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Why do people call teal blue?

Why do people call teal blue?

People often use the words “teal” and “blue” interchangeably, which can cause confusion. Teal is a distinct color that falls between green and blue on the color wheel. While teal has similarities to blue, and the two colors are sometimes hard to distinguish, teal is definitely not the same as blue. There are a few reasons why people sometimes call teal blue:

The overlapping nature of teal and blue

On the color wheel, teal falls right next to blue in the spectrum between green and blue. Since teal is a mix of green and blue, it shares qualities of both colors. This makes it easy to mistake teal for a light or muted shade of blue. Additionally, the boundaries between color categories are fluid. There is no definitive line where teal stops and blue starts. Different people may categorize colors in this range differently. So a color that looks clearly teal to one person may appear more blue to someone else. The closely intermixing nature of teal and blue leads many to lump teal in with blue.

Variations in language and culture

The way we define and categorize colors is shaped by language and culture. In some languages and cultures, there is no distinct word for “teal.” The general “blue” category may encompass teal shades. For example, in Japanese the word “ao” refers to colors ranging from blue to green. So what English speakers call teal would likely be considered “ao” or blue by a native Japanese speaker. The boundaries around color categories are not universally agreed upon. Different cultures divide up the color spectrum in their own way. So someone from a cultural background without a definite concept of teal may be more prone to calling the color blue.

The recency of “teal” in English

The word “teal” in reference to the specific blue-green color is relatively new in the English language. It only came into use around the early 20th century. Before this, English speakers would have referred to teal shades as “blue”, “blue-green”, “sea green”, or perhaps “green”. The concept of teal as a distinct intermediate color is not historically ingrained in the English language. So some English speakers today, particularly older generations, may still habitually group teal under blue or green. The term “teal” has not fully displaced other terms for the shade.

Issues with color reproduction

Reproducing colors accurately across different mediums is tricky. Colors can look different in print than on a website or phone screen. This applies to teal, which may take on a more blue or green cast depending on how it is produced. Someone looking at a teal that appears more blue-leaning in a particular context may simply call it blue, not realizing that it would look clearly teal in another medium. The variability of color reproduction contributes to the confusion over what counts as teal vs blue.

Challenges in color perception

Humans do not all perceive color in exactly the same way. Subtle physiological differences in our eyes and brains lead to variances in how we distinguish shades. One person’s teal may look a bit more blue or green to someone else. Age also affects color perception – the lenses in older adults’ eyes tend to yellow, causing blue tones to look muted. This could lead seniors to mistake teal for plain blue more often. Differing color vision abilities make consistent color identification difficult and account for some of the discrepancies around teal vs blue.

So is teal actually blue?

While the overlapping nature of blue and teal makes mistaking teal for blue very common, teal is scientifically regarded as its own distinct color separate from blue. Teal sits between green and blue at around 180 degrees on the color wheel. Blue colors occupy the range of 210 to 270 degrees. So while teal leans more towards blue than green, it sits solidly between the two. The precise boundaries may be blurred, but teal clearly occupies a transitional zone between green and blue. It exhibits qualities of both while remaining its own color with a unique essence. So calling teal blue is inaccurate – teal is closest to blue but still distinct.

Blue Teal Green
210-270° 180° 120-180°

Why the distinction matters

Identifying teal accurately matters for things like:

– Interior design – teal has different decorative properties than blue
– Fashion/beauty – teal flatters different complexions and works with different color palettes
– Visual arts – artists mix different pigments to achieve teal vs blue
– Computer graphics – digital color codes are specific to teal or blue
– Horticulture – “teal” flowers are not the same as “blue” flowers
– Product marketing – companies want to describe colors like car paint accurately

Calling teal blue causes confusion in many contexts where the intermediate teal tone has distinct qualities. Using the agreed upon color terms leads to better communication and understanding.


While teal is easy to mistake for blue due to their close relationship on the color wheel, teal is scientifically considered a separate color between blue and green. It has qualities of both but is distinct from pure blue. The misuse of “teal” as “blue” likely stems from linguistic and cultural differences, limitations in color reproduction and perception, and the relatively recent adoption of the term “teal” in English. However, accurately identifying teal is important in many fields, so it is worth learning to distinguish it from blue. With an awareness of the difference, one can better appreciate the nuances of this beautiful intermediate color.


[1] Kuehni, R. (2005). Color: an introduction to practice and principles. Wiley-Interscience.

[2] Mylonas, D., & MacDonald, L. W. (2016). Augmenting Basic Colour Terms in English. Color Research & Application, 41(1), 32–42.

[3] Tanaka, J. W., & Presnell, L. M. (1999). Color diagnosticity in object recognition. Perception & Psychophysics, 61(6), 1140–1153.

[4] Witzel, C. (2018). Blue is the new green: Colour categorisation in English and German. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 32(4), 504–512.