The surprising pattern behind color The Infinite Hotel Paradox - Jeff 1 day ago   06:46

Why so many languages invented words for colors in the same order.

Help us make more ambitious videos by joining the Vox Video Lab. It gets you exclusive perks, like livestream Q&As with all the Vox creators, a badge that levels up over time, and video extras bringing you closer to our work! Learn more at

In 1969, two Berkeley researchers, Paul Kay and Brent Berlin, published a book on a pretty groundbreaking idea: that every culture in history, when they developed their languages, invented words for colors in the exact same order. They claimed to know this based off of a simple color identification test, where 20 respondents identified 330 colored chips by name. If a language had six words, they were always black, white, red, green, yellow, and blue. If it had four terms, they were always black, white, red, and then either green or yellow. If it had only three, they were always black, white, and red , and so on. The theory was revolutionary — and it shaped our understanding of how color terminologies emerge.

Read more on the research mentioned in this video:

Cook, Kay, and Regier on the World Color Survey:
Stephen C. Levinson on Yele color terms:
John A. Lucy on Hanunó'o color terms:
Loreto, Mukherjee, and Tria on color naming population simulations:

To learn more about how your language's color words can affect the way you think, check out this video lecture: is a news website that helps you cut through the noise and understand what's really driving the events in the headlines. Check out to get up to speed on everything from Kurdistan to the Kim Kardashian app.

Check out our full video catalog:
Follow Vox on Twitter:
Or on Facebook:

Comments 5126 Comments

blanca roca
it wouldnt have been a racist claim .. it is a scientific claim which can be wrong. It is wrong to make false accusations of wrong doing. Being color blind isnt equivalent to being lesser as an intellectual being. Humans dont see X rays. Fact. That isnt to belittle them compared with klingons or vulcans or whoever might.
Kirt Kirt
1:01 Chartreuse!
Pamela Zimnizzle
I am intrigued.
HiiliG K-V
3:54. ORANGE
Worm Driver
>Blue was fairly scared before manufacturing.

Ah, yes, I remember back before manufacturing, when the sky was bright green.
Zaeem Zia
5:24 blue a scarce language? I thought the sky was blue???
Kai Sosceles
“Blue was scarce before industrialization”
Lee Barnes
"didn't make those racist claims"

Lol I love how those that believe in evolution just can't wrap their head around the idea that Aborigines people aren't as developed genetically as Europeans.
Johnny Simpson
blue was scarce before the industrial revolution *ignores the sky*
Cian Flanagan
I'm not gonna sleep tonight
Necxophye UwU
I'm from the Philippines yet I don't even know those words
Shiran Davidai
Strange for smells there are no names. Try to define smell in more than two simple definitions good or stinky, without associating ... ???
Science? Facts? RaCisT!
По-русски говорят обычно не "пурпурный", а "фиолетовый"
Fancy Pants
A russian person would likely say fioletoviy, rather than purpurnyy.
Yavis Cheung
I would like to add that Mandarin has more than 6 words for colours. On top of my head there are 11 at the very least
When I was learning English as a child I really couldn’t wrap my mind around only one word for blue. How do you guys live without “goluboy”? It’s the color of the sky!
Katrin Kipariska
For me as for artist thats so mind blowing. I can’t believe someone use only “light”, “dark” and “red”. How?
Im from Russia so i use more than 9 names of colors. It’s always red, orange, yellow, green, light blue (голубой - golooboy), blue, violet, white and black. But what about grey? Brown? Beige? Dark violet that spells in Russian “feeoletoviy”?
I like blue and green so much, it’s disappointing for me that in some countries there are no any words for them.
How can i live with this knowledge???
Catalan spain, spanish mexico. Yea wtf
Princess nobody
Ok but this is stressing me out
Add Reply

The Infinite Hotel Paradox - Jeff The surprising pattern behind color 1 day ago   06:00

Sign up for our newsletter and never miss an animation:

View full lesson:

Want more? Try to solve the buried treasure riddle:

The Infinite Hotel, a thought experiment created by German mathematician David Hilbert, is a hotel with an infinite number of rooms. Easy to comprehend, right? Wrong. What if it's completely booked but one person wants to check in? What about 40? Or an infinitely full bus of people? Jeff Dekofsky solves these heady lodging issues using Hilbert's paradox.

Lesson by Jeff Dekofsky, animation by The Moving Company Animation Studio.

Related Videos