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What does green represent negatively?

What does green represent negatively?

Green is often associated with positive meanings like growth, renewal, and environmentalism. However, green can also have some negative connotations. In color psychology, green can represent jealousy, sickness, and misfortune. Green is sometimes seen as an unripe, immature, or inexperienced color. Additionally, some superstitions and idioms portray green in an unfavorable light. This article will explore what green can represent in a negative way.


One of the most common negative associations of the color green is with the emotion of jealousy. The expressions “green with envy” and “green-eyed monster” link feelings of envy and jealousy with the color green.

This association likely arises from the idea that jealousy can make someone appear unwell or sickly, giving their complexion a greenish tint. The image of an intensely jealous person turning green with envy is a familiar one in literature and popular culture.

In Shakespeare’s Othello, the character Iago describes jealousy as “the green-eyed monster which doth mock/The meat it feeds on.” The green-eyed monster is a famous metaphor for the twisting sickness of jealousy.

Green’s connection with jealousy may also relate to its ties to immaturity and inexperience. Jealous feelings often arise from a lack of self-confidence and immature handling of emotions. The raw greenness of jealousy contrasts with more mature, reasoned responses.

So the color green can powerfully evoke the bitterness, sickness, and obsession of jealous thoughts and feelings. There are good reasons green is so iconically linked with the green-eyed monster of jealousy.


Green is also associated with sickness, nausea, and disease. The expression “green around the gills” refers to a pale, sickly appearance from nausea or seasickness.

This stems from the greenish tint skin can take on when feeling ill. A similar expression is “turning green at the gills.”

In older times, green was sometimes linked to disease and plague. Yellow was the color of fever and black was death, while green was the sickly color in between.

Poison and toxic substances would also sometimes be colored or tinted green. The association between green, toxins, and bodily illness became embedded in people’s minds.

Even today, greens with more yellowish or olive undertones can suggest sickness, toxicity, rot, or decomposition. Hospital halls are sometimes painted in unappealing greens to unconsciously convey sterility.

So the connection between green and sickness remains in many contexts. Green can reflect pallor, nausea, poison, and disease across different uses.

Immaturity and Inexperience

Green is frequently associated with all things young, fresh, and new. As an earthy, natural color, it represents growth and renewal. But this also means green can come across as raw, unripe, or amateurish.

The idiom “green around the edges” conveys immaturity and rawness. Calling someone “green” suggests they are young and untested. Terms like greenhorn and greenie have condescending connotations of inexperience.

In traffic lights, the green light means go, but also indicates amateurishness and uncertainty to proceed. Switching prematurely from red to green risks accidents or mistakes.

Likewise, produce that is unripe or green on the vine implies being underdeveloped and lacking full flavor. Over eagerness to pick fruit before its time means it will be hard, sour, and unpleasant.

So while green has many natural associations with growth, in some contexts those associations convey the negatives of imbalance, insufficiency, and immaturity. Green can mean incomplete, premature, amateur, or transitory when describing people, produce, or processes.

Envy and Jealousy in Simple Terms

Envy Jealousy
Wanting what someone else has Fearing someone will take what you have
Feeling inferior to them Feeling threatened by them
Leads to self-improvement Leads to destructive behavior
Involves one person Involves a triangle of relationships

This table summarizes some key differences between envy and jealousy in basic terms. Envy means wanting what someone else has, while jealousy means fearing they will take what is yours. Though often linked together, the two emotions stem from different mindsets and lead to different reactions. Envy can motivate self-improvement, while jealousy provokes destructive or obsessive behavior. Recognizing these distinctions can provide self-insight when experiencing feelings of envy versus jealousy.

Green with Envy Idioms and Expressions

Green’s association with jealousy and envy are reflected in a number of English idioms and expressions:

– Green with envy – To feel very jealous or envious of what someone else possesses or has achieved. “She was green with envy over her sister’s promotion.”

– Green-eyed monster – Metaphorical term for jealousy or envy, like a monster gnawing away at a person from the inside. “Don’t let the green-eyed monster ruin your friendships.”

