Color Idioms and Phrases in English

 

Thanks to Stumbleupon, I discovered another great website which includes all the idioms and phrases related to different colors. This piece of information is created by Alan S. Kennedy and he listed all the idioms and phrases, language by language and color by color. You can find tens of languages on the web site but I paste here only the English ones because it is our common point. Since it is a project, I kind of tend to trust it more compared to bilingual online dictionaries :) Maybe I am wrong, I do not know. You can also consult this website when you have a doubt while translating a phrase including colors. I am sure, you will find many idioms/phrases that surprise you. I learned many interesting stuff from this website. I hope you also like it and contribute with your comments. 

white noise

static noise

white as a sheet

scared, sick, surprised

white as a ghost

scared

white-collar

related to “desk jobs”

a white flag

surrender

to whitewash something

to mask the negative parts

white wine

wine from green or yellow grapes

a white Christmas

snow on Christmas day

a white wedding

a traditional western-style wedding where the bride wears a white gown

a white person

a person of Caucasian race

white-hot

extremely hot OR popular

a white paper

an authoritative report on a issue

a white elephant

a useless knick-knack OR an expensive, useless thing

white as the driven snow

innocent (often used sarcastically about corruption)

white with rage

extremely enraged

to bleed someone white

to take everything someone has, esp. money

showing the white feather

acting cowardly

a white-knuckle ride

a dangerous, nerve-wracking, scary ride

that’s mighty white of you (old-fashioned)

that’s good of you

lily-white

unmistakably Caucasian OR blameless, goodly

white horses (surfing)

patches of white foam made by breaking waves

white trash (American)

(offensive) uneducated, socio-economically disadvantaged Caucasian people

whiter than white (British)

righteous, innocent

a white pointer (Australian)

a topless female sunbather

to blackmail someone

to threaten to reveal secrets unless payment is made

black magic / the black arts

magic used for malevolent purposes

the pot calling the kettle black

someone criticizing someone else for a quality they themselves possess

the black market

illegal/underground sales and purchases

little black book

book of contacts, esp. past or potential dates

a black sheep

the outcast or disgrace in a group

black tie

formal clothing e.g. a tuxedo

black humor

jokes about death or illness

a black day

a day when something bad happens

to be in black and white

to be written down officially

to be black and white (a situation)

to be clear

in the black

profitable

a black mood

a bad, grumpy mood

a black eye

a bruised eye

to blacklist someone

to prevent someone from being hired

to blackball someone

to shut someone out from group participation

black and blue

bruised

a black look

an angry/disapproving facial expression

as black as night

very dark black

pitch black

very dark black

a black person

a person of African heritage

black ops

extralegal covert activity, done in the dark (military/politics)

black-hearted

cruel, evil, mean

a black mark

an indication of wrongdoing

to blacken someon’es name

to suggest/indicate a person’s wrongdoing

the Black Death

The Bubonic Plague

Black Friday (U.S.)

The day after American Thanksgiving when many stores have sales

the black dog (Irish)

a bad mood

beyond the black stump (Australian)

the back of nowhere, far from anything

in the red

unproftable OR negative financial balance, owing money

a redhead

a person with orange-colored hair

red light district

area with prostitutes

to see red

to be furious

red with rage

furious

to turn/go red

become embarassed

a red herring

a false clue

to paint the town red

to dine, dance, experience fun in a town or city

a red flag

a signal that something is wrong

roll out the red carpet

give a big welcome

red tape

unnecessary/excessive bureaucracy

not one red cent

no money at all

a red letter day

a special day

a scarlet woman

a sinful woman

scarlet fever

an infection with group A streptococcus bacteria.

red-hot

very hot OR very popular

red card

(soccer) to give someone their final warning

red alert

a serious warning of danger

a red-blooded male

a virile, manly male person

like a red rag/flag to a bull

provoking/aggravating anger

red (adjective)

communist

bleed red ink (British)

debt

red in tooth and claw (British)

the wild, violent aspect of the natural world

redshirting (U.S.)

delaying an athlete’s participation in sports order to lengthen his/her period of eligibility

a red state (U.S.)

