List of Colour Idioms in English

By Janet Long,2014-10-26 18:33
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List of Colour Idioms in English


    black and white, black out, black sheep, in the black


    appear/happen out of the blue, blue pencil something, blue-eyed boy, bolt from the blue, look / feel blue, blue in the face, once in a blue moon, men/boys in blue


    be browned off


    be colourless, be off colour, give/lend colour to, highly coloured report, in his true colours, in one’s true colours, with flying colours, paint in bright/dark colours


    be green, green with envy, give someone the green, get the green light, grass is always greener on the other side, green belt, light green thumb


    golden opportunity, golden handshake, golden boy


    tickled pink


    be shown the red card, be in the red, catch someone red-handed, look through rose-coloured/tinted spectacles, see red, red tape, see the red light, paint the town red light, roll out the red carpet, redneck Silver

    silver screen


    as white as a sheet, white elephant, white as a ghost, white lie, white-collar worker


    yellow-bellied, yellow streak


    black and white

    MEANING: think of everything or judge everything as either good or bad


    ” He tries to see everything in black and white although he knows

    this is impossible.”

    black out

    MEANING: 1. to darken by putting out or dimming electric lights 2. to lose consciousness


    1. During the war people in the cities were forced to black out their windows so that the enemy aircraft could not see them. 2. Suddenly the man blacked out during the parade and had to be helped to a quiet place.

    black sheep (of the family)

    MEANING: a person who is a disgrace or embarrassment to a family or group


    The man is the black sheep in his family and is the only member who has not had a successful career and life.

    in the black

MEANING: successful or profitable


    The company has been in the black since they began to adopt many new ideas to cut costs.


    to appear/happen out of the blue


    1. to arrive unexpectedly, usually after a long absence. 2. to happen very suddenly and unexpectedly


    1. “My brother suddenly appeared out of the blue yesterday. We hadn’t seen him for years.”

    2. “I was driving home when out of the blue a deer jumped out in

    front of my car. I braked just in time to avoid it. We were both very

    lucky not to be hurt.”

    to blue pencil something

MEANING: to censor something.


    ”Reports on the mistreatment of the political prisoners were blue pencilled by the authorities”

    a blue-eyed boy

MEANING: critical description of a boy/young man who has been singled

    out for special favours by someone in authority. EXAMPLE:

    ”John is a real blue-eyed boy. The team manager always gives him special treatment. It isn’t fair to the rest of us.”

    a bolt from the blue

MEANING: some unexpected bad news.


    “It came like a bolt from the blue that they are getting divorced.”

to look / feel blue

MEANING: to look / feel depressed or discontented.


    “Things are looking blue for Tom these days. His wife has left him.”

    blue in the face

MEANING: to make a huge but vain effort to win a person’s agreement.


    “I told him he was making a mistake until I was blue in the face but he wouldn’t listen.”

    once in a blue moon

    MEANING: to occur extremely rarely or only once in a life-time. EXAMPLE:

    ”My brother only rings home once in a blue moon. I wish he would ring our parents more often”

    men/boys in blue

    MEANING: the police because of the colour of their uniforms. EXAMPLE:

    “Let’s get out of here! The boys in blue are coming.”


    to be browned off

MEANING: to be bored, annoyed at something


I’m browned off with this place. There is nothing to do here.


    to be colourless

MEANING: to lack personality, to be boring.


    “Nothing he said stands out in my memory. I’m afraid he’s a dull, colourless man.’

    to be off colour

    MEANING: to be not quite at one’s best, to feel queasy or slightly ill.


    “She’s a little off colour today because she was up very late last

    night and had too much to drink!.”

    to give/lend colour to

    MEANING: to make (an account, story, explanation, etc.) more credible or more believable.


    ” The broken window on the ground floor lent colour to her story that

    her house had been burgled”

    a highly coloured report

    MEANING: a report that is exaggerated or biased.


    “I read the government’s highly coloured report on the great state of the health services.”

to see someone in his true colours

    MEANING: to understand someone’s true character, often for the first time.


    ”’As soon as he made a fuss about returning her money, I saw him in his true colours.”

    to show oneself in one’s true colours

MEANING: to reveal one’s true nature.


    “‘When he lost his temper at the party, he showed himself in his true colours”

    with flying colours

MEANING: with great success, with distinction.


    “We were all expecting him to fail, but he passed with flying colours.”

    to paint in bright/dark colours

    MEANING: to describe something in a flattering or unflattering way. EXAMPLE:

    “My brother pretended he was doing well financially and painted his life there in the brightest colours.”


to be green

MEANING: inexperienced, immature


    He is rather green and doesn’t have enough experience to drive the large piece of machinery yet.

    green with envy

MEANING: full of envy, very jealous


    I was green with envy when I heard that she would be going to London for a month while I had to stay and work.

    give someone the green light

    MEANING: give permission to go ahead with a project EXAMPLE:

    We were finally given the green light to begin setting up the new project.

    get the green light

    MEANING: receive permission to go ahead with a project EXAMPLE:

    We got the green light to go ahead with the new advertising campaign. grass is always greener on the other side

    MEANING: a place that is far away or different seems better than where we are now


    He realized that the grass is always greener on the other side when he saw that his new job wasn’t perfect and had its own problems too.

    green belt

    MEANING: an area of fields and trees around a town


    The city has a policy of increasing the green belt around the city. green thumb

    MEANING: a talent for gardening, ability to make things grow EXAMPLE:

    She has a green thumb and is able to grow one of the best gardens in our neighbourhood.


    a golden opportunity

    MEANING: a great opportunity that might never come again EXAMPLE:

    This is a golden opportunity to make a business deal with that big company.

    a golden handshake

    MEANING: a large sum of money paid to a retiring manager or director, or to a redundant worker.


    The company chairman received a huge golden handshake on retiring. a golden boy

    MEANING: a young man idolized for a great skill, usually in sport.


    “David Beckham is the golden boy of English soccer”


    tickled pink

    MEANING: be very pleased, thrilled, delighted EXAMPLE:

    She was tickled pink that you made the effort to go and visit her

    when you were in town.


    to be shown the red card

    MEANING: to be dismissed from your job. EXAMPLE:

    “The accountant was shown the red card for hiding company money.”

    to be in the red

    MEANING: to have an overdraft, to be in debt. EXAMPLE:

    ”I am overdrawn again. I hate being in the red.”

    to catch someone red-handed

MEANING: to catch someone in the act of committing a crime, usually a



    ” The manager caught the new employee red-handed taking money out of the box.”

to look through rose-coloured/tinted spectacles

    MEANING: to see things in a flattering or over-optimistic light. EXAMPLE:

    “It annoys me that she sees everything through rose-coloured

    spectacles, but

    she would feel differently if she had to live there.”

    to see red

    MEANING: to react with uncontrollable rage against someone or something.


    “John saw red when he saw his girlfriend laughing with another guy.”

    red tape

    MEANING: bureaucratic delay, excessive attention to rules and regulations, often resulting in injustice to the ordinary citizen. EXAMPLE:

    “I want to start a new business but the red tape involved is very frustrating.”

    to see the red light

    MEANING: to recognize approaching danger, the red light being a danger signal.


    “When the doctor warned his patient that further drinking would

    damage his liver, the man saw the red light and quit.”

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