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What’s the difference between green and Kelly Green?

What’s the difference between green and Kelly Green?

Green is a color that is found commonly in nature and symbolizes growth, renewal, health, and environment. Kelly green is a specific shade of green that is a darker, vibrant emerald green. While both are green in color, there are some key differences between the two shades.

The Origin of Kelly Green

Kelly green first came into use in the early 20th century as the official color of Ireland’s Dublin-based Gaelic Athletic Association. It was named after the surnames prefix “O’Kelly” or “Kelly” that were common in Ireland. The exact shade of Kelly green adopted by the GAA was chosen due to its high visibility, even in poor lighting at early sporting events. Kelly green was later adopted more widely as a symbol of Ireland and St.Patrick’s day.

Shade Variations

Kelly green sits in the green-yellow quadrant of the color wheel and is a vivid shade. While it looks similar to other greens, examining the RGB and hex code values shows how it differs:

Color RGB Code Hex Code
Kelly Green 49, 163, 84 #31A354
Green 0, 128, 0 #008000
Forest Green 34, 139, 34 #228B22
Lime Green 50, 205, 50 #32CD32

This table shows that while Kelly green sits in the same general family of colors as forest green and lime green, its RGB values give it a brighter, more vivid look than forest green but not quite as intense as lime green. The shade of Kelly green is achieved by mixing a strong percentage of green with yellow undertones.

Kelly Green vs Green in Nature

When comparing Kelly green and the general color green found in nature, there are also some noticeable differences:

  • Leaves on trees are often a yellow-tinged green like Kelly green early in the spring, but they become darker and bluer as the season progresses. The natural green of summer foliage is deeper than Kelly green.
  • Freshly cut grass is greener than Kelly green. Grass often has a vibrant, slightly blue-toned look.
  • Lime green shades like that of limes themselves have the vivacity of Kelly green but with stronger yellow undertones.
  • The green found in forests and natural settings tends to be muted and grayed down compared to the stronger clarity of Kelly green.

So while Kelly green evokes the fresh, renewal of spring, the green found in nature varies throughout the seasons and is often more blue, yellow, or gray in tone than the stable Kelly green.

Cultural Associations

In addition to color shade differences, green and Kelly green have some cultural associations that set them apart:

  • Kelly green is strongly associated with Ireland and St. Patrick’s Day while green more generally symbolizes environmentalism and sustainability movements.
  • Green can be associated with novice, inexperience and jealousy while Kelly green conveys Irish heritage pride.
  • The expression “green with envy” links the color green with jealousy while Kelly green lacks this cultural connotation.
  • Green is sometimes associated with being eco-friendly or “going green” while Kelly green has no such environmental meaning.

So while both colors are linked to positive ideas like growth and nature, Kelly green is more limited as an Irish cultural symbol while green has wider cultural associations.

Uses and Applications

Some uses and applications further demonstrate the differences between green and Kelly green:

  • Green is ubiquitous across applications from green screens to green m&ms. Kelly green is not used as widely outside of Ireland-related uses.
  • Green is often used to indicate “go” while Kelly green lacks this traffic signal association.
  • Green symbolizes recycling and environmental causes more broadly than Kelly green.
  • Kelly green is the specific shade associated with Boston Celtics sports teams and their paraphernalia.
  • Both shades of green work well in nature scenes, green representing broader foliage while Kelly stands out more distinctly.

So while green reigns widely across applications, Kelly green’s use is more limited to evoking Irish heritage pride.

Comparison Summary

In summary, the key differences between green and Kelly green include:

  • Kelly green is a darker, more vivid, yellow-toned emerald green vs. green’s wider range of hues.
  • Kelly green has a distinct RGB code making it brighter than forest green but not as intense as lime green.
  • Natural greens vary throughout the seasons while Kelly green is a stable, iconic shade.
  • Green has wider cultural associations with jealousy and environmentalism that Kelly green does not.
  • Kelly green is heavily associated with Ireland and St.Patrick’s Day specifically vs. green’s more ubiquitous range of uses.

So while the two colors may seem quite similar at first glance, examining them more closely shows Kelly green is a specific, culturally rich shade distinct from the wider color green.


Kelly green and green have similarities but are distinct colors. Kelly green is a vivid, yellow-toned emerald shade uniquely associated with Ireland and St.Patrick’s Day. The color green has a wider range in nature from yellow-tinged to blue-toned hues that vary seasonally. It has broader cultural meanings tied to jealousy, novice status, and environmentalism. While both evoke growth and nature, Kelly green’s heritage symbolism and distinct RGB values make it a specific, stand-out color compared to the wider spectrum of greens.