I love the English language, it's so expressive and colourful, with its nuances of meaning, metaphors, puns, proverbs, and regional slang
Colourful English Proverbs and Sayings--How Many Of These Expressions Do You Remember?
English is a colourful language--that is to say, colour features in many English proverbs and sayings . As human beings, we have a very developed visual sense, and this is reflected in our language.
You may notice, as you read on, that sometimes I refer to "colour" and sometimes to "color". That is because the former is the English spelling, which is closer to my heart, and the latter is the American spelling, which I use in order to appeal to my American readers. I can't bring myself to abandon the English spelling completely, but you might pick it up and think that it is a mis-spelling. Well, no, it's not--it's just me clinging to my first love, especially in the atmosphere of Brexit!
Colours In English Expressions
Fun And Learning Combined
This web page will be a fun reminder to native English speakers about the veritable rainbow of colours we use in figurative speech, without even thinking about it. For those who are just learning English, or who speak English as a second language (ESL or ESOL , TESOL or even TSL ), I hope that you will learn a lot, whilst enjoying the pictures and range of colours.
Proverbs And Sayings About Red
- Seeing Red - being furious (it originates from the fact that bulls get angry and charge when they see anything red). e.g. "when people are unkind to children, it makes me see red".
- A red letter day - a special or lucky day. e.g. "This is a red letter day for me as I've just heard that my new job application was accepted".
- To get the red light to be told to stop. e.g. "I was given the red light when I was boasting about all my lovely holidays abroad" .
- A red herring - something irrelevant. e.g. "When we're all worried about the political situation abroad, it's a bit of a red herring to be talking about the legalities of parties in Downing Street during Covid.
- Red tape - official bureaucracy or formality (so-called because lawyers and Government officials tie their documents together with red tape). e.g. "If you want to get a driving licence, there's a lot of red tape you have to go through to obtain it."
- To be caught red-handed - to be caught in the act. e,g, "She was caught red-handed stealing money from the drawer."
- There were some red faces - there were some embarrassed people. e.g. "When he denied breaching the rules, there were some red faces among his friends, indicating that he'd gone too far."
- Red sky at night, shepherds' delight, red sky in the morning, shepherds' warning - a proverb, meaning If you see a red sky at night, the weather will be good next day, but a red sky in the morning foretells bad weather.
99 Red Balloons--Sung By Nena. I Love This Song
Sayings And Metaphors--Yellow And Green
- He is yellow - he is a coward. e.g."He's too yellow to join the army".
- He is green with envy - he is envious or jealous. e.g. "She was green with envy when I got my new Mercedes car."
- The green-eyed dragon - means jealousy. e.g. "he's is suffering from the green-eyed dragon because his friend is on such a high salary."
- To get the green light - to get the go-ahead (this comes from traffic lights). e.g. "Pfizer got the green light to go ahead and manufacture millions of Covid vaccines."
- He is green - he is a novice i.e. doesn't quite know what he is doing e.g. "When it comes to football, he's green and still learning various techniques."
- To go green - to become ecologically aware. e.g. "Greta Thumberg went green at a young age with regard to issues relating to conservation and saving the planet)."
Be careful therefore, because if you say someone is green, it could mean either jealous or uninitiated, or ecologically aware, depending on the context.
Yellow River Sung By Christie
Sayings And Metaphors--Pink And Purple
- In the pink - in flourishing good health or in a good situation. e.g. "They're in the pink since they met each other."
- Your pinky - your little finger e.g. "She's got a plaster on her pinky"
- Seeing the world through rose-tinted glasses - seeing things in an unrealistically benign way. e.g. "Even though she couldn't afford the rent, she still saw the world through rose-tinted glasses."
- To be purple with rage - To be very angry. e.g. "When he swore at her, she was purple with rage."
Prince Singing Purple Rain
Black In Sayings And Metaphors
- To have a black eye - to have a bruised eye e.g. "The boxer gave him a black eye".
- A black maria - a police van e.g. "the police arrived in a black maria."
