)
CIELChuv (L, C, h)(55, 155, 9°)
ISCC–NBS descriptorVivid red
B: Normalized to [0–255] (byte)

This is the color now called scarlet in Crayola crayons. It was originally formulated as torch red in 1998 and then renamed scarlet by Crayola in 2000.


About these coordinates     Color coordinates
Hex triplet#E25822
sRGBB (r, g, b)(226, 88, 34)
HSV (h, s, v)(17°, 85%, 89%)
CIELChuv (L, C, h)(55, 121, 21°)
ISCC–NBS descriptorVivid reddish orange
B: Normalized to [0–255] (byte)

The first recorded use of flame as a color name in English was in 1590.[26]


The source of this color is the ISCC-NBS Dictionary of Color Names (1955),[27] a color dictionary used by stamp collectors to identify the colors of stamps. A sample of the color "Flame" (color sample #34) is also displayed in the Dictionary online version.[28]

Fire brick

Fire brick
About these coordinates     Color coordinates
Hex triplet#B22222
sRGBB (r, g, b)(178, 34, 34)
HSV (h, s, v)(0°, 81%, 70%)
CIELChuv (L, C, h)(39, 110, 12°)
ISCC–NBS descriptorVivid red
B: Normalized to [0–255] (byte)

Displayed below is the web color fire brick, a medium dark shade of scarlet/red.

Boston University Scarlet

Boston University Scarlet
About these coordinates     Color coordinates
Hex triplet#CC0000
sRGBB (r, g, b)(204, 0, 0)
HSV (h, s, v)(0°, 100%, 80%)
CIELChuv (L, C, h)(43, 143, 12°)
SourceBoston University Brand Identity Standards
ISCC–NBS descriptorVivid red
B: Normalized to [0–255] (byte)

Displayed adjacent is the color Boston University Scarlet, the color which, along with white, is symbolic of Boston University. The color is identical to Utah Crimson.

See also



  1. ^ Oxford English Dictionary Online Edition
  2. ^ Webster's New World Dictionary of American English, College Edition.
  3. ^ "Scarlett". Collins English Dictionary. Retrieved 1 June 2019. a vivid red colour, sometimes with an orange tinge; very bright red with a slightly orange tinge
  4. ^ Maerz and Paul A Dictionary of Color New York:1930--McGraw Hill Color Sample of Scarlet: Page 25 Plate 1 Color Sample L12 (Scarlet is shown as being one of the colors on the right and bottom of the plate representing the most highly saturated colors between red and orange at a position one-fourth of the way between red and orange.)
  5. ^ a b Eva Heller (2009), Psychologie de la couleur; effets et symboliques, pp. 42-49
  6. ^ Webster's New World Dictionary of the American Language, College Edition
  7. ^ Maerz and Paul A Dictionary of Color New York:1930--McGraw Hill Page 204; Color Sample of Scarlet: Page 25 Plate 1 Color Sample L12
  8. ^ St. Clair, Kassia (2016). The Secret Lives of Colour. London: John Murray. p. 140. ISBN 9781473630819. OCLC 936144129.
  9. ^ Amy Butler Greenfield (2007) A Perfect Red, p. 5.
  10. ^ St. Clair 2016, p. 138.
  11. ^ Anne Varichon (2005), Couleurs- pigments et teintures dans les mains des peuples, pp. 124-125.
  12. ^ Amy Butler Greenfield (2007), A Perfect Red, pp. 35-40.
  13. ^ St. Clair 2016, p. 139.
  14. ^ Amy Butler Greenfield, A Perfect Red, pg. 46-47.
  15. ^ Amy Butler Greenfield, A Perfect Red, pg. 64-87.
  16. ^ J. W. Fortescue, "A Chapter on Red Coats" in Macmillan's Magazine, Volume 68 (1893), pp. 386–387
  17. ^ Greenfield, Amy, A Perfect Red, pg. 168-169
  18. ^ Rinaldi d'Ami, "World Uniforms in Colour - Volume 2: Nations of America, Africa, Asia and Oceania, ISBN 085059040X
  19. ^ Mackinnon of Dunakin, Charles (1966). The Observer's Book of Heraldry. Frederick Warne & Co. p. 125.
  20. ^ <Lutheran Book of Worship, Manual on the Liturgy, p. 25>
  21. ^ Revelation 17:1-6
  22. ^ "the definition of scarlet woman". Retrieved 20 November 2017.
  23. ^ Woodward, Colin American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America New York:2011 Penguin Page 75
  24. ^ Webster's New World Dictionary of the American Language, definition of the "Scarlet Woman".
  25. ^ Isaiah 1:18 (King James Version)
  26. ^ Maerz, A.; Paul, M. Rea (1930). A Dictionary of Color. New York: McGraw Hill. p. 195; Color Sample of Flame: Page 25 Plate 1 Color Sample D12.
  27. ^ The ISCC-NBS Method of Designating Colors and a Dictionary of Color Names. National Bureau of Standards. 1955.
  28. ^ "Fa through Fz". ISCC-NBS Dictionary of Colo(u)r Names (1955) (Retsof online version). Texas Precancel Club. Archived from the original on 2012-11-22.