Is there anything you can tell me about Mando colour symbolism that isn't already on that "armour colour" post? I'm planning out a Sabine POV story where it would be relevant.
Well, yes and no. I went over the “facts” of colors and mandalorian color theory. What I can do now is kind of dig deeper into the actual mando’a words for colors, and maybe extrapolate more on the etymology of each word as they’re relevant to colors. If anything, it’ll give you an idea of how to break down the colors and maybe play with the meanings, or even the construction of the words themselves. Hopefully that helps?
I got a little carried away (again?) so I apologize for the length and time it took to put this together … and also you can take everything I say with a grain of salt as I’m trying to make sense of the etymology of these words. I’m also skipping orange as there’s no word for in the dictionary as of yet, and including violet since it is.
So, let’s go in the order that I went in the original post. Forewarning that black is going to be the longest section as I’ve thought about it maybe way too much.
- ne’tra — black
Ne’ is traditionally one of the negative prefixes of mando’a. It’s meant to indicate the opposite of what it’s attached to, or the not-thing. Tra means space, void … but it also translates to starfield, or field of stars.
So. Black. Justice. Not the void of space, or, alternatively, Without stars, a starless night.
However way you want to interpret that is up to you, but to me? From what I understand of mandalorian history? They were once a truly nomadic people, who voyaged across the stars. They were, arguably, wayfinders. More than just warriors, or conquerors, or however most would like to put it.
I originally wasn’t going to do this, but because you mentioned (elsewhere) that you’re focusing on dusk, I want to take a moment to extrapolate on this thought. The reason I say this is because of how they view stars.
Mandalorians are generally not considered to be religious. But the language they speak is still very deeply steeped in poetic concepts — grasping at the enormous and unthinkable with words as clever and broad as a people can attempt to embody them. Stars is my personal favorite.
Ka’ra — stars, ruling council of fallen leaders. Mandalorians still speak of those who pass as not being dead, but marching far far away. The origin of the word stars is the belief that the Mand’alore ascend to the stars, to watch over the people and to guide them.
The word for breath is kar’am. Hyperdrive is karbakar (star to star). Kar’ta is heart. Kar’taylir is awareness, knowledge, lit. to hold in the heart. Karyai is the main communal living room of a communal home, where a family convenes to spend time together — and often the last bastion against an invasion.
Jate’kara, luck, destiny, literally good stars, a course to steer by.
All of these words stem from stars.
Black, the color, is literally a starless night. But, while the impulse is to go for something negative, I would actually pull away from that. Mandalorians, in general, also view adversity (something difficult, something terrible, something terrifying) as something to challenge and overcome as a way of life. A starless night is not to be feared but to be met.
A starless night may also be indicative, poetically, of a place or a people or an event without justice. And that void, that emptiness, that lack? Must be filled. Whomsoever wears black has taken it upon themselves to fill a void and reinstate justice in whatever manner that may mean.
But also consider: a night without stars evokes a specific sort of image and feeling … which may also be completely different depending on the person in question. Someone who lives in a bright city and experiences light pollution would be used to a night without stars, versus someone living out in the wild (like Krownest) or who is dependent on the stars to travel, would be used to a night full of stars and may find it distressing or strange.
- ve’vut — gold
This one is a little less straightforward. Vut, or vutyc, indicates special. Unique, precious. Ve’ (pronounced vay or veh) is unclear as to what it’s meant to indicate, but often when we see ve’ as a prefix, it’s usually from ven (future tense), but in this case it may be from vheh, earth, soil, dirt.
Gold. Vengeance. A precious future, or, precious metal.
Maybe evocative of the sun rising after a long and difficult night. The gold of the sun rising is a promise of a future — or at the very least, the feeling of surviving to tomorrow. This might be too poetic though lmao, and tbh … I really like the simplicity and the directness of precious metal (lit. special dirt, lmao).
The funny thing here is that though I have gold and yellow listed together for meaning (as they are, generally, considered under the same banner of Vengeance), the word for yellow is different.
- shi'yayc — yellow
So. I’m not really a fan of this word, to be perfectly honest with you. I’m of the opinion this is less an actual color and more an adjective meant to describe something else. But regardless, here it is.
From shi, just/only, and yayc, which may be from oyayc, meaning alive (or oya! which carries many meanings and generally overwhelmingly positive). Generally though, with the yc added to the end, it’s less a noun and more an adjective, so it might actually be meant to be a descriptor (ie. yellowing of skin or eyes etc).
Yellow. Vengeance. Only just alive, or barely dead.
Maybe comparison to, say, a recently deceased person — but that only really works if one assumed that all dead persons are pale and turn yellow when they die, and that’s a weird assumption to make in the context of mandalorians.
Also consider: yellow is dull compared to the shine of a metallic gold. Less intense in that way. My question is what becomes of a person after they’ve enacted vengeance? What becomes of a life devoid of a perpetual motivating force like that? What happens when gold loses its sheen and fades, dulls?
Am I just taking this too far, to the next level it doesn’t need to go? maybe
EDIT:: w/ points from anon through a later ask, I’d like to also add what they said:
you pondered about the connotations of yellow regarding ‘just/barely alive’ and its comparison to gold. I thought maybe it’s about flames/light - like a bright vivid flame is a bright gold, while the flame, when it’s only small and ->barely alive<- has more of a dull and yellowish shine.
