View synonyms for color



[ kuhl-er ]


  1. the quality of an object or substance with respect to light reflected by the object, usually determined visually by measurement of hue, saturation, and brightness of the reflected light; saturation or chroma; hue.
  2. the natural appearance of the skin, especially of the face; complexion:

    She has a lovely color.

  3. a ruddy complexion:

    The wind and sun had given color to the sailor's face.

  4. a blush:

    His remarks brought the color to her face.

  5. vivid or distinctive quality, as of a literary work:

    Melville's description of a whaling voyage is full of color.

  6. details in description, customs, speech, habits, etc., of a place or period:

    The novel takes place in New Orleans and contains much local color.

  7. something that is used for coloring; pigment; paint; tint; dye.
  8. background information, as anecdotes about players or competitors or analyses of plays, strategy, or performance, given by a sportscaster to heighten interest in a sportscast.
  9. colors,
    1. any distinctive color or combination or pattern of colors, especially of a badge, ribbon, uniform, or the like, worn or displayed as a symbol of or to identify allegiance to, membership in, or sponsorship by a school, group, or organization.
    2. nature, viewpoint, or attitude; character; personality:

      His behavior in a crisis revealed his true colors.

    3. a flag, ensign, etc., particularly the national flag.
    4. U.S. Navy. the ceremony of hoisting the national flag at 8 a.m. and of lowering it at sunset.
  10. skin complexion as a characteristic of a particular people or ethnic group, especially when other than white: a person of color; a man of color; children of color.

    one's religion and color;

    a person of color;

    people of color;

    a man of color;

    alumni of color;

    children of color.

  11. outward appearance or aspect; guise or show:

    It was a lie, but it had the color of the truth.

  12. a pretext:

    She did it under the color of doing a good deed.

  13. Painting. the general use or effect of the pigments in a picture.
  14. Phonetics. timbre.
  15. Chiefly Law. an apparent or prima facie right or ground:

    to hold possession under color of title.

  16. Music. tone color.
  17. a trace or particle of valuable mineral, especially gold, as shown by washing auriferous gravel.
  18. Physics. any of the labels red, green, or blue that designate the three states in which quarks are expected to exist, or any of the corresponding labels for antiquark states. Compare quantum chromodynamics, quark model.
  19. Printing. the amount of ink used.
  20. Heraldry. a tincture other than a fur or metal, usually including gules, azure, vert, sable, and purpure.


  1. involving, utilizing, yielding, or possessing color:

    a color TV.

verb (used with object)

  1. to give or apply color to; tinge; paint; dye:

    She colored her hair dark red.

  2. to cause to appear different from the reality:

    In order to influence the jury, he colored his account of what had happened.

    Synonyms: prejudice, bias

  3. to give a special character or distinguishing quality to:

    His personal feelings color his writing.

verb (used without object)

  1. to take on or change color:

    The ocean colored at dawn.

  2. to flush; blush:

    He colored when confronted with the incriminating evidence.



abbreviation for

  1. (in prescriptions) let it be colored.


/ ˈkʌlə /


  1. the US spelling of colour


/ kŭlər /

  1. The sensation produced by the effect of light waves striking the retina of the eye. The color of something depends mainly on which wavelengths of light it emits, reflects, or transmits.
  2. Color charge.
  3. See also hadron

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Usage Note

See black.

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Spelling Note

See -or 1.

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Derived Forms

  • ˈcolorless, adjective
  • ˈcolorful, adjective
  • ˈcolorable, adjective
  • ˈcolorist, noun
  • ˈcolorer, noun
  • ˈcoloring, noun

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Other Words From

  • color·er noun
  • over·color verb
  • pre·color noun verb
  • re·color verb (used with object)
  • trans·color adjective
  • under·color noun

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Word History and Origins

Origin of color1

First recorded in 1250–1300; Middle English col(o)ur, from Anglo-French ( French couleur ), from Latin colōr- (stem of color ) “hue”

Origin of color2

From the Latin word colōrētur

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A Closer Look

When beams of colored light are mixed, or added, their wavelengths combine to form other colors. All spectral colors can be formed by mixing wavelengths corresponding to the additive primaries red, green, and blue. When two of the additive primaries are mixed in equal proportion, they form the complement of the third. Thus cyan (a mixture of green and blue) is the complement of red; magenta (a mixture of blue and red) is the complement of green; and yellow (a mixture of red and green) is the complement of blue. Mixing the three additive primaries in equal proportions reconstitutes white light. When light passes through a color filter, certain wavelengths are absorbed, or subtracted, while others are transmitted. The subtractive primaries cyan, magenta, and yellow can be combined using overlapping filters to form all other colors. When two of the subtractive primaries are combined in equal proportion, they form the additive primary whose wavelength they share. Thus overlapping filters of cyan (blue and green) and magenta (blue and red) filter out all wavelengths except blue; magenta (blue and red) and yellow (red and green) transmit only red; and yellow (red and green) and cyan (blue and green) transmit only green. Combining all three subtractive primaries in equal proportions filters out all wavelengths, producing black. Light striking a colored surface behaves similarly to light passing through a filter, with certain wavelengths being absorbed and others reflected. Pigments are combined to form different colors by a process of subtractive absorption of various wavelengths.

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Idioms and Phrases

  1. call to the colors, to summon for service in the armed forces:

    Thousands are being called to the colors.

  2. change color,
    1. to blush as from embarrassment.
    2. to turn pale, as from fear:

      When he saw the size of his opponent, he changed color.

  3. of color, belonging to a racial or ethnic group that is not white and generally not associated with European descent or not characterized by slight or light pigmentation of the skin; nonwhite:

    Women of color have higher gendered wage gaps than white women.

    The program is aimed at supporting children of color with an interest in acting.

    People of color are often underrepresented in the sciences.

  4. with flying colors. flying colors ( def 2 ).

More idioms and phrases containing color

In addition to the idiom beginning with color , also see false colors ; horse of a different color ; lend color to ; look through rose-colored glasses ; under false colors ; with flying colors .

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Example Sentences

Even other men of color considered Revels a curious figure, for Mississippi had never had a large free black population.

Similarly, a recent NPR report covered the challenges many police departments are having recruiting officers of color.

The losers have always been children in poverty, children of color, and children with disabilities.

In Brazil people color code their underwear according to their needs.

She says that every film she makes, she has to hit someone—The Color Purple, The Butler, and Selma.

The pink flowers are the largest while those of a yellow color are the smallest.

She was growing accustomed to like shocks, but she could not keep the mounting color back from her cheeks.

Her attachment to impressionism leads this artist to many experiments in color—or, as one critic wrote, "to play with color."

She also practises etching, pen-and-ink drawing, as well as crayon and water-color sketching.

They are succeeded by kidney shaped capsules of a brown color.


Definitions and idiom definitions from Unabridged, based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

Idioms from The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.