Expand Your Palette – in Russian Posted by Maria on Sep 22, 2014 in Uncategorized
Colors are one of the first things you learn in any language. However, as you talk to native speakers or read authentic literature, you will start noticing that they are they are more diverse than the basic colors of the rainbow you learned.
Colors of the rainbow go like this:
A mnemonic device to remember them in order is “Каждый охотник желает знать, где сидит фазан” (Every hunter wants to know where the pheasant sits). The first letter of every word is the first letter of the corresponding color. You will notice that there are two words for “blue” — more on that below.
The basic word for red is красный. However, it has numerous synonyms and shades. I will not attempt to give a comprehensive overview — here are a few frequently used descriptions. I will not be giving English translations because they often don’t line up with the Russian colors (e.g., crimson can be either малиновый or багровый, but these two are distinct shades in Russian).
малиновый – color of raspberries
Comes from: малина
малиновый пиджак – crimson jackets, stereotypically worn by the new Russians of the 90s as a status symbol
бордовый – a dull dark red
Origin: бордо (bordeaux, like the wine)
алый – color of arterial blood or bright fire
Origin: Turkic languages
аленький цветочек – The Scarlet Flower; a folk tale resembling The Beauty and The Beast.
алая заря said about the sunrise
алые паруса – Scarlet Sails; a book by Aleksandr Grin
багровый – color of venous blood, dark red with blue
багровое лицо – said about someone’s face as they are…
багровый от гнева – purple with rage
Russian is famous for distinguishing between two — often mutually exclusive — shades of blue – синий for the darker shades and голубой for the lighter shades.
довести до синего каления (more often, до белого каления) – to enrage someone; literally make incandescent
гори оно синим пламенем – said when you give up on something; let it go up in (blue) flames
синий от холода – said about someone who looks blue because they are cold
голубая кровь – said about the nobility
голубые ели – blue spruce
голубые глаза – said about blue eyes. Синие глаза is reserved for dark blue eyes.
The word голубые is used to talk about gay men.
Black and White
белый снег – snow
довести до белого каления – see довести до синего каления above
белая горячка – delirium tremens
серый = чёрный + белый
серая зарплата – under the table pay
серый кардинал – éminence grise, person of secret influence
серая мышь – said about mousy, inconspicuous, or plain-looking woman
чёрная дыра – black hole
чёрный рынок – black market
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