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Meaning of the Color Brown: Symbolism, Common Uses, & More

Brown is the color of strength, dependability, and warmth

Today’s article is about the symbolism and the meaning of the color brown as part of the Color Meaning Series.

For more colors, check out our guide on color meanings.

Summary of the meanings of the color brown
Color brown meanings

Where do we find the meaning of the color brown?

Is it in the strong tree bark or barren soil devoid of life? Or can we find it in the nutty coffee aroma?

Brown is a standard color in nature. Unlike blue, it is a tangible color, and this concept is also reflected in its symbolic meanings. Still, brown is one of the least favorite colors around the world.

There is a reason for that, and we will talk about it in this article. Beyond the symbolism and meaning of brown, we’ll cover its most common uses, company logos, gemstone, facts, quotes, and idioms–all about brown.

Brown Color Symbolism in Different Cultures

  • The color brown has significant meaning in feng shui, the Chinese system of harmonizing your environment. Each color correlates to a specific feng shui element. Dark, rich browns represent wood, whereas light browns represent earth, dirt, and soil. Both colors are seen as energetic and nurturing but should be used sparingly in decorating, always in careful balance with other colors.
  • In the United States, brown has a connotation thanks to its uses in marketing. It’s associated with reliability, dependability, and nurturance. This can be seen in its use for logos and marketing for prominent, trusted companies like UPS, JP Morgan, M&Ms, and Hershey’s. Brown is also often used for packaging and food containers.
  • In many Western cultures, including North America, brown is seen as a quintessentially earthy color. But it can either be associated with health or barrenness. It’s often seen as stable, dependable, and wholesome.
  • In Eastern and Asian cultures, brown is a color of mourning.
  • In Chinese horoscopes, brown represents the earth element.
  • In South America, brown has the opposite connotation as in North America. It’s often seen as unappealing, lifeless, and it’s considered a disapproving color in Nicaragua.
  • In the Middle East, brown is associated with harmony, comfort, and the earth.

What Does the Color Brown Mean in the Bible?

Throughout the Bible, many colors reflect meanings or spiritual truths in non-verbal communication.

According to many religious people, the biblical color meaning of brown is compassion and acceptance (Genesis 30: 24-42), humanity (Genesis 3:19), and salvation (Noah’s Ark and the Cross).

Psychological Meaning of Brown

A lot of the meaning of the color brown depends on the shade. Rich browns can have surprising levels of depth and evoke deep emotions. Light or diffuse browns can be more likely to have negative connotations.

Brown tree bark

Color Brown Meaning

Every color has positive and negative traits, and that’s no different with brown. Here are the meanings of brown:

Strength and Reliability

Brown is associated with stability and groundedness. It’s solid, like the Earth. It’s reliable, stalwart, and steadfast when you need it most. 

It’s known for imparting a sense of resilience, dependability, security, and safety. Think of a robust and tall oak tree. 

It can be depended on to provide shelter in a rainstorm, leaned against for support, and offer a shady spot to shelter from a sunny day.

Warmth, Comfort, and Security

Brown is natural, down-to-earth, and conventional. Picture the light brown, almost beige of unbleached cotton, the rich color of untreated or distressed wood, or the rustic nature of log cabins. All these items evoke an organic sense of natural warmth and comfort.

However, brown can also take on a sophisticated feel, like a rich wood desk in an executive’s office. It often depends on the setting. But even in a sleek, refined environment, brown tends to evoke still a sense of timelessness, unchangingness, and stability.

Brown, tan, rustic bedroom

Domesticity

Brown is often seen as having a close connection to the earth, home, and family. Think of the firewood in a burning hearth. 

Rich browns can produce warm, settled feelings of being soothed and comforted by a warm hearth.

Rugged Resourcefulness

Again, think of the example of a log cabin – a family taking to the wilderness to build a better life for themselves. The color brown perfectly encapsulates this rugged resourcefulness.

Loneliness, Sadness, Isolation, and Barrenness

Brown is full of positive connotations. But if used in the wrong tone or context, it can also feel very negative. 

For example, an enormous desert can feel like a never-ending expanse of brown, full of barren soil, devoid of life.

Brown can often feel vast, stark, and empty – especially if it’s a diffuse or muted shade of brown or if it’s used across a vast expanse.

