Colourful Idioms from around the World

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We use colourful idioms in the English language more than we might realise – we tell white lies, remember red letter days and sometimes we get the blues. But what colourful idioms are there in other languages? We’ve put together a list of some of our favourites to add a splash of colour to your day!

Blue

In English something can be out of the blue, a bolt from the blue or can happen once in a blue moon! But did you know that being blue in German means that you’re drunk? Here are a few more blue idioms from other languages…

Language

Idiom

Literal Translation

Meaning

French

Ne voir qu’en bleu

To see nothing but blue

To be in the dark/uninformed

Italian

Il principe azzurro

The blue prince

Prince Charming

German

Das Blaue vom Himmer herunterlügen

To lie the blue out of the sky

To lie a lot

Dutch

Een blauwtje lopen

To walk a blue

To be rejected

Swedish

Att skita i det blå skåpet

To shit in the blue cabinet

To go too far/to make a fool of oneself

Polish

Myśleć o niebieskich migdałach

To think about blue almonds

To daydream

Green

English speakers can give the green light for something to go ahead, think the grass is greener on the other side and may at times turn green with envy! But green can symbolise different emotions in other languages…

French

C’est la fin des haricots verts

It’s the end of the green beans

It’s the final straw

Spanish

Me sacas canas verdes

You’re giving me green hairs

You’re annoying me

Italian

Far vedere i sorci verdi a qualcuno

To make someone see green mice

To threaten someone

German

Ach du grüne Neune!

Ah you green nine!

Good grief!

German

Noch grün hinter den Ohren sein

To still be green behind the ears

To be inexperienced

Polish

Posłać na zieloną trawkę

To send onto green grass

To fire from work

Mandarin Chinese

戴綠帽

He wears a green hat

His wife is cheating on him

White

We tell white lies in English, wave the white flag to admit defeat and seeing something scary can turn us as white as a sheet! Did you know that in lots of languages having a ‘white’ night refers to a night where you get no sleep? Here are some other idioms that are as white as snow…

French

Faire chou blanc

To make white cabbage

To draw a blank, to fail despite trying your best

Spanish

Un mirlo blanco

A white blackbird

Something that is rare

Italian

Matrimonio in bianco

White marriage

An unconsummated marriage

German

Eine weiße Maus sehen

To see a white mouse

To hallucinate

Romanian

Noapte albă

White night

Sleepless night

Swedish

Vit vecka

White week

A week without any alcohol

Tagalog

Maputi ang tainga

White-eared

Stingy

Black

Black idioms often refer to something negative in English, like a black eye, blacking out or the black market, and this is often the case in other languages too…

Spanish

Tener las entrañas negras

To have black guts

To be a bad person

German

Jemandem den schwarzen Peter zuschieben

To pass the black Peter to someone

To pass the buck

Dutch

Op zwart zaad zitten

To sit on black seed

To be really broke

Finnish

Mustasukkainen

Black-socked

Jealous

Russian

между ними пробежала черная кошка

A black cat ran between them

They are at an impasse

 

Pink

We might be tickled pink or see pink elephants in English, but what about other languages?

Romanian

A se face roşu de mînic

To turn pink with rage

To become angry

Portuguese

Revistas cor-de-rosa

Pink magazines

Celebrity/gossip magazines

Dutch

Op een roze wolkje zitten

To sit on a little pink cloud

To be (annoyingly) in love

Turkish

Pembe yalan

A pink lie

A white/good lie

Can you think of any other colourful idioms? We’d love to hear them!

Source

https://thecolorlanguageproject.wordpress.com/2016/07/24/the-cross-language-color-idioms-list/

I am native Austrian and studied Linguistics and Literature at the University of Innsbruck and in Manchester, so language and translation has always been a passion of mine. Before joining Tongue Tied, I have worked as a Translation Assistant and in Customer Services and Purchasing.

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