- A black look - a look of displeasure e.g. "When she grabbed the last seat, he gave her a black look".
- A black mark - a bad mark e.g. "She got a black mark for being late".
- A black sheep - a disgrace to the family e.g. "He was the black sheep of the family and spent time in jail".
- Black arts - witchcraft. e.g. "She was put to death for dabbling in the black arts".
- To black something out - to erase something from your mind, or to redact something from a document. e.g. "She blacked out all the important names in the media information."
- To have a face as black as thunder - to look very angry. e.g. "His face was as black as thunder when told he wouldn't get promotion"
- To have a black secret - to have a foul or evil secret e.g. "She had a black secret that she was still married when she moved in with him."
- To be in someone's black books - to be in disgrace. e.g. "He was in his parents' black books when he came home late."
- To be in the black - to be in credit i.e. to have assets. e.g."Fortunately he was in the black, so could pay the mortgage easily."
- To blackball someone - to exclude someone from an organization. e.g. "He was blackballed from the team because of his bad behaviour."
- To blacklist someone - to stop someone from getting a job. e.g. "The builder was blacklisted because of his trade union activities".
- To be in a black mood - to be in a bad mood, or be depressed. e.g. "She was in a black mood after being sacked from her job."
Paint It Black - Sung By The Rolling Stones
White And Grey
White And Grey--Sayings And Metaphors
- A grey area - an unclear or doubtful situation e.g. "It was a grey area whether they would get married during the pandemic".
- A greybeard - an old man e.g. "As a greybeard, I still remember fighting at Dunkirk."
- To have it in black and white - to have something very definite (often meaning something written down). e.g. "Our political programme for the coming year is not yet in black and white."
- To be whiter than white - to be especially honest and upright. e.g. "You can trust him completely, he's whiter than white."
- So close you can see the whites of his eyes - very close indeed. e.g. "He brought his face up so close to her that you could see the whites of his eyes."
- Pearly whites - teeth. e.g. "She had a lovely smile when she showed her pearly whites."
- A white lie - a small lie to avoid problems, or a well-meaning lie to avoid upsetting someone. e.g. "Thank you so much for your lovely present" (when really you hate it).
- A government white paper - a final government policy paper e.g. "there will be a white paper soon about the new Covid restrictions".
- A white elephant - something which is useless e.g. "I'm getting rid of that broken lamp, because it's a bit of a white elephant",
A Whiter Shade Of Pale --Sung By Procol Harum
Colors In Proverbs And Sayings--Brown
- To be browned off - to be fed up or annoyed. e.g. "He was browned off that he couldn't go to the pub during lock-down".
- To brown nose someone - to suck up to someone (i.e. to be sycophantic in order to obtain a favour or advantage) - this expression is a bit rude as it infers that the person's nose is touching a certain intimate part of the other person's anatomy, and therefore it should not be used in front of people who are easily shocked. e.g. "He brown nosed his boss in order to get promoted".
- To be in a brown study - to be absent-minded or depressed e.g. "She didn't finish the job because she was in a bit of a brown study".
Brown Eyed Girl Sung by Van Morrison
Blue - Sayings And Metaphors
- Feeling blue - feeling miserable. e.g. "I don't want to go to the party because I'm feeling blue tonight."
- Blue eyed boy (or girl) - someone who can do no wrong (i.e. they look like an angel). e.g. "That man's parents treat him like a blue eyed boy,"
- Blue sky thinking - open-minded thinking e.g."We need to solve this problem with some blue sky thinking".
- Once in a blue moon - something which happens very rarely. e.g. "He's a brilliant cook, but once in a blue moon he forgets to turn the oven on."
- He is between the devil and the deep blue sea - he has two unpleasant alternatives. e.g. "He either had to attend a court hearing or settle out of court for a lot of money--he was between the devil and the deep blue sea."
- A blue movie - a movie showing explicit sexual content. e.g. "The Government is going to change the rules and try to prevent young children from watching blue movies by making them prove their age first."