When using brown, keep in mind that although it symbolizes strength, it isn’t an energizing color, meaning it wouldn’t be the best color for sports uniforms, for example.

Brown sand in desert against blue sky

Boring, Dull, Drab, or Predictable

Because brown is a natural color, it’s not usually seen as flashy as other colors. It doesn’t often see time in the limelight as a trendy color. 

Think of a hastily thrown-together sack lunch in a rumpled brown paper bag. 

Brown can sometimes seem plain, undecorated, and even a little boring. Sometimes its dependability can go too far, and it can veer into dull territory.

Physical Effects of Brown

  • Studies have found brown to be a relaxing color that increases the levels of tryptophan in the body. Tryptophan is related to sleep and supporting our immune system.
  • Brown also increases serotonin levels, an essential chemical for mood regulation. That change in brain chemistry helps explain why brown often evokes such warm, soothing feelings.
  • Brown is proven to stimulate appetite, so it is a standard color for food branding projects.

Meanings of Brown Shades

Light Brown: Light brown represents honesty, friendliness, healthy, warmth, and nature.

  • Light Brown hex code: #CC9966

Dark Brown: Dark brown is, as the name says, a dark shade of brown that symbolizes dependability, strength, humility, sadness, and depression.

  • Dark Brown hex code: #402A0E

Beige: Beige is a light, muted brown shade representing practicality, reliability, neutrality, loyalty, and conservativeness.

  • Beige hex code: #DBCCB2

More Shades of Brown

Brown shades
Shades of brown

There are many different brown shades, tints, and values, such as chocolate, coffee, mocha, tawny, peanut, brunette, cinnamon, syrup, walnut, mahogany, and caramel.

Most Common Uses of the Color Brown

Since brown is associated with dependability, reliability, nature, and nurturing, many financial, delivery, edible, and ecological companies use it for their branding.

  • Brown is one of the most widely used colors in art and painting.
  • Ecological and organic products usually are green and brown to evoke their relation to nature.
  • Brown (and black) is the most popular color for boots.
  • Brown is a popular branding color for baked goods and chocolate products.

Companies and Brands That Use Brown in Their Logo

Brown logos
Companies and brands that have brown logos

Brown Gemstones

Like the meaning of the color itself, brown gemstones are believed to carry energies of stability and security, representing solidity and protection for the wearer.

Facts About Brown

  • The Japanese do not have a word for brown. They only describe it with short phrases.
  • The color brown can be created by blending all primary colors or complementary colors together.
  • Brown eyes are more common worldwide than any other eye color.

Quotes About Brown

Below you’ll find a few quotes but click here to read many more quotes about brown.

“Your eyes will be brown, a color that holds secrets well.” Dawn Kurtagich

Quotes about brown color

“I told my dentist my teeth are going yellow. He told me to wear a brown tie.” Rodney Dangerfield

Brown quotes

“Black women were created of brown sugar and warm honey. The sweetest thing to bless the earth. Be wary of anyone who tells you otherwise.” Alexandra Elle

Quotes about brown color

Popular Idioms With the Word Brown

  • Brown-nose: a person who acts in a grossly obsequious way.
  • Brown bagging: the practice of bringing one’s own packed lunch to work.
  • Brownout: an intentional or unintentional drop in voltage in an electrical power supply system.
  • Brownstone: a building faced with reddish-brown sandstone.
  • In a brown study: absorbed in one’s thoughts.

Summary Color Brown Meaning

Brown is the most grounding color there is. It’s a comforting color abundant in natural landscapes, bringing a sense of reliability–after all, it’s always there.

Still, it’s a color that also evokes feelings of loneliness, depression, and boredom.

Brown means: honesty, reliability, warmth, security
Effects of brown: relaxes, stimulates appetite, stabilizes, and comforts
Positive traits: open, warm, strong, and reliable
Negative traits: dull, predictable, overly conservative, and dependable

Jocelyn

Tuesday 2nd of August 2022

"Is it in the strong tree bark or barren soil devout of life?"

I think you mean "devoid of life."

Bruna

Tuesday 9th of August 2022

I certainly mean that. Thanks for catching the typo, Jocelyn! :)