a state whose residents are politically more Republican

a redneck (U.S.)

an uneducated, rural white American

a red-bone (U.S.)

a light-skinned black woman

the red eye (U.S.)

the overnight flight between west and east coast

green with envy

very envious

the green-eyed monster

jealousy

to give the green light

to give approval to proceed

to be green (in a position)

to be inexperienced, a rookie

to be green (policy)

to be environmentally aware

the green room

room in a theater or studio where guests/performers wait to go on

to turn green

to be naseous

green around the gills

sick-looking

a greenbelt

an area of nature around a city

greens

vegetables

a green

a golf course

a greengrocer

a person/store that sells vegetables & fruit

the grass is always greener on the other side

other people’s possessions/situations always seem better than your own

to greenwash something

to deceptively make practices/policies seem more environmentally friendly

little green men

stereotypical/humorous description of space aliens

as sure as God made little green apples

very certain

colorless green ideas sleep furiously

(Linguistics) Noam Chomsky’s oft-quoted example of a sentence with good grammar but no meaning

to have green fingers (British)

to be good with plants/gardens

to have a green thumb (U.S.)

to be good with plants/gardens

a greenie (Australian)

an environmentally aware person

a green card (U.S.)

legal residency staus

a greenhorn (U.S.)

an inexperienced or young person

greenbacks (U.S.)

dollars

yellow

cowardly

a yellow streak

cowardice

yellow-bellied

cowardly

yellow journalism

disreputable, sensationalistic journalism

a yellow card

(soccer) to give someone a first warning

the yellow peril

(offensive, archaic) the fear that Asian people will outnumber/displace Caucasian people

a yellow dog Democrat (U.S.)

a voter who always votes Democrat in every election

out of the blue

suddenly, unexpectedly

a bolt from the blue

a sudden/unexpected thing

to be blue

to be sad

a blue funk

a feeling of melancholy

the blues

sadness OR a 3 chord style of music

once in a blue moon

infrequently

blue-collar

related to manual labor or the working class

a blue blood

an aristocratic person

to talk a blue streak

to talk a lot

to turn blue

to have difficulty breathing

blue with cold

feeling very cold

until you’re blue in the face

having lost your patience

blue chip stock

stock of an established/finanically sound company

working blue

performing using foul language

a blue movie

a pornographic film

a blueprint (for something)

a design, a guide

true blue

faithful

blue on blue

in military: friendly fire

into the wide/wild blue yonder

to an unknown/faraway place

blue balls (lewd)

male sexual frustration due to unfulfilled sexual urges

to turn the air blue

to swear a lot

between the devil and the deep blue sea

a dilemma

the boys in blue

the police

the thin blue line

the police

a blue state (U.S.)

a state whose residents are politically more Democrat

a blue (British)

a Tory

to scream blue muder (British)

to express yourself angrily

a blue-eyed boy (British)

a male who can do no wrong, who is favored by authority

having a blue (Australian)

having a fight

make a blue (Australian)

make a mistake

a brown-noser

a sycophant

in a brown study

being contemplative; daydreaming

browned off (British)

annoyed

purple prose

flowery, romantic writing

born in the purple

born into a high ranking/aristocratic family

the Purple Heart (U.S.)

a U.S. military honor badge

a purple patch (British)

a period of exceptionally high achievement

agent orange

a defoliant used in herbicidal warfare

Orangemen (Irish)

Protestant fraternal organization

in the pink of health

very healthy

tickled pink

very pleased

a pinko

a communist

to see the world through rose-colored glasses

to see the world through an optimistic filter

rosy

positive, optimistic,

to get a pink slip

to be fired

the pink pound (British)

consumer spending by gay people

grey area

unclear

grey matter

the brain

to give someone grey hairs

to try someone’s patience

gray market

sale of products via nonstandard distribution channels or at an unofficial price

grey nomads (Australian)

retirees who travel around the country

the silver screen

the movies

a golden boy

a well-regarded, successful man

a golden handshake

monetary incentive to join a company

a golden parachute

money given to an executive leaving a company

golden ears

great listening ability to discern quality or commerciality

a golden shower (lewd)

