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Grey (outside the U.S.marker and some parts of the U.S.) or gray (some U.S. only – see spelling differences) describes the tints and shades ranging from black to white. These, including white and black, are known as achromatic colors or neutral colors. In recent years, "neutral colors" had been reclassified. These "new" neutrals have low colorfulness and/or chroma on the color wheel.

Greys are seen commonly in nature and fashion. Grey paints are created by mixing complementary colors (that is colors directly opposite on the color wheel, e.g. yellow and violet). In the RGB color model used by computer displays, it is created by mixing equal amounts of red, green, and blue light. Images which consist wholly of neutral colors are called monochrome, black-and-white or greyscale.

The first recorded use of grey as a color name in English was in 700 AD.

In color theory

Most grey pigments have a cool or warm cast to them, as the human eye can detect even a minute amount of saturation. Yellow, orange and red create a "warm grey". Green, blue, and violet, create a "cool grey". When there is no cast at all, it is referred to as "neutral grey" or simply "grey".
Mixed with 6% yellow. Mixed with 6% blue.

Two colors are called complementary colors if grey is produced when they are combined. Grey is its own complement. Consequently, grey remains grey when its color spectrum is inverted, and so has no opposite, or alternately is its own opposite.

Artists sometimes use the two different spellings to distinguish between strict combinations of black and white versus combinations that have elements of hue.

Web colors

There are several tones of grey available for use with HTML and CSS in word form, while there are 254 true greys available through Hex triplet. All are spelled with an a: using the e spelling can cause unexpected errors (this spelling was inherited from the X11 color list), and to this day, Internet Explorer's Trident browser engine does not recognize "grey" and will render it as green. Another anomaly is that "gray" is in fact much darker than the X11 color marked "darkgray;" this is because of a conflict with the original HTML gray and the X11's "gray," which is closer to HTML's "silver." The three "slategray" colors are not themselves on the greyscale, but are slightly saturated towards cyan (green + blue). Note that since there are an even (256, including black and white) number of unsaturated tones of grey, there are actually two grey tones straddling the midpoint in the 8-bit greyscale. The color name "gray" has been assigned the lighter of the two shades (128 also known as #808080), due to rounding up. In browsers that support it, "grey" has the same color as "gray."

HTML Color Name Sample Hex triplet
(rendered by name) (rendered by hex triplet)
lightgray #D3D3D3
gray #808080
darkgray #A9A9A9
dimgray #696969
lightslategray #778899
slategray #708090
darkslategray #2F4F4F

Color coordinates

Grey values result when r = g = b, for the color (r, g, b)
Grey values are produced by c = m = y = 0, for the color (c, m, y, k). Lightness is adjusted by varying k. In theory, any mixture where c = m = y is neutral, but in practice such mixtures are often a muddy brown (see discussion on this topic).
Greys result whenever s is 0 or undefined, as is the case when v is 0 or l is 0 or 1

In popular culture

  • The color grey is often associated with aging or the passage of time, likely due in part to the decreased pigment-production of hair follicles in time, corresponding to the greying of human hair. In this context, grey is often used synonymously with "elderly," as in "the grey pound" or "grey power" (when referring to the economic or social influence of the elderly), or as used by groups such as the Gray Panthers.





  • A concept that is in a grey area is a concept about which one is unsure what category in which to place it.




Sound Engineering

  • Baseball uniforms used for away games are often grey. This came about because in the 19th and early 20th century, away teams didn't normally have access to laundry facilities on the road, thus stains were not noticeable on the darker grey uniforms as opposed to the white uniforms worn by the home team.
  • On the 13th of April 1996 Manchester United wore, for only the 5th time, their (then current) grey away shirts when playing Southampton at Southampton's ground, The Dell. At the half time break, with Manchester United unexpectedly trailing 3-0, they changed into another team kit, this time in blue and white. In the second half Manchester United performed better although only scoring one goal to end the game 3-1 down. It was claimed that ManchesterUnited's poor performance in the first half was down to the players having difficulty seeing their teammates in the grey kit and that kit was never worn again!

Symbolic language
  • In France, to be "grey" (être gris) means to be drunk. Accordingly, to be extremely drunk is to be "black" (être noir). In the U.S., the college slang verb to gray was used around 1900 to mean to get drunk.



See also


  1. Maerz and Paul A Dictionary of Color New York:1930 McGraw-Hill Page 196
  2. Color Palette
  3. Dominique Van Neste and Desmond J. Tobin, "Hair cycle and hair pigmentation: dynamic interactions and changes associated with aging," Micron, 35, 3, April, 2004, pp 193-200.
  4. Arthur E. Powell The Astral Body and Other Astral Phenomenon Wheaton, Illinois:1927—Theosophical Publishing House Page 12
  5. The Cool, Grey City of Love by George Sterling:
  6. Martin Bormann—The Grey Eminence:
  7. Black Sun: Aryan Cults, Esoteric Nazism and the Politics of Identity by Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke Page 85
  8. Card showing list of bandana colors and their meanings, available at Image Leather, 2199 Market St., San Francisco, CA 94114 and Gay City USA Hanky Codes:
  9. Rodgers, Bruce Gay Talk (The Queen’s Vernacular): A Dictionary of Gay Slang New York:1972 Paragon Books, an imprint of G.P. Putnam’s Sons Page 99
  10. 13.04.96 Manchester United's grey day at The Dell
  11. Purdy, Belmont. " More About the Verb 'To Gray'" in New York Times, January 22, 1902.

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