Hi guys, Freya here!
Have you ever noticed that English is quite a colourful language?
We have a lot of idioms related to colours that add a lot of variety to the English language.
For example, red vary between love and passion, and anger; black can mean death or evil; white can show purity; and green can represent jealousy.
So today, I thought I would go through some interesting sayings with colours in them. Let’s see if they’re obvious in meaning or not!
Red has lots of imagery associated with it (love, blood, passion, danger), so it is unsurprising that there is a variety of different idioms connected to it too!
“Caught red handed” : Now, this phrase means the act of catching someone doing something they shouldn’t be doing or something illegal. Now-a-days, it doesn’t seem to make sense that the colour ‘red‘ is involved in this. However, if you look at the origins of the phrase, then is it actually quite morbid. It seems to originate from the 15th century, where to be ‘red handed‘ meant you were caught with blood on your hands from murder! It is interesting how this has developed to mean what it does today – more generalised crime.
“Seeing red” : I personally think this phrase’s meaning is more obvious when you first see it. If you are described as ‘seeing red’ it means that you are incredibly angry and finding it difficult to control yourself. When searching for an origin, some people believe it derives from the sport, bull-fighting. In bull-fighting, a person waves round a red cape, attempting to deceive a bull. It was thought that bulls were attracted to, and annoyed by, the red colour of the cape and so came the phrase ‘to see red‘.
What things do you associate with the colour blue? The sea, the sky? Ice cold? Well, blue has strong connotations with sad emotions!
“Feeling blue“: This phrase simply means that you are feeling sad. As the weather is turning to cold, this is a common phrase you may hear.
Person one: “How are you today?”
Person two: “Ah, this weather is making me feel a little blue.”
It doesn’t have to be about the weather, anything that makes you feel low can mean you are feeling blue. Furthermore, you can describe others as looking blue.
“Is Freya okay today? She’s looking a bit blue.”
Of course, this doesn’t actually mean the colour of your skin is blue. Rather, blue is associated with your emotions.
“Green-eyed monster”: Have you heard the phrase “green with envy”? Well, this actually has its origins from the phrase “green-eyed monster”! Which comes from….Shakespeare! In his play, Othello (1604), he wrote:
“O, beware, my lord, of jealousy;
It is the green-eyed monster.“
From here, ‘green‘ was no longer simply associated with nature or sickness. It was also associated with jealousy and envy, and continues to be today.
Have you ever heard of any of these colours be used in this way? Or maybe heard of other colours and been confused as to the meaning in that context? There are so many colour idioms in the English language that can mean to many different things.
I hope you find it as interesting as me!
I live and work in the UK and have a degree in English Language and Literature. When I am not on Fruitful, I work as a teaching assistant at a school. I am passionate about the environment and love to travel and read.