urinating on a sexual partner

a golden mean

the desirable middle (between extremes of excess and deficiency)

off-color

inappropriate, crude

to show your true colors

to reveal your true self or feelings

a colorless person

a boring person

colorful (e.g. tale, history, life)

event-filled and interesting

colorful language

vivid or expletive-filled language

to pass with flying colors

to do very well

local color

having typical characteristics of the local area

color commentary

facts & comments about athletes during a broadcast

a horse of a different color

a completely different thing/idea

a country’s colors

the colors of a national flag

For other languages and for the rest of the list, click here.

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white noise

static noise

white as a sheet

scared, sick, surprised

white as a ghost

scared

white-collar

related to “desk jobs”

a white flag

surrender

to whitewash something

to mask the negative parts

white wine

wine from green or yellow grapes

a white Christmas

snow on Christmas day

a white wedding

a traditional western-style wedding where the bride wears a white gown

a white person

a person of Caucasian race

white-hot

extremely hot OR popular

a white paper

an authoritative report on a issue

a white elephant

a useless knick-knack OR an expensive, useless thing

white as the driven snow

innocent (often used sarcastically about corruption)

white with rage

extremely enraged

to bleed someone white

to take everything someone has, esp. money

showing the white feather

acting cowardly

a white-knuckle ride

a dangerous, nerve-wracking, scary ride

that’s mighty white of you (old-fashioned)

that’s good of you

lily-white

unmistakably Caucasian OR blameless, goodly

white horses (surfing)

patches of white foam made by breaking waves

white trash (American)

(offensive) uneducated, socio-economically disadvantaged Caucasian people

whiter than white (British)

righteous, innocent

a white pointer (Australian)

a topless female sunbather

to blackmail someone

to threaten to reveal secrets unless payment is made

black magic / the black arts

magic used for malevolent purposes

the pot calling the kettle black

someone criticizing someone else for a quality they themselves possess

the black market

illegal/underground sales and purchases

little black book

book of contacts, esp. past or potential dates

a black sheep

the outcast or disgrace in a group

black tie

formal clothing e.g. a tuxedo

black humor

jokes about death or illness

a black day

a day when something bad happens

to be in black and white

to be written down officially

to be black and white (a situation)

to be clear

in the black

profitable

a black mood

a bad, grumpy mood

a black eye

a bruised eye

to blacklist someone

to prevent someone from being hired

to blackball someone

to shut someone out from group participation

black and blue

bruised

a black look

an angry/disapproving facial expression

as black as night

very dark black

pitch black

very dark black

a black person

a person of African heritage

black ops

extralegal covert activity, done in the dark (military/politics)

black-hearted

cruel, evil, mean

a black mark

an indication of wrongdoing

to blacken someon’es name

to suggest/indicate a person’s wrongdoing

the Black Death

The Bubonic Plague

Black Friday (U.S.)

The day after American Thanksgiving when many stores have sales

the black dog (Irish)

a bad mood

beyond the black stump (Australian)

the back of nowhere, far from anything

in the red

unproftable OR negative financial balance, owing money

a redhead

a person with orange-colored hair

red light district

area with prostitutes

to see red

to be furious

red with rage

furious

to turn/go red

become embarassed

a red herring

a false clue

to paint the town red

to dine, dance, experience fun in a town or city

a red flag

a signal that something is wrong

roll out the red carpet

give a big welcome

red tape

unnecessary/excessive bureaucracy

not one red cent

no money at all

a red letter day

a special day

a scarlet woman

a sinful woman

scarlet fever

an infection with group A streptococcus bacteria.

red-hot

very hot OR very popular

red card

(soccer) to give someone their final warning

red alert

a serious warning of danger

a red-blooded male

a virile, manly male person

like a red rag/flag to a bull

provoking/aggravating anger

red (adjective)

communist

bleed red ink (British)

debt

red in tooth and claw (British)

the wild, violent aspect of the natural world

redshirting (U.S.)

delaying an athlete’s participation in sports order to lengthen his/her period of eligibility

a red state (U.S.)

