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Thirty Colourful Idioms


In our previous posts about idioms, you might have noticed how we like to argue that these useful expressions add colour to the English language. By this, we mean that idioms often make the English language feel more alive – they add emotion and character to what we say. Idioms also often have very colourful (i.e. interesting!) origin stories. You can read one here. And then there the idioms about colour…today we’ll take a look at some of those. Scroll down!

  1. a grey area – a situation or area which is not clearly defined (i.e. not black and white).

  2. a white lie – a small (and supposedly harmless) lie.

  3. black and blue – badly bruised.

  4. black and white – two clearly defined opposing principals (i.e. not a grey area).

  5. black market – a trade in illegal goods.

  6. black sheep – a member of a group who is regarded as a disgrace to it/the odd person out.

  7. blue-collar work/workers – manual work/workers.

  8. green-eyed monster – the personification of jealousy.

  9. in someone’s black books – in disfavour with someone.

  10. local colour – unique customs/features which add to the character of an area.

  11. off colour – unwell/uneasy.

  12. out of the blue – without warning/unexpectedly.

  13. pitch black – totally dark.

  14. red herring – a misleading/distracting clue.

  15. red hot - exciting/passionate/popular.

  16. someone with a green thumb/green finger – someone with gardening skills.

  17. the golden boy – a very popular/successful man.

  18. the grass is always greener on the other side – other people’s situations always seem better than your own.

  19. the pot calling the kettle black – a person who criticises or accuses someone for something that they are also guilty of doing themselves.

  20. to black out – to lose consciousness.

  21. to blacklist someone – to exclude someone due to their previous unacceptable/inappropriate behaviour.

  22. to catch someone red-handed – to catch someone in the act of doing something wrong.

  23. to feel blue – to feel sad/depressed/discontented.

  24. to give someone the green light/to get the green light – to give someone permission to go ahead with something/to receive permission to go ahead with something.

  25. to look through rose tinted glasses – to look at something (usually in the past) in an overly flattering light.

  26. to paint the town red – to go out and enjoy oneself (usually in an extravagant, flamboyant manner).

  27. to pass with flying colours – to pass with excellent results.

  28. to see red – to become very angry.

  29. to show one’s true colours - to reveal one’s real (and usually dishonourable) character/intentions.

  30. white-collar work/workers – office work/workers.

If you’ve found this post useful, why not check out our other articles on idioms?

Have a great week!

Avani Shah


18 Nov 2014
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