[ kuhl-er-fuhl ]
/ ˈkʌl ər fəl /
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See synonyms for: colorful / colorfully / colorfulness on Thesaurus.com

abounding in color: In their tartans, the Scots guard made a colorful array.
richly eventful or picturesque: a colorful historical period.
presenting or suggesting vivid or striking scenes: a colorful narrative.
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Origin of colorful

First recorded in 1885–90; color + -ful


col·or·ful·ly, adverbcol·or·ful·ness, nounun·col·or·ful, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What does colorful mean?

Colorful literally means full of color, especially a lot of different bright colors.

It can also be used in a figurative way to mean rich with interesting or vividly depicted elements, such as characters or events.

For example, a colorful story is one with a lot of interesting parts, locations, and especially colorful characters—people with unique (or eccentric) personalities and ways of life.

A place like a restaurant or nightclub might be said to have a colorful history, meaning a lot of very interesting or unusual things have happened there.

The phrase colorful language is a euphemism—it’s a polite way of referring to language that contains a lot of curse words, obscenities, or other potentially offensive terms. Colorful is sometimes used in this way in other situations as a euphemistic or humorous way of implying that something is a bit seedy, shady, or outside the mainstream, as in That place is known to have a colorful clientele, if you know what I mean—a lot of shady deals go down there. 

Example: The history of the museum is as colorful as the paintings that hang on its walls—it has seen some truly bizarre happenings over the years.

Where does colorful come from?

The first records of the word colorful come from the 1800s. The suffix -ful means “full of” and turns the noun color into the adjective colorful, literally meaning “full of color.”

Colorful is most often used to describe something that includes not just many different colors but especially bright and vibrant ones—like rainbows, leaves in the fall, or a candy store. The figurative sense of colorful also often implies a variety of things, such as in the phrase a colorful cast of characters. If you describe a period in history as colorful, it means it involved a lot of interesting or unusual events. Describing a person as colorful often implies that they’re flamboyant or interesting in a vibrant way. The words vivid and vibrant can be used as synonyms for the literal and figurative sense of colorful.

The word colorless is the opposite of colorful in both senses—it can describe something that literally has no color, or it can describe something that is dull because there’s nothing interesting about it.

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What are some other forms related to colorful?

  • colorfully (adverb)
  • colorfulness (noun)
  • uncolorful (adjective)

What are some synonyms for colorful?

What are some words that share a root or word element with colorful

What are some words that often get used in discussing colorful?

How is colorful used in real life?

Colorful is usually used positively, but it can occasionally be used in a slightly negative way to imply that something might be a bit offensive or seedy.



Try using colorful!

Which of the following words would NOT be used to describe something considered colorful?

A. vibrant
B. plain
C. interesting
D. vivid

How to use colorful in a sentence