Add colour to the English language by using these wonderful idioms! Keep your fellow students guessing by using a new idiom each day!
Below is a list of idiomatic expressions related to colour:
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1. Black and white
To take everything into consideration and oversimplify something. To judge everything as either one way or the other, good or bad.
- Our boss always thinks that everything is straightforward, but he doesn’t realise that this whole situation is not as black and white as he thinks!
2. Put something down in black and white
To write or have something written down on paper for confirmation or evidence
- I don’t understand why you don’t believe me! Look, it’s written here in black and white!
3. Black as night
Somewhere very dark, when it is hard to see anything
- We had another power cut last night; it was as black as night in our house. We didn’t even have any candles!
4. Black and blue
Used to describe something that is badly bruised
- John’s face was black and blue after the boxing match.
5. Black eye
A bruise near one’s eye
- Fred came home with a horrible black eye today, but he won’t tell us what happened!
6. Black out
This means to, either darken by putting out or dimming the lights, or to lose consciousness.
- We had a huge black out here last night, the whole town was out of power for about 7 hours!
- I don’t know what happened to him, he just blacked out! Maybe he banged his head.
7. Black as a skillet
Used to describe something that is very dirty, black with dirt
- My hands and clothes were as black as a skillet, and I was only halfway through cleaning your garage!
8. Black market
A term used for places where goods are illegally bought and sold for a profit.
- Jerry used to sell cigarettes from South America on the black market!
9. Blackball someone
To exclude or ostracise someone socially, reject them
- Their company has been blackballed ever since that scandal was all over the newspapers. No one wants to do business with them anymore.
10. Blacklist someone
To write someone’s name on a list if they break any rules, and ban them from having the opportunity to take part again
- “I was in a lot of debt a while ago, and was unable to pay it all back, so I’ve been blacklisted. I’m not allowed to get a mortgage in my own name.
11. Pot calling the kettle black (shorten version: pot kettle black)
This is used when the person who hypocritically criticises or accuses someone else is as guilty as the person he or she criticises or accuses
- She kept telling me that I shouldn’t do that, but that’s like the pot calling the kettle black, as she does it herself too!
12. Blackmail someone
To extort or take money from someone by using their secrets against them and threatening to reveal it to others
- He has been blackmailing me for months with some photos that I didn’t know he had. I need someone to help me stop him!
13. In someone’s black books
To be in disgrace or in disfavour with someone
- After that argument yesterday, I assure you he will be in a lot of people’s black books for quite some time!
14. Black tie event/affair
A formal event where male guests wear black bow ties with tuxedos or dinner jackets
- The award’s ceremony will be a black tie event, so I’ll have to buy a smart suit. My wife is going to wear her purple ball gown.
15. Black sheep
Used to describe a person who is the ‘odd one out’ of a group, and doesn’t fit in with others around them. This could also be used to talk about someone who is a disgrace or embarrassment to their group.
- I have always been the black sheep in my family, I have a completely different personality to all of them, and we don’t even look the same!
16. In the black
Meaning successful or profitable
- Their company has been in the black ever since the new CEO took over, and changed it all around!
17. Pitch black
Another term for somewhere that is very dark, and you are unable to see anything
- I was afraid to go downstairs, the whole house was pitch black, and very quiet.
18. Out of the blue
To appear out of nowhere without any warning, to happen quite suddenly or randomly by surprise
- You won’t believe it but Sarah called me out of the blue yesterday, and told me she’s coming to visit! How unexpected!
- Greg has decided to quit his job out of the blue, and go travelling for a year!
19. Blue pencil
To censor something, or limit the information that is shared
- The reports about how soldiers were being treated abroad had been blue-pencilled by the authorities.
20. A blue-eyed boy
A critical description of a boy or young man who is always picked for special favours by someone in a position of higher authority.
- He is such a blue-eyed boy! I don’t like that the manager always treats him as if he is special, it is not fair on the rest of us!
21. A bolt from the blue
When some unexpected bad news is received
- It was a complete bolt from the blue for us, we had no idea that they were having problems, let alone getting divorced!
22. Blue blood
Used to describe someone from a noble, aristocratic or wealthy family
- Many of the blue bloods in our town were invited to the royal wedding.
23. Blue ribbon
To be of superior quality or distinction, the best of a group
- A blue ribbon panel of experts were invited to investigate the extraordinary remains.
24. Talk a blue streak
When someone talks very much and very rapidly
- The woman in the hospital bed next to me talked a blue streak all day. I don’t where she got the energy from!
25. Feel blue
When someone looks or feels depressed or discontented
- What’s that the matter with you today? You seem really blue. Is there something you’d like to talk about?
26. Blue in the face
To try really hard to win someone’s agreement, but usually end unsuccessfully
- I kept trying to convince him that it was a good idea until I was blue in the face, but he’s so stubborn, he just kept disagreeing with me!
27. Once in a blue moon
To occur extremely rarely, or only once in a lifetime
- My sister is working in Africa, she hardly ever has the time to call us. My parents only hear from her once in a blue moon.
