What is the order of colors in a rainbow?

321 Answers

triteamdan's profile pic

triteamdan | Teacher | (Level 2) Adjunct Educator

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Isaac Newton, to whom we owe a great deal of gratitude for his pioneering work on what light is and how colors combine to make the rainbow, summarized it as you have seen in other answers to this questions: Red -- Orange -- Yellow -- Green -- Blue -- Indigo -- and Violet.  However this can be a little misleading for two reasons.

1. There are actually many more colors in the rainbow than we have names for.  Our eyes are capable of distinguishing millions of individual shades of color!

2. When we think about the rainbow in the ROYGBIV colors, we usually make a mistake.  What many people call "blue" in the rainbow is actually cyan, you know, like what you use in your color printer.  Cyan stimulates the parts of our eye that see green and blue equally.  Your computer monitor that you are looking at right now produces cyan by combining equal light levels of green and blue as well.  The actual pure blue, is what Newton unfortunately referred to as "indigo."  So in terms of what colors are actually there, a more accurate summary of the rainbow would be Red -- Orange -- Yellow -- Green -- Cyan -- Blue -- Violet

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unkyd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Adjunct Educator

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A rainbow is made by the reflection and refraction of light that interacts with raindrops.  Depending on how this interaction occurs with your location relative to the sun and the raindrops you may see a primary and even a secondary rainbow.

The interaction that occurs to create the primary rainbow will produce a spectrum of colors in order Red - Orange - Yellow - Green - Blue - Indigo -Violet (ROY G BIV) with Red occuring on the outside edge of the rainbow to Violet occuring on the insdie edge (closest to the center) of the rainbow.

The extra reflection that occurs to produce the secondary rainbow causes the colors to reverse order.  So on the secondary rainbow Red will occur on the inside edge followed by Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, then Violet on the outside edge of the secondary rainbow.

Check the sites below if you want to see a little more detail on how this works.

Sources:
selmasharafaz's profile pic

selmasharafaz | College Teacher | (Level 3) Adjunct Educator

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VIBGYOR: This is the easiest way to remember.

Violet, Indigo, Blue, Green, Yellow, Orange, Red.

You must remember though that red is the longest wavelength in the visible spectrum and appears at the top of rainbows and to the left-hand side on a  horizontal wavelength spectrum while violet is the shortest wavelength in the visible spectrum and appears on the bottom of rainbows and to the right-hand side on a horizontal wavelength spectrum. So, reading left to right, the order of the colors is red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet:

ROYGBIV

These are the seven colours on the visible spectrum. Beyond violet are the ultraviolet rays and before red are the infrared rays.

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kdmancuso06 | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Adjunct Educator

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The order of the rainbow is ROYGBIV (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet). It is caused by a breakup of white light wavelenght (all colors) when it hits water. It is refracted as it passes through the water droplets in the sky (moisture after rain) and breaks into 7 different sizes of wavelenghts. The largest of the color wavelenght is Red and the smallest is Violet. They have the different sizes due to the amount of energy they come with as they travel from the sun to our eyes! 

tjbrewer's profile pic

tjbrewer | Elementary School Teacher | (Level 2) Associate Educator

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The Colors in the rainbow order are easy to remember with ROY G. BIV

Red
Orange
Yellow

Green

Blue
Indigo
Violet

alexb2's profile pic

alexb2 | eNotes Employee

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Here's an image of the colors of the rainbow in order which makes it easy for you to see how they work in order. Enjoy!

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User Comments

jess1999's profile pic

jess1999 | Student, Grade 9 | (Level 1) Valedictorian

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The rainbow comes from the sunlight spreading out into its spectrum of colors which diverts to our eyes by water droplets. The colors

red

yellow

orange

green

blue

indigo

violet

comes from the sunlight. This property of sunlight was first demonstrated by Isaac Newton.

Sources:
ssandhu05's profile pic

ssandhu05 | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 2) Honors

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Technically speaking, the light that comes from the sun is white, but since it hits water (or rain)...

The order of the colors goes as follows: 

1. Red

2. Orange

3. Yellow

4. Green

5. Blue

6. Purple or violet 

Many people argue that pink is also a color of the rainbow, and that it comes right purple (or violet).

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rachellopez | Student, Grade 12 | (Level 1) Valedictorian

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Rainbows are formed when sun rays enter a raindrop and split into colors. This process is called refraction. I learned the abbreviation ROYGBIV in elementary school to remind me the order of the colors of the rainbow. The colors are red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet for a total of seven colors.

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melissa1106's profile pic

melissa1106 | Student, Grade 11 | (Level 1) Salutatorian

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The colors of the rainbow are as follows:

red

orange

green

blue

indigo

purple

Many people have found it easy to use the acronym ROY G BIV. I personally learned that acronym in elementary school in art class. In reverse order the rainbow colors are known as VIB G YOR. 

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