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Colors in English Proverbs and Sayings

Updated on June 21, 2020
Gloriousconfusion profile image

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! | Source

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 | Source

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 | Source

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 | Source

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 | Source

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 | Source

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 | Source

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) | Source

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?

How Did You Learn To Speak English?

See results



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

Did You Remember All these Proverbs And Sayings About Colours?

English speakers will probably know most or all of them;

To Students of English as a foreign language (or is it students of English as a second language?): I hope these pictures will help you to learn and remember each of these proverbs and sayings about colours.

I have made several other web pages about the English language, so, when you are ready, do take a look below:

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

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    • Gloriousconfusion profile imageAUTHOR

      Diana Grant 

      10 months ago from United Kingdom

      Thanks - I really enjoyed listening to all these old songs myself

    • profile image

      Sunil Kunnoth 

      10 months ago

      Excellent narration & wonderful information. Thank you for the post. Keep on writing. All the best.

    • DreamerMeg profile image


      10 months ago from Northern Ireland

      Love that song yellow river. It's amazing how fast they sing!

    • BarbRad profile image

      Barbara Radisavljevic 

      3 years ago from Templeton, CA

      I've heard most of these, though the variation I grew up with is "All that glitters is not gold."

    • Gloriousconfusion profile imageAUTHOR

      Diana Grant 

      4 years ago from United Kingdom

      Oh yes, how could I have forgotten, when I like to think I have green fingers myself!

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      Thank you so much and I really like it

      He has green fingers ... :) a nother for you

    • Wendy L Henderson profile image

      Wendy Henderson 

      4 years ago from PA

      Very interesting way to learn language. I like it. :)

    • asereht1970 profile image


      6 years ago from Philippines

      Very informative and entertaining lens.

    • Gloriousconfusion profile imageAUTHOR

      Diana Grant 

      6 years ago from United Kingdom

      @GrammieOlivia: Don't make it too colorful!!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      great lens, I learnt a lot more about "colorful language!"

    • Adventuretravels profile image


      6 years ago from UK

      So many of these come from Shakespeare. Lovely lens very interesting.

    • wiseriverman profile image


      7 years ago

      I love this lens. English is sublime.

    • dahlia369 profile image


      7 years ago

      Very informative and useful collection of sayings - thank you!! :)

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      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.

    • MelRootsNWrites profile image

      Melody Lassalle 

      7 years ago from California

      Some of these I haven't heard of. Learned something new today :)

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Great topic!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Wonderfully entertaining lens!

    • mechanicaleye profile image


      7 years ago from Bosnia and Herzegvina

      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.

    • Gloriousconfusion profile imageAUTHOR

      Diana Grant 

      7 years ago from United Kingdom

      @poutine: Yes, it's funny, we never think about them all in a group like this - it's surprising how many there are

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Very interesting to read about the colours in proverbs and sayings.

    • Gloriousconfusion profile imageAUTHOR

      Diana Grant 

      7 years ago from United Kingdom

      @Paul Ward: Or how about Green Peas?

    • Paul Ward profile image


      7 years ago from Liverpool, England

      Does Greenpeace count?

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Love was a feeling completely bound up with color, like thousands of rainbows superimposed one on top of the other.â

      â Paulo Coelho

    • Gypzeerose profile image

      Rose Jones 

      8 years ago

      Very clever, enjoyed this very much. Blessed............

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Interesting lens. I enjoyed reading it.

    • Pam Irie profile image

      Pam Irie 

      8 years ago from Land of Aloha

      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 profile image

      Ben Reed 

      8 years ago from Redcar

      What a great idea for a lense - thoroughly enjoyed my visit.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      your web page is very helpful, thank you for your providing so many colourful english poverbs and sayings related to color!

    • BLemley profile image

      Beverly Lemley 

      8 years ago from Raleigh, NC

      Very interesting! I didn't know all of them! Quite a fun lense! B : )

    • Gloriousconfusion profile imageAUTHOR

      Diana Grant 

      8 years ago from United Kingdom

      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 profile image

      Titia Geertman 

      8 years ago from Waterlandkerkje - The Netherlands

      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 profile image

      Joan Haines 

      8 years ago

      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 profile image


      9 years ago from East Central Florida

      hello from Florida's Space Coast!

      Very enjoyable - There was one I had never heard before.

    • Gloriousconfusion profile imageAUTHOR

      Diana Grant 

      9 years ago from United Kingdom

      @religions7: I think the official description would be "to be in credit", which is the positive way of saying you have no debt.

    • religions7 profile image


      9 years ago

      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.

    • profile image

      Quessity LM 

      9 years ago

      Fun and informative! I'll be revisiting this lens again.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Very cool idea for a lens.

      Love it.

    • mythphile profile image

      Ellen Brundige 

      9 years ago from California

      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.

    • profile image

      sidther lm 

      9 years ago

      Great lens! I would like to Feature it in my next (autism and language)! It really was fascinating!

    • YsisHb profile image


      9 years ago

      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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