- The dark gray color seen by the eyes in perfect darkness as a result of signals from the optic nerves.
“Before my eyes adjusted to the dark, all I could see was eigengrau.”
“Henry awoke in the eigengrau of total darkness, so he quickly turned on his lamp.”
“The darkness of the sub-basement seemed eigengrau to my eyes.”
German, mid-20th century
Why this word?
“Eigengrau” is a German loanword used to describe the specific color of total darkness as perceived by human eyes. Rather than black, the color that human optic nerves discern in pure darkness is a dark gray, which is why eigengrau is sometimes called “brain gray.” Eigengrau is close to what might be called “charcoal gray,” but the word’s German roots specify that this is a gray created inside the viewer’s brain. In German, “eigengrau” translates to “own gray,” or “intrinsic gray,” suggesting the shade might shift, depending on the viewer’s perception.
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