What Does the Color Gray Mean in a Dream?

Dreamlike image of a sailboat floating in gray clouds

You might not think of the color gray as being very exciting. As colors go, it falls more on the staid side. But if you find yourself dreaming of gray, it’s worth looking into the color’s symbolic significance.

Despite its somewhat unremarkable character, gray is a color with many different meanings across cultures. Here’s a guide to understanding this color and what it means in your dreams.

The Symbolic Meaning of Gray

Abstract, desert-like dreamworld with mountains and floating gray spheres

What does gray stand for? That all depends on who you ask and where in the world you are. Here are some of the diverse associations many people have with the color gray.

Repentance and Mourning

In Christianity, gray is the color of ashes, and ashes are a symbol of both death and repentance. That’s because ashes are similar to dust — a substance to which our bodies will return.

Christians wear ashes at the beginning of Lent and on some special days of fasting and prayer. Some orders of monks also wear gray as a nod to ashes and as a sign of humility.

Neutrality or Indecision

Some people view white as the color of good and black as the color of evil. Gray is a blend between the two, so it can sometimes symbolize neutrality. On a related note, it can also be a symbol of uncertainty or indecision. This association is reflected in everyday language — a “gray area” is a poorly-defined situation where it’s difficult to see if moral or legal rules apply.

Wisdom and Old Age

In many cultures across the world, gray is also associated with wisdom. That’s because of the crown of gray hair that many elderly people get. Notably, this is the major meaning of gray seen in the Bible. Proverbs 16:31 states that “the hoary head is a crown of glory if it is found in the way of righteousness.” Hoary is another term for gray.

Even if gray appears outside of this context, it still may symbolize wisdom in a dream. You just need to look for other context clues, too.

Gloomy Weather

An image of dark gray clouds on a gloomy day

This is a pretty logical association — often, when it’s rainy or overcast, the whole sky appears gray. Many of us associate gloomy weather with sadness or feeling generally down, so that’s something else to keep in mind if you dream of gray, gloomy weather, or both.

Goblins, Elves, and Similar Creatures

Notably, in folklore (and especially Scandinavian folklore), the color gray is associated with several mythical creatures. Scandinavian folklore often describes gnomes and similar creatures as wearing gray clothing.

This is for a couple of reasons: the creatures normally come out at dusk, and they are considered to be in a moral “gray area” that sits outside traditional black-and-white standards.

Modesty and Humility

Gray’s demure character makes it an ideal symbol of both humility and modesty. That’s part of why some holy orders choose gray robes or habits. This association of gray with modesty is most common in Europe and America.


The color gray can also be associated with depression. A study in 2010 found that when asked to choose a color representing depression, most people pointed to gray. Part of that may be because some research indicates that people with depression tend to have reduced retinal sensitivity to light, making everything they see appear duller in color.


This might sound like an unusual meaning to attach to gray. However, in some cultures in Africa, gray is strongly associated with protection. It’s considered to be the color of spirits, some of whom protect the living. As a result, the color is sometimes used in holy rituals.

Interpreting Gray in Your Dreams

A surreal image of a headless person in a gray turtleneck holding a white balloon

Before you jump into interpreting your dreams, it’s a good idea to have a basic understanding of some of a color’s common meanings. However, because each person’s dreams are unique, your personal experiences have a major impact on what your dream means. Here are some tips for getting to the bottom of what gray might mean in your dream.

Consider Your Cultural Background

As you saw above, gray can mean many different things across different cultures. That said, the meaning of gray in your dreams is more likely to be linked to your own culture’s interpretations. For example, if you aren’t from Africa or Scandinavia, the gray in your dreams is unlikely to represent legendary creatures or holy rituals.

Consider Your Own Associations With Gray

Your own opinions of gray or experiences with the color can also shape its meaning in your dream. For instance, let’s say you’re growing tired of your job, and the office you commute to every day has gray walls. If you have a dream where the sky above you is gray, it might symbolize your sense that your job is putting a damper on your life.

Write Down Your Associations With Different Dream Elements

An abstract image of a horse on cracked, dry desert ground

Considering your associations with the color gray is obviously important, but so is looking at your associations with different dream symbols. For example, let’s say you saw a horse in your dream. As you consider your associations with horses, you might write down that you rode horses as a child and still aspire to have a horse of your own one day. Given that information, the horse in your dream could symbolize a longing for childhood, hope for the future, or both.

Take the Time to Understand Your Dreams

This tip takes more time than just reflecting on a single dream. But if you’re serious about finding out what your dreams are telling you, regularly analyzing them is a must.

When you do this, you have the opportunity to discover what some dream experts call your “dream language.” You might find that seeing wide open spaces in your dream often coincides with a feeling of hope and that dreaming of the color red is usually some kind of warning. If you often dream about the color gray, you may find that its symbolic meaning stays the same over time.

Keep a Dream Journal

If you do choose to take the time to understand your dreams, writing them down is the best way to do so. Most people forget most of their dreams, so writing down everything you remember right when you wake up offers you the best chance of remembering them.

When you do write down your dreams, make sure you write out the general story arc of each one. It’s also wise to write down any potentially meaningful colors, symbols, etc. Keep in mind that in dreams, even very small details can carry a lot of symbolic meaning, so it’s wise to write down everything you can.

Interpreting an Example Dream

Image of dark gray birds flying at young woman's head

Dream interpretation is an art form, and like other forms of art, it can take some time and practice to perfect. Before you go off to analyze your own gray dreams, let’s take a look at a practice dream.

You’re standing outside on a pleasant day, enjoying the sunlight. Suddenly, you see something gray out of the corner of your eye. Then something else hits you in the back of the head!

It takes you a moment to realize that the gray things are birds. They’re about the size of crows, but instead of being black, they’re a rich shade of charcoal gray. More and more of them arrive, each one swooping down to bump, claw, or bite you. You swat at them, but they’re completely undeterred. You feel them starting to draw blood, and then you wake up.

This dream might seem a bit reminiscent of Hitchcock’s The Birds, so if you’ve recently seen the movie, it may just be your subconscious still thinking about it.

But if you haven’t been thinking about The Birds lately, the dream likely has some symbolic significance. Birds turning on you and attacking you is a situation that may have many possible meanings. But since birds are part of nature, your dream might be suggesting a feeling that something in the natural world (or even in your own nature) has betrayed you.

The fact that the birds are gray should not be overlooked, either. Let’s say you’ve been battling a diagnosis of depression lately, and you’ve felt like your mental health has been declining these past few weeks.

Given the circumstance, the birds might represent your own diagnosis. After all, depressive episodes can come out of nowhere when you’re otherwise feeling fine (just as the birds in your dream appear out of nowhere on a beautiful day). You might also feel powerless to completely defeat your depression — after all, you swat at the birds and they keep coming, even drawing blood at one point.

Getting to the Bottom of Your Gray Dreams

An abstract image of grayscale boxes surrounding a sphere

You might think the color gray is boring, but dreams of gray certainly aren’t! This common neutral has a surprising number of different meanings, and finding out which ones appear in your dreams can be an exciting challenge. As you gain a better understanding of your dreams, you’ll find that you develop a better understanding of yourself, too.

Learn more about dreaming in color and discover what different colors mean in dreams.