- 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.
- nature, viewpoint, or attitude; character; personality: His behavior in a crisis revealed his true colors.
- a flag, ensign, etc., particularly the national flag.
- U.S. Navy.the ceremony of hoisting the national flag at 8 a.m. and of lowering it at sunset.
verb (used with object)
verb (used without object)
- to blush as from embarrassment.
- to turn pale, as from fear: When he saw the size of his opponent, he changed color.
Origin of color
Synonyms for color
early 13c., "skin color, complexion," from Old French color "color, complexion, appearance" (Modern French couleur), from Latin color "color of the skin; color in general, hue; appearance," from Old Latin colos, originally "a covering" (akin to celare "to hide, conceal"), from PIE root *kel- "to cover, conceal" (see cell).
For sense evolution, cf. Sanskrit varnah "covering, color," related to vrnoti "covers," and also see chroma. Meaning "visible color, color of something" is attested in English from c.1300. As "color as a property of things," from late 14c. Old English words for "color" were hiw ("hue"), bleo.
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.
person of color
A nonwhite person, such as someone of African or Native American descent. For example, They have made a genuine effort to promote persons of color to executive positions. This seemingly modern euphemism actually dates from the late 1700s and was revived in the late 1900s.
In addition to the idiom beginning with color
- color of someone's money, see the
- false colors
- horse of a different color
- lend color to
- look through rose-colored glasses
- under false colors
- with flying colors