"that SCARLET LETTER, So fantastically embroidered and illuminated upon her bosom"
Scarlet woman
Creative Commons AttributionScarlet woman - Credit: Chiaralily

The significance of the color scarlet goes back to the Bible. In Revelation (17:1-5), the Whore of Babylon — “the mother of harlots and abominations of the earth” — is dressed in robes of scarlet and purple and sits on the back of a seven-headed scarlet beast. It is from here that the expression “scarlet woman” derives, a term formerly used to describe adulteresses as well as prostitutes.