– Green around the gills – Appearing sickly and jealous, conveying a nauseated reaction to envy. “He looked green around the gills when his brother bought a new car.”

– Green mist – Poetic term meaning jealous or envious feelings fogging someone’s mind and judgment. “A green mist of jealousy clouded her thoughts about her ex’s new relationship.”

– Green-eyed jealousy – Phrase referring to an intense jealous reaction, like the narrowed eyes of a suspicious, angry person. “Her green-eyed jealousy emerged when she saw him chatting with another woman.”

These varied idioms show how green has become deeply associated with the negative emotions of envy and jealousy in the English linguistic imagination.

Green with sickness

In addition to jealousy, the color green is also associated with feeling ill or sick:

– Green at the gills – Having a sickly, pale green complexion indicating nausea or seasickness. “The choppy boat ride made me green at the gills.”

– Green around the gills – Same as above, appearing about to vomit from sickness. “The flu made the kids green around the gills.”

– Turning green – Becoming nauseated and pale, sickly green in color. “I was turning green from food poisoning.”

– Greenish pallor – Skin tone appearing unhealthy, wan, and slightly green, indicating illness. “His greenish pallor showed he was coming down with something.”

– Greenish tinge – Sickly green hue to the skin, eyes, or complexion as a symptom of illness. “There was a greenish tinge to his face and eyes when the stomach flu hit.”

Again, we see green repeatedly associated with the physical manifestations of feeling unwell and nauseated. It visually captures the essence of sickness through color.

Green Meanings in Idioms and Expressions

Here are some common idioms using the color green to convey immaturity, inexperience, or lack of ripeness:

– Green around the ears – Naive, immature, or inexperienced. From unripe fruit still green on the tree. “As a rookie on the job, he was still green around the ears.”

– Greenhorn – An inexperienced, naive, or gullible person new to a situation. “The greenhorn didn’t know the basics of camping in the wilderness yet.”

– Green as grass – Totally immature, fresh, or inexperienced. “He’s as green as grass when it comes to negotiating business deals.”

– Greener pastures – Somewhere with more opportunities or better conditions. Implies ambitiously abandoning the familiar for uncertain advantages elsewhere.

– Grass is always greener – The tendency to believe other circumstances are preferable to your own. From the perspective that distant fields seem greener than the grass at your feet.

Green’s association with incompletion and immaturity also comes through in these common idiomatic expressions. It conveys lacking ripeness, maturity, and wisdom.

Superstitions and Sayings

Folklore and superstitions also contribute to some negative representations of the color green:

– Green candles – In some superstitions, green candles are considered unlucky. Lighting one is believed to lead to misfortune, illness, or even death.

– The color of the fairies – In Irish folklore, fairies wearing green were more sinister and dangerous than other types. Green fairy clothing was a sign of darker intent.

– Green flowers – Having green flowers in your wedding bouquet is sometimes considered bad luck. It implies immaturity, fertility problems, or family disapproval of the marriage.

– Green eyes – Green eyes are stereotypically associated with jealousy, meanness, and distrust in some traditions. Red hair paired with green eyes was seen as a sign of a fiery, wicked temperament.

– Green ships – Seafaring lore considers green to be an unlucky color choice for ships. Green vessels were believed to attract trouble, bad luck, and even shipwrecks.

While not universally seen as negative, green does have a surprising number of unfavorable associations across folklore, superstitions, and oral traditions.


In summary, green has a range of negative connotations despite being such an abundantly positive color in nature. It is frequently associated with jealousy and envy due to its metaphoric links to sickness and obsessive behavior. Green can also represent immaturity, inexperience, inadequacy, and lack of ripeness across different contexts. Folklore and oral traditions further solidify green’s unlucky connections in some settings.

So while green tends to come across as a harmoniously natural color, it also expresses discord and negativity through idioms about jealousy and envy. Next time the phrase “green with envy” comes up, you’ll know exactly why that color was chosen to convey such a darkly obsessive emotion. The color psychology of green is more complex than it first appears.