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The direct opposite of lightness, darkness denotes the lack of light and illumination. Whenever there is an absence of white light or a surface that absorbs light, human vision loses its capacity to distinguish colors. This inability to distinguish colors is because of the hue-sensitive photoreceptor cells present on the human eye’s retina. If these cells are inactive or light levels are insufficient. One cannot see the things in front owing to darkness in one’s surroundings.

Darkness as a symbol has been used as an emotional response in many cultures. The metaphorical usages of the term are used most often to symbolize an unhappy or foreboding feeling. Darkness usually occurs when the sun is >18 degrees below the horizon. Referring to a time of night, darkness is typically referred to in the context of twilight or the night sky.



The perception of darkness in one’s mind is very different from the usual absence of light, which is referred to as darkness. The presence of after images complement the perception of darkness. An unstimulated part of the retina produces these afterimages, mainly when the eye is active during this perception.


According to the studies in Physics, darkness is a phenomenon that occurs when an object absorbs photons. This particular phenomenon causes it to appear dim in comparison with other entities. For instance, while matte black paint cannot reflect much light and hence is known to appear dark, white color, on the other hand, reflects light and appears bright. Notably, it is crucial to understand that an object may seem dim, but in reality, it may be bright at a varied frequency that humans cannot yet perceive.

A specific dark area is characterized by limited light sources, making it easy to see particular objects. Several evolutionary adaptations have taken place in the past centuries because of an alternating exposure to light and darkness (night and day). For example, when a human/ vertebrate is exposed to a dark area, its pupils dilate. This allows more light to enter the eyes of the observer, which in turn, improves one’s night vision. Additionally, while adapting to darkness, the light-detecting cells in the human eye (rods and cones) are meant to regenerate higher amounts of unbleached rhodopsin.

There is only one measure of darkness yet, referred to as the Bortle Dark-Sky Scale. This scale measures the night sky’s and stars' brightness at a specific location. The observability of celestial objects at that location also affects this scale and its results.

One of the darkest materials ever is known as Vantablack. Vantablack can absorb up to 99.965% of visible light at 663 nm if the light is kept perpendicular to the material. This material has been produced and developed by Surrey NanoSystems in the United Kingdom. The name of this compound is actually an acronym. This word stands for vertically aligned nanotube arrays in VANTA.


A computer’s point, available on a standard 24-bit computer display, is said to comprise three RGB (red, green, blue). The values for these range from 0 to 255. When these red, green, and blue components of a pixel are completely illuminated or brightened (255,255,255), they appear white, whereas when these components are unilluminated (0,0,0), the pixel appears black.



Darkness is used to enunciate and contrast the presence of light by various artists. It can be used to act in differentiation with areas of lightness to create leading lines and voids. It has been observed that these shapes draw the eye around areas of the painting, which is an essential artistic technique utilized to perform visionary illusions.

A painting is granted its perspective through the use of shadows that add depth to them. Notably, a range of colored paints is mixed together to create darkness. This is done because each of these colors absorbs only specific frequencies of light and not the whole. While theory proves that mixing the three primary colors, or even the three secondary colors, will absorb all visible light and create black, in practice, this mixture is known to yield a shade closer to brown.


In the poetic terms of its existence, darkness symbolizes the presence of shadows, evil, and foreboding. In western realizations, darkness denotes a grim, heavy, and depressing story.


The first narrative that talked about creation in both Judaism and Christianity began with darkness as a symbol. Only after this mention of darkness were people introduced to the creation of light in the universe.

The separation of the light from darkness (as distinct from the creation of the sun and moon on the fourth day of creation) was also a crucial symbol mentioned here. Darkness was personified in the representation of Erebus, who was a primordial deity in Greek mythology.


Yin, the complementary feminine part of Taijitu, is represented by the dark lobe. In Chinese philosophy, Yin is the receptive part used to symbolize passive or negative principles in nature.


Darkness has been used as a rhetorical device from time immemorial. This long-standing tradition started with Shakespeare and his work in the 16th and 17th centuries. Shakespeare created a character known as the “prince of darkness” (King Lear: III, IV). Besides this, Chaucer is another writer of 14th-century Middle English who wrote The Canterbury Tales and curated a part of the narrative that said knights must cast away the “workes of darkness.” Another writer, Dante, in his The Divine Comedy, elaborated on hell as “solid darkness stain’d.”


Three words in Old English can denote darkness: heolstor, genip, and sceadu. Heolstor denotes a “hiding-place” and has now transformed itself into becoming the word holster. Genip means “mist” and is still used in the Dutch saying “in het geniep” which means keeping a secret. Sceadu symbolizes “shadow” and has remained in use ever since. The word dark has eventually evolved from the word deorc.

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