Time units-colour

A type of coloured sequence synesthesia

Subtypes include coloured days, months and years

Another related type is autobiographical time-colour synesthesia (see below)

This type of synesthesia consists of perceiving a concurrent of colour for different time units. The main sequences that trigger these synesthetic colour associations are days of the week, months, seasons, years, decades and centuries, and historical periods like prehistoric times, the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, etc. can also be perceived as coloured. A synesthete can have colours for only one of these categories, for any number of them or even for all of them at once. The colour perceptions are involuntary and automatic and the colours perceived remain stable throughout the synesthete’s lifetime.

According to Sean Day's study on the prevalence of the different types of synesthesia, around 23% of all synesthetes might have this type and it is therefore one of the most common.

For many, the colours perceived also have texture and/or shape or they might form patterns consisting of more than one colour. Some synesthetes can even perceive texture or shape but no colour: the weekdays are felt to be strongly textured, for example. If each day, month, etc. is always perceived not only in its corresponding colour and shape but also in a specific, unalterable position in space, this could indicate that the synesthete has spatial sequence synesthesia, when it takes the form of a kind of visual calendar in the space around them.

Sometimes this type of synesthesia is confused with grapheme-colour. If the colour evoked by the time unit is the same as that of the letters (graphemes) that make up its name, the synesthete might in fact have this latter type. For a grapheme-colour synesthete, for example, the word “Tuesday” might be yellow because yellow is the colour of the letter “t”. However, if the concept of Tuesday as a day of the week is not yellow but instead brown, red or another colour, this would show that they also have time unit-colour synesthesia. The same applies to numbers: if for one synesthete in particular the ordinal number 2,000 is yellow, for example (because that is the colour of all numbers starting with 2) but the concept of the year 2000 is another colour such as purple, the synesthete would have both time unit-colour and grapheme-colour synesthesia.

There are cases of people who carry their time unit-colour synesthesia to the extreme, always wearing clothes or underwear of the colour of the particular weekday, for example, while others are constantly aware of the colour in question throughout the day and others simply remember the colour when they read, hear or think about the name of the day.


Two examples:

Left (colour): created by Amy, in the Gallery of the website Sensequence
Right (colours, patterns): created by Lonely-dude, in this post on the platform Reddit/Synesthesia


The Iraqi artist Ali Al-Ezzi created this series of oil paintings with his impressions of the colour, shape, texture and movement of each day of the week… plus a thought-provoking “Day After Life”.

Ali Al-Ezzi, 50 x 50 cm paintings, oil on canvas, 2019


Example created by Emma, in the Gallery of the website Sensequence

In his blog Star Kwafie/Synesthesia, Finn F. carried out a brief survey on different synesthetes’ colours for the various months and days of the week. You can see the findings here (months) (days).

Year-colour, decade-colour, century-colour

Years, decades and centuries can also have specific colours. For example, the year 1994 might be bright red and 2016 white; the concept of the 1940s might be dark blue and the 1950s grey; or specific centuries might have colours. If the time unit-colour synesthete in question also has grapheme-colour synesthesia for numbers, the colours of their years, decades or centuries would mostly be different from those of the numbers contained in them, which shows that two different types of synesthesia are at play. So for example, while the numbers 1, 2 and 12 might normally be perceived as white and light blue, the year 2002 could be light orange and 2012 red. This would be the case for years the synesthete has actually lived and which therefore have a significance to them as a period of their lives.

Example created by leprechaunboi70, in this post on the platform Reddit/Synesthesia.

Autobiographical time-colour (Phases of your life-colour)

A different type of coloured sequence synesthesia involving time units is connected with autobiographical time. In this case, the synesthete perceives specific colours for different periods in his or her own life. Logically, it is different for each person depending on how they divide up their past, but some examples could be their childhood or teenage years; primary school or university years; the time they spent in a particular job or profession, were involved in an activity (“when I used to paint”) or lived in a certain house or town; the period during which they were in a particular emotional state, or the duration of an illness perhaps; the time when their children were growing up, and so on. The colour perception can either be in relation to oneself (“I feel that I was yellow at that time”) or to the ambience of the time period (“I remember my environment as yellow-tinted during those years”). As with other types of synesthesia, the colours are not assigned consciously to the phases of life but just appear automatically in the synesthete’s mind, after which they remain consistent. Presumably combinations of more than one colour are also possible, or patterns of colours or even shapes, and this latter case could be considered an example of concept-shape synesthesia.

Go to the page on coloured sequence synesthesia (concept-colour)

Go to the page on calendar synesthesia (seeing the days, months, years etc. around you in space)

Go to the page on spatial sequence synesthesia in general (calendar/numbers/letters)

Go to the page on grapheme-colour synesthesia

This page last updated: 18 July 2022

This page is about time units-color synesthesia, time unit-color synesthesia

This page is about time units-colour synaesthesia, time unit-colour synaesthesia

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