a state whose residents are politically more Republican

a redneck (U.S.)

an uneducated, rural white American

a red-bone (U.S.)

a light-skinned black woman

the red eye (U.S.)

the overnight flight between west and east coast

green with envy

very envious

the green-eyed monster

jealousy

to give the green light

to give approval to proceed

to be green (in a position)

to be inexperienced, a rookie

to be green (policy)

to be environmentally aware

the green room

room in a theater or studio where guests/performers wait to go on

to turn green

to be naseous

green around the gills

sick-looking

a greenbelt

an area of nature around a city

greens

vegetables

a green

a golf course

a greengrocer

a person/store that sells vegetables & fruit

the grass is always greener on the other side

other people’s possessions/situations always seem better than your own

to greenwash something

to deceptively make practices/policies seem more environmentally friendly

little green men

stereotypical/humorous description of space aliens

as sure as God made little green apples

very certain

colorless green ideas sleep furiously

(Linguistics) Noam Chomsky’s oft-quoted example of a sentence with good grammar but no meaning

to have green fingers (British)

to be good with plants/gardens

to have a green thumb (U.S.)

to be good with plants/gardens

a greenie (Australian)

an environmentally aware person

a green card (U.S.)

legal residency staus

a greenhorn (U.S.)

an inexperienced or young person

greenbacks (U.S.)

dollars

yellow

cowardly

a yellow streak

cowardice

yellow-bellied

cowardly

yellow journalism

disreputable, sensationalistic journalism

a yellow card

(soccer) to give someone a first warning

the yellow peril

(offensive, archaic) the fear that Asian people will outnumber/displace Caucasian people

a yellow dog Democrat (U.S.)

a voter who always votes Democrat in every election

out of the blue

suddenly, unexpectedly

a bolt from the blue

a sudden/unexpected thing

to be blue

to be sad

a blue funk

a feeling of melancholy

the blues

sadness OR a 3 chord style of music

once in a blue moon

infrequently

blue-collar

related to manual labor or the working class

a blue blood

an aristocratic person

to talk a blue streak

to talk a lot

to turn blue

to have difficulty breathing

blue with cold

feeling very cold

until you’re blue in the face

having lost your patience

blue chip stock

stock of an established/finanically sound company

working blue

performing using foul language

a blue movie

a pornographic film

a blueprint (for something)

a design, a guide

true blue

faithful

blue on blue

in military: friendly fire

into the wide/wild blue yonder

to an unknown/faraway place

blue balls (lewd)

male sexual frustration due to unfulfilled sexual urges

to turn the air blue

to swear a lot

between the devil and the deep blue sea

a dilemma

the boys in blue

the police

the thin blue line

the police

a blue state (U.S.)

a state whose residents are politically more Democrat

a blue (British)

a Tory

to scream blue muder (British)

to express yourself angrily

a blue-eyed boy (British)

a male who can do no wrong, who is favored by authority

having a blue (Australian)

having a fight

make a blue (Australian)

make a mistake

a brown-noser

a sycophant

in a brown study

being contemplative; daydreaming

browned off (British)

annoyed

purple prose

flowery, romantic writing

born in the purple

born into a high ranking/aristocratic family

the Purple Heart (U.S.)

a U.S. military honor badge

a purple patch (British)

a period of exceptionally high achievement

agent orange

a defoliant used in herbicidal warfare

Orangemen (Irish)

Protestant fraternal organization

in the pink of health

very healthy

tickled pink

very pleased

a pinko

a communist

to see the world through rose-colored glasses

to see the world through an optimistic filter

rosy

positive, optimistic,

to get a pink slip

to be fired

the pink pound (British)

consumer spending by gay people

grey area

unclear

grey matter

the brain

to give someone grey hairs

to try someone’s patience

gray market

sale of products via nonstandard distribution channels or at an unofficial price

grey nomads (Australian)

retirees who travel around the country

the silver screen

the movies

a golden boy

a well-regarded, successful man

a golden handshake

monetary incentive to join a company

a golden parachute

money given to an executive leaving a company

golden ears

great listening ability to discern quality or commerciality

a golden shower (lewd)