Blue Eyes - Sung By Don Partridge - I Still Play This 1968 Hit Quite Often
Colors In Proverbs And Sayings - Gold
- All that glistens is not gold (or All that glisters is not gold) - you can't judge something or someone just by appearances. e.g."Even our chosen leaders have their faults--all that glistens is not gold."
- All he touches turns to gold - he is very successful in all he does. e.g. "That managing director runs his business so well--all he touches turns to gold."
- He has the golden touch - he has the knack of doing something well. e.g. "I know he'll make a success of designing a new kitchen---he has the golden touch".
- The golden age - the best age e.g. the golden age of innocence. e.g. "Wait till they grow up in the real world--those children are still in the golden age".
- To worship the golden calf - to worship money i.e. to believe money is the most important thing in life. e.g."I know she only goes out with rich blokes, because she worships the golden calf."
- The golden rule - the important or invariable rule. e.g. "The golden rule when having good manners is to be polite, and always say please and thank you."
- As good as gold - very good behaviour. e.g. "My dog is well-trained and as good as gold when we go for a walk."
Gold - Sung by Spandau Ballet
Colors In Proverbs And Expressions--Silver
- Silver tongued - to speak persuasively. e.g. "She's so silver tongued that he always does what she wants."
- Cross his palm with silver - pay him money (often used in the sense of paying a bribe). e.g. "If you cross his palm with silver, he'll do whatever you ask."
- Every cloud has a silver lining - there is always a prospect that some good will come out of a bad situation. e.g. "I know it was rotten having your diamond ring stolen, but every cloud has a silver lining, and you'll get a good insurance payout."
- Look for the silver lining - Look for the good. e.g. "When things are not going as well as you hoped, just look for the silver lining".
- To be born with a silver spoon in his mouth - to be born wealthy or lucky or in a privileged situation. e.g. "It was easy for him to get into a top university, as he was born with a silver spoon in his mouth."
Take The Poll Below About Language Learning--See How You Compare With Other Pollsters
There are so many diffferent ways to learn a language--Learning at your mother's lap, learning at school, learning by tapes, videos, CD's and so forth, language schools, evening classes, travelling to the country and being in love.
Let's see how people learned to speak English.
So, what did you do--how did you learn English, and what stimulated you to learn this wonderful language with so many expressions and nuances?
Hawkwind Playing Silver Machine
More Colours--Red Red Wine Sung By Bob Marley
© 2011 Diana Grant
Comments And Questions - It Never Ceases to Amaze Me as I Sit at My Computer in London, Getting Messages From Every Continent in The World
Diana Grant (author) from United Kingdom on October 30, 2019:
Thanks - I really enjoyed listening to all these old songs myself
Sunil Kunnoth on October 29, 2019:
Excellent narration & wonderful information. Thank you for the post. Keep on writing. All the best.
DreamerMeg from Northern Ireland on October 29, 2019:
Love that song yellow river. It's amazing how fast they sing!
Barbara Radisavljevic from Paso Robles, CA on October 07, 2016:
I've heard most of these, though the variation I grew up with is "All that glitters is not gold."
Diana Grant (author) from United Kingdom on November 17, 2015:
Oh yes, how could I have forgotten, when I like to think I have green fingers myself!
Marwa on November 15, 2015:
Thank you so much and I really like it
He has green fingers ... :) a nother for you
Wendy Henderson from PA on September 24, 2015:
Very interesting way to learn language. I like it. :)
asereht1970 from Philippines on May 29, 2014:
Very informative and entertaining lens.
Diana Grant (author) from United Kingdom on May 15, 2014:
@GrammieOlivia: Don't make it too colorful!!
GrammieOlivia on May 14, 2014:
great lens, I learnt a lot more about "colorful language!"