28. Men/boys in blue
Used to describe the police, because of the colour of their uniforms
- I saw the boys in blue outside our neighbour’s house last night. I hope everything is okay.
29. Blue collar
Used to describe men used as labourers, or factory workers
- The got rid of a lot of the blue-collar workers during the recession. I would say they definitely suffered the most.
30. Browned off
To be bored or annoyed with someone or something
- I’m always browned off when he comes to visit. He doesn’t like doing anything, and he hardly ever talks to anyone!
31. To be colourless
Used to describe someone who lacks personality, and is really boring
- It’s really hard to make conversation with her. She’s just really dull and colourless.
32. Off colour
When someone is not feeling their best, quite ill or uneasy
- He’s been really off colour for the past few days, I think I might have to take him to the doctor.
33. To give/lend colour to
To help make a story or an explanation more credible and easier to believe, or accompany something
- The broken window and missing items lent colour to her story that someone had robbed her house.
- The music in the play helped to lend colour to the performance of the actors.
34. Sail under false colours
To pretend to be something that one is not
- Our team leader seems to be sailing under false colours, I don’t think he really understands what he’s supposed to be doing!”
35. Local colour
Used to describe the traditional features of a place that give it its own character
- The weekend vegetable market added much local colour to the small town.
36. A highly coloured report
Refers to a report that is exaggerated or has a biased view
- The highly coloured burglary report had to be rewritten when they found out that the police officer who wrote it was a relative of the family.
37. See someone’s true colours
To understand someone’s actual character, often for the first time
- I thought I knew her so well, but it was only until I asked her for the money she owed me that I saw her true colours.
39. See the colour of someone’s money
To prove that someone has enough money for something
- The antiques dealer wouldn’t let me touch the items I’d agreed to purchase, until he saw the colour of my money.
40. Chase rainbows
When someone tries to get or achieve something that is difficult or impossible
- My brother doesn’t think realistically. He’ll never get a decent job if he just chases rainbows all the time.
41. To show one’s true colours
To reveal one’s true nature
- When he got so angry at her in front of everybody, he showed his true colours.
42. With flying colours
To complete something with great distinction, and excellent results
- I didn’t think she would do so well in the final exam, but she passed it with flying colours!
Used to describe someone or something that is permanent (like wool that is dyed a certain colour)
- My father has always been a dyed-in-the-wool conservative, and I know he will never change.
44. To paint in bright/dark colours
To describe something in a flattering (bright) or unflattering (dark) way
- John was struggling financially after moving home, but he painted everything in the brightest colours, and made it look like he was absolutely fine!
- She only painted the venue in dark colours, because she wanted to use it for her wedding, and didn’t want me to book it for my wedding!
45. To be kept in the dark
Keeping a secret from someone, shielding the truth
- He kept everyone in the dark about the true extent of his illness.
46. To be green
Used to describe someone who is immature, or inexperienced
- He can be rather green sometimes. I don’t think he’s ready to be promoted to a higher position yet.
47. Green with envy
Used to describe someone who is extremely jealous, full of envy
- When we were children, my older brother always used to get green with envy if my dad bought something for me and not for him.
48. Give someone the green light / get the green light
When someone receives, or is given, permission to go ahead with something
- We have been given the green the light by the Marketing Executive to go ahead with the new advertising campaign.
49. Grass is always greener on the other side
Used to describe a place that is far away, and better than, where you are now, or another person’s situation that is very different from your own
- He realised 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.
50. Green belt
An area of fields and trees around a town
- Our city has a policy of increasing the green belt around it.
51. Green thumb/green finger
Used to describe someone with a talent for gardening, having the ability to make plants grow
- This garden used to look so beautiful when my mum lived here. She definitely had a green thumb. I wish I did too!
52. A grey area
Something that is not clearly defined, and there is still debate as to whether it is ‘black or white’, neither one way or another
- Some of the current rules surrounding bedroom tax in the UK seem to be in a grey area, as many residents disagree with its determining factors.
53. A golden opportunity
An opportunity that may never present itself again
- Think carefully about what you’re going to do, this is a golden opportunity, and you don’t want to mess it up!
54. A golden handshake
A large sum of money that is paid to a retiring manager or director, or to a redundant worker
- The company Chairman received a huge golden handshake when he retired.
55. Golden boy
The term given to a young man idolised for a great skill, usually in sport.
- By many of his fans, Wayne Rooney is seen as the golden boy of his football team.
56. Tickled pink
To be very pleased, thrilled or delighted about something
- Anna was tickled pink that her fiancé had made such an effort for her birthday.
57. See pink elephants
When someone sees things that are not really there, because they are in their imagination
- Anyone who hears his story thinks he sees pink elephants. It’s just such a far-fetched story, and very hard to believe.
58. Pink Slip
A termination notice received from a job
- They gave me my pink slip last week, so I’ve got to find a new job now.
59. In the pink of something
Meaning in very good health
- My grandmother looked ever so well when I saw her, she was in the pink of condition.
