What Does Crimson Mean Symbolically?

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Crimson's symbolism changes with time and place.
Crimson's symbolism changes with time and place. (Image: crimson image by Dave from Fotolia.com)

Throughout the ages, colors have been used symbolically to represent an individual's status, intentions or emotions. Crimson is a color which has been used with various symbolic meanings in different eras and societies. As an indication of social status, crimson was symbolically important in the Elizabethan Era in Britain, while the use of crimson flowers to convey meaning has continued from the 18th century to the present day.

Clothing

In Elizabethan-era England (the second half of the 16th century), crimson clothing signified an individual's status. Wearing the color crimson was legally regulated by the English Sumptuary Laws—only royalty, noble persons and members of the Council were allowed to wear crimson during this time. Therefore, the color crimson symbolized high social standing and power in Elizabethan England.

Religion

In Elizabethan society, crimson also held a strong religious symbolism. Prominent church figures were depicted wearing crimson robes, and so the color crimson held a strong association with the church itself. Symbolically, crimson was associated with power, importance, and specific religious meanings. The Biblical meaning of crimson is to symbolize the blood of martyrs or the presence of God. Crimson is also strongly associated with humility and atonement, and it is the liturgical color most strongly associated with Pentecost.

Language of Flowers

It is believed that the so-called "language of flowers"—in which certain flowers convey a particular meaning and therefore can be used in secret communication—originated in Turkey and became popular in Europe from the 18th century onwards. Under this old secret language, a crimson polyanthus represents "the heart's mystery," while a dark crimson rose represents mourning. The latter has prevailed into modern times—a dark crimson rose symbolizes mourning according to the contemporary language of flowers in use in North America.

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