Home of the colors

The familiar colors of the rainbow in the spectrum – named using the Latin word for appearance or apparition by Isaac Newton in 1671 – include all those colors that can be produced by visible light of a single wavelength only, the pure spectral or monochromatic colors. The table at right shows approximate frequencies (in terahertz) and wavelengths (in nanometers) for various pure spectral colors. The wavelengths are measured in air or vacuum (seerefraction).

The color table should not be interpreted as a definitive list – the pure spectral colors form a continuous spectrum, and how it is divided into distinct colors linguistically is a matter of culture and historical contingency (although people everywhere have been shown to perceive colors in the same way[2]). A common list identifies six main bands: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and violet. Newton's conception included a seventh color, indigo, between blue and violet. Optical scientists Hardy and Perrin list indigo as between 446 and 464 nm wavelength.[3]

The intensity of a spectral color, relative to the context in which it is viewed, may alter its perception considerably; for example, a low-intensity orange-yellow is brown, and a low-intensity yellow-green is olive-green.