Giovanna from UK on May 14, 2014:
So many of these come from Shakespeare. Lovely lens very interesting.
wiseriverman on May 20, 2013:
I love this lens. English is sublime.
dahlia369 on April 30, 2013:
Very informative and useful collection of sayings - thank you!! :)
Ruthi on April 30, 2013:
What a colorful way to begin my day online! I was familiar with most of these proverbs and saying swathed in color but did learn a few new ones, thank you.
Melody Lassalle from California on April 29, 2013:
Some of these I haven't heard of. Learned something new today :)
Saundz on April 02, 2013:
cmadden on February 20, 2013:
Wonderfully entertaining lens!
Mech from Bosnia and Herzegvina on January 12, 2013:
Great collection of English idioms. Idiomatic expressions like this are fun to translate in classes to other languages, so I use this fact often when I teach - the easiest way to remember new information is by having great fun.
Diana Grant (author) from United Kingdom on October 08, 2012:
@poutine: Yes, it's funny, we never think about them all in a group like this - it's surprising how many there are
poutine on October 08, 2012:
Very interesting to read about the colours in proverbs and sayings.
Diana Grant (author) from United Kingdom on October 04, 2012:
@Paul Ward: Or how about Green Peas?
Paul from Liverpool, England on October 02, 2012:
Does Greenpeace count?
IbnAdams on August 31, 2012:
Love was a feeling completely bound up with color, like thousands of rainbows superimposed one on top of the other.â
â Paulo Coelho
Rose Jones on August 15, 2012:
Very clever, enjoyed this very much. Blessed............
GeekGirl1 on June 24, 2012:
Interesting lens. I enjoyed reading it.
Pam Irie from Land of Aloha on June 02, 2012:
You can certainly tell a lot of work was put into this page. I'm really enjoying this. And as much as red is my favorite color, on this page I'm a little partial to blue. :)
Ben Reed from Redcar on May 11, 2012:
What a great idea for a lense - thoroughly enjoyed my visit.
brucedw on March 21, 2012:
your web page is very helpful, thank you for your providing so many colourful english poverbs and sayings related to color!
Beverly Lemley from Raleigh, NC on March 16, 2012:
Very interesting! I didn't know all of them! Quite a fun lense! B : )
Diana Grant (author) from United Kingdom on January 14, 2012:
Yes, I too think English is a very expressive language, and when I write poetry the range of words and meanings make it easy to convey thoughts.
Titia Geertman from Waterlandkerkje - The Netherlands on January 13, 2012:
This was a fun lens to read. English is not my native language (I'm a Dutchie), but we learned it at school and I lived a short period in the USA. Since about 2000 I write my poetry in English, which I think is a beautiful language to express oneself poetically.
Joan Haines on December 19, 2011:
What a colorful personality you have! In public schools in the U.S., we call students new to English "ELLs" which stands for English language learners. We call the program that supports their language acquisition ESL, which stands for English as a second language. I love idioms, and this list is just fab. Thanks!
CruiseReady from East Central Florida on June 12, 2011:
hello from Florida's Space Coast!
Very enjoyable - There was one I had never heard before.
Diana Grant (author) from United Kingdom on June 07, 2011:
@religions7: I think the official description would be "to be in credit", which is the positive way of saying you have no debt.
religions7 on June 06, 2011:
A few new ones for me, but then English IS a second language. I'd translate 'to be in the black' as 'to have no debt' though.
Quessity LM on June 06, 2011:
Fun and informative! I'll be revisiting this lens again.
poutine on March 23, 2011:
Very cool idea for a lens.
Ellen Brundige from California on February 17, 2011:
Fun lens! I love creative ways of exploring language -- in fact I'm the language angel now, so you've been blessed!
About color: did you know that different languages divide up colors differently? In Latin and Greek, for example, there really was not a specific word for orange. Latin words for yellow tend to be used for grass-green.
sidther lm on February 11, 2011:
Great lens! I would like to Feature it in my next (autism and language)! It really was fascinating!
YsisHb on February 10, 2011:
Wonderful lens. I love proverbs - they contain the treasure of human wisdom in a few words - I love languages and I love colours.
I'd like to make a lens on Greek proverbs.