urinating on a sexual partner

a golden mean

the desirable middle (between extremes of excess and deficiency)

off-color

inappropriate, crude

to show your true colors

to reveal your true self or feelings

a colorless person

a boring person

colorful (e.g. tale, history, life)

event-filled and interesting

colorful language

vivid or expletive-filled language

to pass with flying colors

to do very well

local color

having typical characteristics of the local area

color commentary

facts & comments about athletes during a broadcast

a horse of a different color

a completely different thing/idea

a country’s colors

the colors of a national flag

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20 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Virginia on March 7, 2012 at 14:02

    Hello! I have a couple more to contribute with:

    Red-Handed: Guilty
    Red-tape: Bureaucracy, paperwork

    Reply

  2. Posted by Robert Tan on March 9, 2012 at 17:11

    Thanks for the work. For convenience, they should be arranged in alphabetical order .

    Reply

  3. Posted by Lisa K. on March 9, 2012 at 19:56

    curious yellow = extremely curious

    Reply

  4. Posted by Karima Te'ema on March 9, 2012 at 22:55

    Great work, thank you very much, it shows great effort which will be very useful for every translator. Again, thank you very much.

    Reply

  5. Posted by sami on March 14, 2012 at 05:56

    This is fantastic, it is a great job which will help and enrich translators in their efforts towards meaning and equivalence. Thanks and God bless you!

    Reply

  6. Posted by Christine on March 17, 2012 at 09:12

    These are excellent, especially for teachers of Englısh as a Foreign Language (EFL/ESOL).

    Reply

  7. This is valuable; can’t find it in dictionaries/thesaurus pages.

    Reply

  8. Posted by David Fieldman on March 22, 2012 at 09:15

    Muge, Thank you very much for this. Although many of us use these idioms on a regular basis, this is the first time I have such them in such a colorful collection.

    Reply

  9. Oh, God, thanks a lot for such amount of information :D!

    Reply

  10. Since this is not your original work, you should list a link to Alan S. Kennedy’s website http://www.starchamber.com/colors/color-idioms.html in your attribution to the original author.

    Reply

    • Hello,
      In the introduction, I gave the necessary references to him. Since I discovered this piece of information on Stumbleupon.com, you do not have the direct access to the links of the websites.

      Thanks for your interest!

      Reply

  11. Thanks for sharing your info. I really appreciate your efforts
    and I am waiting for your next write ups thanks once again.

    Reply

  12. Posted by Yetiman on April 16, 2013 at 01:15

    Lead Foot = Heavy on the Gas
    Copper Top = Redhead
    Blue Collar = Labor Job
    Silver Spoon = Rich Kid/Person

    Reply

  13. Posted by J. Julian on April 22, 2013 at 16:16

    For the phrase (as listed), “…that’s mighty white of you…”, it would be a very good idea to denote that this is considered to be a racist phrase. As such, it should not be used in ordinary language/conversation. With some research, you might also easily attribute this saying to the vernacular of southern U.S. states.

    Reply

  14. Great post. I was checking continuously this blog and
    I’m impressed! Extremely useful info specially the last part :) I care for such info much. I was looking for this certain information for a long time. Thank you and good luck.

    Reply

  15. I don’t know if it’s just me or if everyone else experiencing problems with your blog.
    It appears as though some of the written text in your
    posts are running off the screen. Can someone else please comment
    and let me know if this is happening to them too? This might be a issue with my browser because I’ve had this happen before. Many thanks

    Reply

  16. Greetings from Idaho! I’m bored at work so I decided to browse your site on my iphone during lunch break. I enjoy the information you provide here and can’t wait to take
    a look when I get home. I’m surprised at how quick your blog loaded on my cell phone .. I’m not even using WIFI, just 3G .
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    Reply

  17. I was looking for the meaning of this Idioms purple prose and thank God I have got it here that is flowery, romantic writing. This page helped me and sorted out my problem. So thanks for this.

    Reply

  18. Posted by Ry on December 11, 2013 at 18:12

    who can tell me why English has many idioms of colors?

    Reply

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