I was reading a little book called 『ひらがな物語』 and came across this passage on page 119:

​ 大臣といえば明治初期の文部大臣森有礼が
​ と、おおまじめで、いい出したこともあった。もし森文部大臣の発言が通っておれば今頃、
​ パパ ママ マイホーム
​ と、小学生が黄色い声を、張りあげていたかも知れない。しかし森発言は、エール大学のホ​イットニイ教授のアドバイスで中止された。一国の文化を、外国語で継承するとは、不見識も​甚だしい。それも東洋の文化を、東洋の文字でならともかく、東洋の文化を西洋の文字では、​話にもならないという次第である。

I wondered why their voices would be 'yellow', which doesn't seem to make much sense literally. I looked up 黄色い in 広辞苑 and found this definition:


That seems to explain the meaning of the phrase, although I'm still curious why 黄色い 'yellow' would be used to describe the high-pitched voices of women and children.

Is there an explanation for why 黄色い has this meaning? Is it some sort of figure of speech? Or is the reason behind the expression unknown?

  • 1
    You will find these interesting: detail.chiebukuro.yahoo.co.jp/qa/question_detail/q149534734 and homepage2.nifty.com/osiete/s661.htm .. I don't know how accurate what they're saying is, so I won't answer based on those. Commented Apr 24, 2016 at 14:33
  • That link looks like a pretty good answer for the question here. I agree it isn't 100% authoritative, but since this question has been opened for some time I think it may be the best we will get. Should we close this question or leave it open? Not sure what the procedure is.
    – Locksleyu
    Commented May 13, 2016 at 12:02
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    Found something interesting: Chimpanzees are reported to tend to pair high pitch with high luminance, just like humans dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1112605108
    – Yosh
    Commented Jun 24, 2016 at 10:54

1 Answer 1


As I grew up and lived with Japanese culture, I accepted the description "yellow voice" without question. So now I've looked up why the high voices of women or children are called yellow (黄色い声). If it was described as black voice, blue voice or brown voice I would be confused. Maybe red voice would be OK, but to me yellow voice is better. Anyway, I looked it up.

In ancient China, Buddhist chanting had melody. They described the tones of sounds with colours. The highest tone was yellow.

『「言葉のルーツ」おもしろ雑学(エンサイクロネット著)PHP文庫』の「黄色い声」の項目163頁 (Roots of Words, interesting knowledge by Encyclonet PHP inc. p.163) http://homepage2.nifty.com/osiete/s661.htm

Does this enlighten you on why their voices are yellow?

When the first women won seats in a parliament after WWII, Japanese newspapers wrote, ”With the yellow voice, the female parliament member ----" (黄色い声を張り上げて、女性議員は、。。。).

When I learned this, I was very proud as a woman. Now no one would say "A female member spoke with a yellow voice."

When I hear "A woman with a yellow voice", I imagine a woman who works hard. (頑張る女性。)

Some say that the yellow voices of children are cute.

However, others say that the colour yellow symbolizes unease and stress; therefore, a yellow voice is uneasy or stressed.

If you do not like women and children, I guess that you get stress from a yellow voice. How you feel about words depends on your experience with the words.

I could not find the English spelling for "エンサイクロネット", so I made something up from the sound.

「言葉のルーツ」おもしろ雑学 -> I could not find the proper English name; therefore, I translated it into English.

I read or heard on T.V. news about a woman with a yellow voice, though I do not remember exactly which news program and date. I think that Fusae Ichikawa was interviewed. I don't quite recall.

There are also many articles about yellow voices. Among those articles, I thought that this was the most suitable. じゃあね。

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