I hadn’t even consider that it might have been referencing intensity of light/fire? But the way you put it, that may actually make more sense than the direction I was going in. I was definitely perplexed somewhat, like I was missing something. This sounds like what I was missing.
That could also apply for the heat of a flame, too. Like, referring to the intensity of the light, or the intensity of the heat, or both, depending entirely on context, and related to the below.
- Lust for life
So, there’s no word for orange in mando’a at this time.
Consider: Yellow is sometimes indicated to also mean lust for life, depending on who you ask and what source material you’re comparing it to.
It’s entirely possible that mandalorians don’t have a way to differentiate between yellow and orange. Some cultures do display a limitation in language, seeing what we would consider a range (yellow to orange) as all one spectrum under the same banner.
So while Yellow may mean barely alive/barely dead, yellow may also mean nothing but life.
Something to think about.
- genet — gray
Gray/Silver. Mourning lost love.
Ge’ for almost, by proximity (literally or metaphorically). Net, we can assume, comes from the word for black, ne’tra. So, in this case, gray is literally almost black, but not quite. Reaching towards it, maybe, but not quite there.
I’ve used overcast before to describe gray, or the feeling of a loss, of grief, and it still applies here. Almost, not quite, as a starless night sky. Duller, paler, than a starfield. That kind of thing—perpetually in comparison to black.
Also consider that it may infer obscuring the target, instead of almost reaching black, it may act like a filter, a translucent overlay to take away or obscure intensity of (in this case from black, or night sky). Mandalorians, who are (or once was) so used to navigating by/the stars, suddenly having to deal with their guidance obscured? There’s loss, there, too.
- kebiin — blue
This one’s a little … less straightforward. Ke’ is used as an imperative prefix, usually to indicate that this word/sentence is a command, but keb may also come from kebbur, meaning to try or make an attempt. Biin, or bii, may come from abiik, air (interestingly, kebii’tra indicates sky, so it’s literally blue starfield, blue space).
What is reliable? What is faithful? Following through, or making the attempt again and again—someone consistent, trustworthy. To stretch the meaning, as trustworthy as the air.
Blue. Reliability. Faithful. As consistent, or trustworthy, as the air.
I wonder if that was ever a phrase in use. “As trustworthy as the air” might ring true on a planet where they can breathe without their helmets … but what if they so happen to land on a planet that they cannot?
In hindsight, that sounds like a very mando joke to make. B’)
“Who ever is reliable all the time?” Both a joke and a very serious question.
- ge’tal — red
Ge shows up again. Almost. Tal, blood. Almost blood, or nearly / like blood.
From what I understand, the Taung did bleed red, and since they were the original mandalorians, it makes sense for them to make the simplest association for the color.
Red. Honoring a parent.
This is kind of a call back, imo, to the saying “the blood of the covenant is thicker than the water of the womb,” as chosen family ties are stronger than that of biological ones, and consider that mandalorians are expected to shed blood for their chosen family if it ever came to it.
But also consider pointing at a rose and, quite literally, calling it like blood.
- vorpan — green
Vor, figuratively, is to thank. Literally, it’s to accept. Pan… is a little difficult to discover what it might indicate, or where it may come from, but from the two other words it’s a part of (epan, for guts, entrails, and sapan for electromagnet) we can kind of infer that it’s meant to indicate core, or insides, the interior of a thing.
Metaphorically, vorpan can be understood to be accepting a task to fulfill with one’s whole being. For context, vorpan’oy is the word for vegetation, as in bringing life to green.
Green. Duty. To embody one’s accepted task.
Not really sure why, but let’s go with that.
- saviin — violet
This word is actually very close to Sabine’s name — they’re pronounced the same, just with a v instead of b. In some dialects or accent, one might say they are the same. I would argue they are.
So. Violet. Saviin. Sa’ most likely comes from sarad, meaning flower, bloom. Viin is from viinir, for run.
Running flower. Wild violets are considered weeds in some places, and so instead of run as in flee, run may lean more towards running wild, an overgrowth — or a plant that can live, even thrive, anywhere, in spite of adversity and outside forces attempting to eradicate them.
Survival in adversity.
And, maybe unintentionally maybe not, given the above I would argue it’s a perfect name for Sabine under the circumstances.
EDIT:: referring again to points brought up by anon in a later ask:
saviin sounds a lot like Sabine, which seems very very likely to me, considering the long i (or rather e - from an anglophone perspective) and that [v] and [b] are very similar sounds, so maybe Sabine is like a basic transcription or a dialect form of Saviin. Regarding the meaning of the colour/name
My etymology for it would be the following: “viin”/“bine” being a degenerated/shortened form (or even the root?) of kebiin - blue connected with “sa” - as, like, it gives “sa viin” - “like blue”, what is kind of a good description for purple/violet, implying the standard shade in mandalorian perception would be a darker bluish purple ALSO implying that the concept of purple cam up comparably late in the language, similar of the color orange getting it’s name rather late in germanic languages
I was going color by color so I missed the connection in the effort to complete the post, which was an oversight by me sadly.
It might also then directly connect the connotations of blue (reliability) with purple (adaptability, survival in adversity). They who are reliable can be depended on to adapt and survive adversity, or so on, kind of like orange (lust for life) from yellow, as thought about from above (the intensity of the flame).
Definitely some interesting things to think about.