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Colors in English Proverbs and Sayings

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

Colours, spelt the English way, or Colors, spelt the American way - take your pick!

Colours, spelt the English way, or Colors, spelt the American way - take your pick!

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.


Red Fractal Art - Raining

Red Fractal Art - Raining

Proverbs And Sayings About Red

  1. Seeing Red - being furious (it originates from the fact that bulls get angry and charge when they see anything red).
  2. A red letter day - a special or lucky day
  3. To get the red light to be told to stop
  4. A red herring - something irrelevant
  5. Red tape - official bureaucracy or formality (so-called because lawyers and Government officials tie their documents together with red tape)
  6. To be caught red-handed - to be caught in the act
  7. There were some red faces - there were some embarrassed people
  8. 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


Yellow Dandelion

Yellow Dandelion

Sayings And Metaphors - Yellow And Green

  1. He is yellow - he is a coward
  2. He is green with envy - he is envious or jealous
  3. The green-eyed dragon - means jealousy (so you might say "he is suffering from the green eyed dragon")
  4. To get the green light - to get the go-ahead (this comes from traffic lights)
  5. He is green - he is a novice i.e. doesn't quite know what he is doing
  6. To go green - to become ecologically aware (green issues are 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 The Tremeloes


Purple Verbena

Purple Verbena

Sayings And Metaphors - Pink And Purple

  1. In the pink - in flourishing good health or in a good situation
  2. Your pinky - your little finger
  3. Pink - relating to homosexuals as in "the pink economy" (deriving from being half-way between red and white)
  4. Seeing the world through rose-tinted glasses - seeing things in an unrealistically benign way
  5. To be purple with rage - To be very angry

Prince Singing Purple Rain


Black satin fabric

Black satin fabric

Black In Sayings And Metaphors

  1. To have a black eye - to have a bruised eye
  2. A black maria - a police van
  3. A black look - a look of displeasure
  4. A black mark - a bad mark
  5. A black sheep - a disgrace to the family
  6. Black arts - witchcraft
  7. To black something out - to erase something from your mind, or to redact something from a document
  8. To have a face as black as thunder - to look very angry
  9. To have a black secret - to have a foul or evil secret
  10. To be in someone's black books - to be in disgrace
  11. To be in the black - to be in credit i.e. to have assets
  12. To blackball someone - to exclude someone from an organization
  13. To blacklist someone - to stop someone from getting a job
  14. To be in a black mood - to be in a bad mood, or be depressed

Paint It Black - Sung By The Rolling Stones

White And Grey

BBC Test Card E2

BBC Test Card E2

White And Grey - Sayings And Metaphors

  1. A grey area - an unclear or doubtful situation
  2. A greybeard - an old man
  3. To have it in black and white - to have something very definite (often meaning something written down)
  4. To be whiter than white - to be especially honest and upright
  5. So close you can see the whites of his eyes - very close indeed
  6. Pearly whites - teeth
  7. A white lie - a small lie to avoid problems, or a well-meaning lie to avoid upsetting someone
  8. A government white paper - a final government policy paper
  9. A white elephant - something which is useless
  10. A white feather - a symbol of cowardice

A Whiter Shade Of Pale - Sung By Procol Harum



Colors In Proverbs And Sayings - Brown

  1. To be browned off - to be fed up or annoyed
  2. 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
  3. To be in a brown study - to be absent-minded or depressed

Brown Eyed Girl Sung by Van Morrison


The Sinking Ship

The Sinking Ship

Blue - Sayings And Metaphors

  1. Feeling blue - feeling miserable
  2. Blue eyed boy (or girl) - someone who can do no wrong (i.e. they look like an angel)
  3. Blue sky thinking - open-minded thinking
  4. Once in a blue moon - something which happens very rarely
  5. He is between the devil and the deep blue sea - he has two unpleasant alternatives
  6. A blue movie - a movie showing explicit sexual content

Blue Eyes - Sung By Don Partridge - I Still Play This 1968 Hit Quite Often


Marigolds (also known as Calendula)

Marigolds (also known as Calendula)

Colors In Proverbs And Sayings - Gold

  1. All that glistens is not gold (or All that glisters is not gold) - you can't judge something or someone just by appearances
  2. All he touches turns to gold - he is very successful in all he does
  3. He has the golden touch - he has the knack of doing something well
  4. The golden age - the best age e.g. the golden age of innocence
  5. To worship the golden calf - to worship money i.e. to believe money is the most important thing in life
  6. The golden rule - the important or invariable rule
  7. As good as gold - very good behaviour
  8. He is gold - he is wonderful (or kind, helpful and so forth)

Gold - Sung by Spandau Ballet

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?


Colors In Proverbs And Sayings - Silver

  1. Silver tongued - to speak persuasively
  2. Cross his palm with silver - pay him money (often used in the sense of paying a bribe)
  3. Every cloud has a silver lining - there is always a prospect that some good will come out of a bad situation
  4. Look for the silver lining - Look for the good
  5. To be born with a silver spoon in his mouth - to be born wealthy or lucky or in a privileged situation

Hawkwind Playing Silver Machine

More Colours - Red Red Wine Sung By Bob Marley

More Of My Web Pages About English Language

© 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:

Great topic!

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.

Love it.

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.

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