‘Violet' vs 'Indigo' vs 'Purple': What's the Difference?

By Amy Gilmore, updated on May 16, 2023

The difference between 'violet' vs. 'indigo' vs. 'purple' is subtle, so many confuse them. Do not worry, though. In this guide, I will shed some light on the matter by giving you usage tips, definitions, and sample sentences.

If you need a quick answer, I have that too.

So, are you in a hurry?

If so, here it is:

  • 'Violet' is a noun name for a genus of a flower species characterized by its pail 'violet' flowers.
  • 'Indigo' is a noun name for the 'indigo' plant and a deep color resulting from the mixture of red and blue.
  • 'Purple' is a noun name of a color created by mixing blue and red. 

That is a summary, but there is much more to learn about these words. So, keep reading!

What is the Difference Between 'Violet' vs. 'Indigo' vs. 'Purple'

Determining the difference between 'violet' vs. 'indigo' vs. 'purple' can be challenging because different sources give different answers. Some would classify 'violet' and 'indigo' as 'purples.'

Others say any shade that falls between red and violet on the color wheel is 'purple.' You could describe 'purple' as the reddest of the colors, 'violet' as slightly bluer and lighter than the former, and 'indigo' as a somewhat bluer, more vibrant shade of 'violet.'

So, there is some discrepancy as to the exact color of each. Most people agree that all three are shades containing a combination of red and blue.

How Do You Know Which to Use 'Violet' vs. 'Indigo' vs. 'Purple?'

For writing and speaking:

  • Use 'violet' to describe a pale shade that is more blue than red.

For example, you could say:

                    'Those violet flowers are simple but beautiful.'

  • Use 'violet' to describe 'purple' shades when using U.K. AP-style.

For example, you might hear someone say:

                    'My favourite is the violet colour.' 

  • Use 'indigo' to describe a color more vibrant bluer shade of violet.

For example, you might hear someone say:

                     'Our official team color is a deep indigo.' 

  • Use 'indigo' and 'violet' in a description of the colors of the rainbow.

For example, you might hear a teacher say:

Students repeat after me, 'The colors of the rainbow are red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet.' 

  • Use 'purple' to reference a shade that is redder than 'violet' and 'indigo' but still a mix of red and blue.

For example, I might say something like:

                    'Barney was a purple dinosaur that hosted a kid's show in the 90s.' 

  • Use 'purple' to describe someone so mad they turn 'purple.'

For example, you might hear someone say:

                   'He was purple after hearing that his trusted employee shared trade secrets with competitors.'

  • Use 'purple' to describe overly glamorized or fanciful writing.

For example, you could say:

                   'His manuscript was rejected because it was 75 percent purple prose.' 

Definition of 'Violet': What Does 'Violet' Mean?

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, 'violet' means:

  • A genus of the plant species characterized by small violet flowers
  • Plants belonging to the genera family (gentian violet)
  • A 'reddish-blue hue with medium saturation and light

Terms or Phrases Associated with 'Violet'

  • African violet
  • Crystal violet
  • Violet flowers
  • Dogtooth violet
  • Bird's tooth violet
  • Violet aphid

Definition of 'Indigo': What Does 'Indigo' Mean?

The same dictionary defines 'indigo' as:

  • A deep reddish-blue hue
  • A dark blue-purple naturally derived dye
  • A reddish-blue shade with high saturation and light

Terms or Phrases Associated with 'Indigo'

  • Indigo moon

Definition of 'Purple': What Does 'Purple' Mean?

Interestingly, 'purple' has the most uses of these three terms. When comparing 'violet' vs. 'indigo' vs. 'purple,' the latter means:

  • A hue ranging between red and blue
  • A shade between violet and red on the color wheel.
  • A pigment with a color mixture of blue and red
  • To turn purple
  • To make something purple

It can also mean:

  • Fanciful writing
  • Literature containing profane language
  • A purple dye derived from a mollusk

Synonym of 'Purple'

  • Grandiose
  • Extravagant
  • Bloated
  • Inflated
  • Overinflated
  • Pretentious
  • Boastful
  • Braggadocio
  • Lofty
  • Stilted
  • Ornate
  • Unnecessary
  • Fluff

Terms or Phrases Associated with 'Purple'

  • Purple people eater
  • Purple Passion
  • Purple people
  • Purple stuff
  • Dark purple
  • Light Purple
  • Purple prose
  • Purple writing
  • Purple America
  • Purple rain
  • Purple Haze
  • The Color Purple

Pronunciation Guide: How to Pronounce 'Violet' vs. 'Indigo' vs. 'Purple'

Now that you know how to use these three, let's review pronunciation. Follow this guide to ensure you are pronouncing them correctly.

Pronunciation of Violet

  • Use this phonetic spelling to say 'violet':


Pronunciation of Indigo

  • You pronounce 'indigo' with this phonetic spelling:


Pronunciation of Purple

  • Pronounce 'purple' with the phonetic spelling below:


Example Sentence Using 'Violet' vs. 'Indigo' vs. 'Purple'

Finally, read the sample sentences below to ensure that you are comfortable using them in the future.


  • Violet is the lightest of the three colors.
  • The violet wildflowers are beautiful this time of year.
  • Violet is the last color of the rainbow.
  • The cat is out of the bag. 'Violet' is the color she chose for her bridesmaids.
  • I am going to bring her a violet balloon for her birthday.


  • Indigo is the darkest of the three shades.
  • Your sheets are an intoxicating indigo color.
  • Indigo is a rich color.
  • I love anything that is indigo because it makes me feel calm.
  • I have always wanted to get an indigo-colored car.


  • Purple is a popular color in movie titles and songs.
  • I am purple over this. I swear, you are the bane of my existence.
  • Purple has historically represented royalty.
  • You might be the only person in our group who doesn't like purple.
  • To make purple, you mix red and blue.
  • The actress must have been off her rocker. That monologue was purple and totally inappropriate for children.

A Final Word of Advice About 'Violet' vs. 'Indigo' vs. 'Purple'

The next time you need to know the difference between 'violet' vs. 'indigo' vs. 'purple,' remember:

  • 'Violet' is the final color in the rainbow.
  • 'Indigo' is the darkest color in the rainbow.
  • 'Purple' is a hue between 'violet' and 'red' on the color wheel.

If you need to brush up on this lesson in the future, come back for a quick review. You can also check out the other guides in the confusing words section here to learn the differences in word combinations similar to this one.

Each guide contains definitions, examples, and grammar rules so you can apply the information to other terms and phrases.

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Written By:
Amy Gilmore
Amy Gilmore is one of the lead freelance writers for WritingTips.org. She has been a professional writer and editor for the past eight years. She developed a love of language arts and literature in school and decided to become a professional freelance writer after a demanding career in real estate. Amy is constantly learning to become a better writer and loves sharing tips with other writers who want to do the same.

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