LearnEnglishwith Us!

Start Learning

English Language Blog

Colorful English Idioms Posted by on Jun 30, 2015 in English Vocabulary

Summer is full of beautiful vibrant colors, which has inspired me to compile a list of colorful idioms in English. When I say ‘colorful idioms,’ I mean idioms in which colors are an important part of the idiomatic phrase. Since this week is also the week in which Americans celebrate their independence day (July 4th) the first few color idioms that I highlight relate to the colors connected with the American Independence Day: red, white, and blue. These are, of course, the colors found on the American flag, which is why they are the colors of the 4th of July holiday.

Image "Colorful" by Ole Houen on Flickr.com.

Image “Colorful” by Ole Houen on Flickr.com.

Colorful idioms:

to catch (someone) red handed – to find or catch a person in the middle of doing something wrong, naughty or illegal
Example: We caught Tommy red handed as he was taking all the candy from the bowl and putting it in his pocket.

to paint the town red – to go out and have a good time
Example: When I was in New York City I painted the town red every night.

a white lie – a harmless or inconsequential lie; a lie told to keep from hurting someone’s feelings or because the details are unimportant
Example: Oh it doesn’t really matter; it is just a little white lie.

to whitewash (something) – to cover up some of the facts and make something sound better than it actually is; covering up faults, errors, or wrong doing
Example: The employees managed to whitewash what happened in the accident to the managers.

to get the blues – to feel sad or depressed;
Example: I get the blues for a few days whenever I come home from a vacation.

to talk until you are blue in the face – to talk a lot
Example: Whenever I see Annette she is talking about politics until she is blue in the face.

a/the black sheep – the person in a family or group who is different from everyone else
(This idiom is usually used in a negative manner.)
Example: Jill is the black sheep in our family.

a gray area – something that is not fully clear or well defined
Example: How we are going to write up the final report is a bit of a gray area still.

the grass is always greener on the other side – someone else or someplace else always seems more appealing then one’s own life situation
Example: My sister believes the grass is always greener on the other side and because of this she is always changing jobs.

a/the pink slip – a notice of termination from a job
Example: The factory gave the pink slip to 25 workers yesterday.

yellow-bellied – cowardly
(This is often an insulting term.)
Example: Mike is a yellow-bellied, no-good, man!

I hope you find a way to make your English a bit more colorful by trying out some of these new idioms and phrases over the next week!

Tags: , , ,
Share this:
Pin it

About the Author: Gabriele

Hi there! I am one of Transparent Language's ESL bloggers. I am a 32-year-old native English speaker who was born and raised in the United States. I am living in Washington, DC now, but I have lived all over the US and also spent many years living and working abroad. I started teaching English as a second language in 2005 after completing a Master's in Applied Linguists and a Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults' (CELTA). Since that time I have taught ESL in the United States at the community college and university level. I have also gone on to pursue my doctorate in psychology and now I also teach courses in psychology. I like to stay connected to ESL learners around the world through Transparent Languages ESL Blog. Please ask questions and leave comments on the blog and I will be sure to answer them.


  1. Suha:

    Love it too much