Light with a spectral composition that stimulates all three types of the color-sensitive cone cells of the human eye in nearly equal amounts appears white. White is one of the most common colors in nature, the color of sunlight, and the color of sunlight reflected by snow, milk, chalk, limestone and other common minerals. In many cultures white represents or signifies purity, innocence, and light, and is the symbolic opposite of black, or darkness. According to surveys in Europe and the United States, white is the color most often associated with perfection, the good, honesty, cleanliness, the beginning, the new, neutrality, and exactitude.
In ancient Egypt and ancient Rome, priestesses wore white as a symbol of purity, and Romans wore a white toga as a symbol of citizenship. In the Middle Ages and Renaissance a white unicorn symbolized chastity, and a white lamb sacrifice and purity; the widows of kings dressed in white rather than black as the color of mourning. It sometimes symbolizes royalty; it was the color of the French kings (black being the color of the queens) and of the monarchist movement after the French Revolution as well as of the movement called the White Russians (not to be confounded with Belarus, literally "White Russia") who fought the Bolsheviks during the Russian Civil War (19171922). Greek and Roman temples were faced with white marble, and beginning in the 18th century, with the advent of neoclassical architecture, white became the most common color of new churches, capitols and other government buildings, especially in the United States. It was also widely used in 20th century modern architecture as a symbol of modernity, simplicity and strength.
White is an important color for almost all world religions. The Pope, the head of the Roman Catholic Church, has worn white since 1566, as a symbol of purity and sacrifice. In Islam, and in the Shinto religion of Japan, it is worn by pilgrims; and by the Brahmins in India. In Western cultures and in Japan, white is the most common color for wedding dresses, symbolizing purity and virginity. In many Asian cultures, white is also the color of mourning.
The white color on television screens and computer monitors is created with the RGB color model by mixing red, green and blue light at equal intensities.
The word white continues Old English hwt, ultimately from a Common Germanic *wtaz also reflected in OHG (h)wz, ON hvtr, Goth. eits. The root is ultimately from Proto-Indo-European language *kwid-, surviving also in Sanskrit veta "to be white or bright" and Slavonic svt "light". The Icelandic word for white, hvtur, is directly derived from the Old Norse form of the word hvtr. Common Germanic also had the word *blankaz ("white, bright, blinding"), borrowed into Late Latin as *blancus, which provided the source for Romance words for "white" (Catalan, Occitan and French blanc, Spanish blanco, Italian bianco, Galician-Portuguese branco, etc.). The antonym of white is black.
Some non-European languages have a wide variety of terms for white. The Inuit language has seven different words for seven different nuances of white. Sanskrit has specific words for bright white, the white of teeth, the white of sandalwood, the white of the autumn moon, the white of silver, the white of cow's milk, the white of pearls, the white of a ray of sunlight, and the white of stars. Japanese has six different words, depending upon brilliance or dullness, or if the color is inert or dynamic.