Here’s some bamboozely info. to bandy about at your next network at the office, home or school (hopefully at school, you’re not networking as yet, but just chatting to your mates) water cooler – just what are indigo and violet and is there any difference between the two?

I blame the rainbow for this particular confusion. (As I type this I imagine a lot of ‘he’ men running (or loping) strongly away to avoid any discussion regarding colours other than ‘Oh, that’s blue’).

It was Sir Isaac Newton who discovered that sunlight falling upon a prism could split into its component colours. This process is known as dispersion. Newton named the component colours: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet.


Newton, who admitted his eyes were not very critical in distinguishing colours, originally divided the spectrum into five main colours; red, yellow, green, blue and violet. Later he included orange and indigo, giving seven main colours by analogy to the number of notes in a musical scale.  Newton chose to divide the visible spectrum into seven colours out of a belief derived from the beliefs of the ancient Greek sophists, who thought there was a connection between the colours, the musical notes, the known objects in the Solar System, and the days of the week. I’ll be elaborating about rainbows, prisms, spectrums in another blog, patience!

According to Isaac Asimov, “It is customary to list indigo as a color lying between blue and violet, but it has never seemed to me that indigo is worth the dignity of being considered a separate color. To my eyes it seems merely deep blue.”

If a heavyweight like Asimov, possibly the greatest science fiction writer and father of ‘hard science fiction’, has an issue with defining the colour indigo, I’m in pretty great company!

Now that we’ve established that there is a difference, my next dilemma always is – which colour do I prefer? Dark blue-ee indigo or purple shock type violet?

I’d like to say that the answer is simple, but, it isn’t. When it comes to me and colours, I go all weak at the knees and dribble saliva a little. It’s very attractive, of course, but nonetheless true.  As with many a good thing in life, colours undo me – it’s as if when I was just a newt in my Mum’s tum, she swallowed a paint box of colours and all that colour got into her bloodstream and it got passed on to me in all of its Technicolor glory.

So when it comes to indigo or violet, I’ll take both please, with a healthy dollop of blueberry on the side.