60. To be shown the red card
This derives from football terminology, and means to be dismissed from your job
- The company Accountant was shown the red card, after they found out he was using company money for personal gain.
61. To be in the red
To have an overdraft, be in debt to your bank, or owe an institution some money
- I’ve got three credit card bills to pay off at the moment. I hate being in the red!
62. To be out of the red
To be out of debt
- Our company is finally out of the red now. We’ve managed to pay back our loan, and now we’re making profit!
63. A red flag
A signal that something is not working properly or correctly
- The fallen trees along the road raised a red flag for the safety inspectors.
64. Blood red
Used to describe the deep red colour of something
- She was wearing a beautiful cocktail dress with blood red lipstick to match.
65. Beet red
Also used to describe dark red, usually the colour of a face (derives from beetroot)
- I could see my son up on the stage, his little face was beet red!
66. Red hot
Something new and exciting, creating much demand
- The new video game is red-hot. Some fans have been waiting outside stores for days, to get a hold of them!
67. Red herring
An unimportant matter that misleads everyone and draws attention away from the main subject
- Unfortunately that witness was just a red herring. She had no justification to her story, and it was a waste of valuable time.
68. Catch someone red-handed
To catch someone in the act of committing a crime, or doing something wrong that they shouldn’t be doing
- He kept lying to me about where he was going in the evenings, so yesterday I followed him and caught him red-handed. He was with another woman!
69. Red in the face
To become embarrassed
- I went red in the face when the teacher told me off in front of everyone for arriving late!
A journey that leaves late at night and arrives early in the morning
- We had to catch the red-eye flight last night, and I’m completely exhausted now.
71. Red-letter day
A day that is memorable because of some important event
- The day I graduated was a red-letter day for my mum, she still talks about it today!
72. To look through rose-coloured/tinted spectacles/glasses
When someone sees things in an overly flattering or over-optimistic light
- Sarah doesn’t understand what it’s like for us. She has always seen everything through rose-tinted glasses because her parents spoilt her so much when she was young!
73. To see red
To react with uncontrollable rage against someone or something
- John saw red when he heard someone shouting at his mother.
74. Red tape
The term used for bureaucratic delay, or excessive formalities, and attention to rules and regulations, often resulting in injustice to the ordinary citizen
- I just want to start my own business, but the amount of red tape involved is so frustrating, that it almost makes me want to give up!
75. To see the red light
To recognise approaching danger. The red light is referred to as a danger signal
- The doctor warned me for so many years that I should stop smoking, but I didn’t listen. When I had a minor heart attack last year, I saw the red light and realised that I had to quit smoking, and improve my health.
76. Paint the town red
To go out and have a really good time at a party
- I’ve managed to get a babysitter for this weekend. Let’s go and paint the town red!
77. Roll out the red carpet
To greet a person with great respect, and give them a big, warm welcome
- When Barack Obama came to visit our school, we rolled out the red carpet for him.
78. Red-carpet treatment
(Similar to the one above) To receive special or royal treatment, and be received with a big, warm welcome
- My aunt always gives us the red-carpet treatment when we go to visit her.
79. The silver screen
A term for the cinema
- Do you fancy going to watch that movie on the silver screen tonight?
80. Born with a silver spoon in one’s mouth
Meaning born into a rich family
- I don’t think Kelly has ever had a job. She was born with a silver spoon in her mouth.
81. To be given something on a silver plate/platter
When something is offered to someone whole-heartedly (in a metaphorical sense)
- I offered my heart to him on a silver platter, and he turned it down.
82. As white as a sheet
When someone is in a state of great fear or anxiety
- Harold are you alright? You’re as white as a sheet, what’s the matter?
83. Raise a white flag
This indicates that one has accepted defeat and surrenders to the other party
- There was such a heated debate going on in the conference room, they wouldn’t back down! I just raised my white flag in the end.
84. Whitewash something
To cover up or gloss over faults or wrongdoings
- The government was accused of trying to whitewash the scandal over charity pay-outs.
85. White elephant
A term used for a useless possession, something that is of no use
- My mum bought a new CD player for me, but it’s a white elephant. I don’t need it, I don’t even have any CDs!
86. White as a ghost
Used to describe someone who is very pale because of pain, fear, shock or illness
- I didn’t think the movie was that scary, but my sister was as white as a ghost!
87. A white lie
A ‘little’ or ‘harmless’ lie told in order to be polite and avoid hurting someone’s feelings, or do something that is not seriously wrong
- I just wanted to get out of work so I told my boss a little white lie, and said I had a doctor’s appointment.
88. White collar
A term used for office workers that traditionally wear white shirts with a collar.
- We have a lot of vacancies for white-collar workers at the moment, but hardly anyone is applying for them!
Someone who is seen as a coward or extremely timid
- There is no point in asking him what to do. He is a yellow-bellied coward, and won’t stand up for what is right!
90. A yellow streak
Someone who has cowardice in their character
- He has always had a big yellow streak running down his back, don’t expect him to change now!