Words of Colors in Vietnamese Language Posted by Kandle Dart on Mar 29, 2021 in Art, Culture, Vocabulary
I don’t know about you, but when I think of the word “colors” or màu in Vietnamese, the first thing that comes to my mind is the image of a cầu vòng (rainbow), along with the popular classic song Somewhere Over the Rainbow. Just like the saying “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”, not all colors are treated equally. Some colors may be your favorites, but not mine. Some colors are considered more “superior” than others and are reserved to be used by royalty in the past. Some colors are used on specific occasions, some are associated with certain genders, and some are used to convey special messages. In other words, colors have their own language and status in Vietnamese culture.
BASIC COLOR WORDS
Let’s start with Vietnamese words for ten common colors and their general associated meanings:
|Đen||Black||Evil, filth, mystic, unlucky|
|Xám||Grey||solitude, loneliness, misery, quietness|
|Vàng||Yellow||Royalty, wealth, prosperity, success, honor, envy|
|Đỏ||Red||Happiness, luck, love, power, passion, energy|
|Xanh lá cây||Green||Hope, progress|
|Nâu||Brown||Sincerity, peasantry, Buddhist outfit color|
|Tím||Purple||Nostalgia, romance, sadness, loyalty, royalty|
COLOR WORD CHOICE
There are complications when it comes to use the right word for certain colors in different contexts in advanced Vietnamese. Let me introduce you to the classic example of the application of màu đen (black color). In English, whether it is a dog, a cat, or a horse, if its fur color is black, then the term for them is black dog, black cat, black horse, and so forth. In Vietnamese, you should simply use the word đen for the color black but, to be more literal, you should use the correct “black” word as follows.
|Simple Word||Literal Word||English|
|Chó đen||Chó mực||Black dog|
|Mèo đen||Mèo mun||Black cat|
|Ngựa đen||Ngựa ô||Black horse|
Be careful when using the word màu xanh. This could mean different shades of blue or green color.
You have to add another word to màu xanh to avoid the confusion. See examples below.
Xanh + [dương] = Navy blue
Xanh + [chàm] = Indigo blue
Xanh + [lơ, lam, da trời] = Sky blue
Xanh + [lá cây, lục] = Green
Xanh + [rêu] = Moss green
Xanh + [bạc hà] = Mint green
COLORS IN FENGSHUI
The Vietnamese do pay attention to Fengshui elements to enhance their luck and harmony. Thus, they would pick an appropriate color, or avoid certain ones, to wear in clothing, for interior design, vehicles, etc. according to their birth element. See the table below for the harmony or conflict colors with your element. Tables can be found online to identify your birth element.
|Birth Element||Birth Element Colors||Harmony Colors||Colors to Avoid|
|Kim (Metal)||Yellow, white, silver||Earth element colors like yellow, brown||Fire element colors like red, pink, purple|
|Mộc (Wood)||Green||Water element colors like navy blue, black||Metal element colors like white, silver|
|Thủy (Water)||Blue, black, jade green||Metal and Wood element colors like blue, white, silver, black||Earth and Fire element colors like red, pink, purple, orange, yellow, brown|
|Hỏa (Fire)||Red, pink, purple, orange||Wood element colors like green||Water element colors like white, silver, black, blue|
|Thổ (Earth)||Brown, yellow earth tone, orange earth tone||Fire element colors like brown, red, pink, purple, orange||Wood element colors like green, black, blue|
- Đỏ (red)
- Cam (orange)
- Vàng (yellow)
- Lục (green)
- Lam (blue)
- Chàm (indigo)
- Tím (Violet)
Do you know what are the trending colors for 2021? Mr. Google told me they are màu xám (grey) and màu vàng (yellow). Yikes! Sorry, they are not my favorite colors. It made me think of the new dull grey McDonald’s exterior building color scheme in the Midwest.
What are your favorite colors? Màu nóng (warm tone colors) or màu lạnh (cool tone colors)?
Build vocabulary, practice pronunciation, and more with Transparent Language Online. Available anytime, anywhere, on any device.