The word yellow comes from the Old English geolu, geolwe (oblique case), meaning "yellow, yellowish", derived from the Proto-Germanic word gelwaz "yellow". It has the same Indo-European base, gel-, as the words gold and yell, or "cry out."
According to surveys in Europe, Canada, and the United States, yellow is the color people most often associate with amusement, gentleness, and spontaneity, but also with duplicity, envy, jealousy, avarice, and, in the U.S., with cowardice. In Iran it has connotations of pallor/sickness, but also wisdom and connection. It plays an important role in Asian culture, particularly in China, where it is seen as the color of happiness, glory, wisdom, harmony, and culture.
The word yellow comes from the Old English geolu, geolwe (oblique case), meaning "yellow, yellowish", derived from the Proto-Germanic word gelwaz "yellow". It has the same Indo-European base, gel-, as the words gold and yell; gel- means both bright and gleaming, and to cry out.
The English term is related to other Germanic words for yellow, namely Scots yella, East Frisian jeel, West Frisian giel, Dutch geel, German gelb, and Swedish and Norwegian gul. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the oldest known use of this word in English is from The Epinal Glossary in 700.
Yellow, in the form of yellow ochre pigment made from clay, was one of the first colors used in prehistoric cave art. The cave of Lascaux has an image of a horse colored with yellow estimated to be 17,300 years old.
In Ancient Egypt, yellow was associated with gold, which was considered to be imperishable, eternal and indestructible. The skin and bones of the gods were believed to be made of gold. The Egyptians used yellow extensively in tomb paintings; they usually used either yellow ochre or the brilliant orpiment, though it was made of arsenic and was highly toxic. A small paintbox with orpiment pigment was found in the tomb of King Tutankhamun. Men were always shown with brown faces, women with yellow ochre or gold faces.
The ancient Romans used yellow in their paintings to represent gold and also in skin tones. It is found frequently in the murals of Pompeii.
During the Post-Classical period, yellow became firmly established as the color of Judas Iscariot, the disciple who betrayed Jesus Christ, even though the Bible never describes his clothing. From this connection, yellow also took on associations with envy, jealousy and duplicity.
The tradition started in the Renaissance of marking non-Christian outsiders, such as Jews, with the color yellow. In 16th century Spain, those accused of heresy and who refused to renounce their views were compelled to come before the Spanish Inquisition dressed in a yellow cape.
The color yellow has been historically associated with moneylenders and finance. The National Pawnbrokers Association's logo depicts three golden spheres hanging from a bar, referencing the three bags of gold that the patron saint of pawnbroking, St. Nicholas, holds in his hands. Additionally, the symbol of three golden orbs is found in the coat of arms of the House of Medici, a famous fifteenth century Italian dynasty of bankers and lenders.