[ESL] Expressions in Color [Part I]



  1. Black and white: To take everything into consideration and oversimplify something. To judge everything as either one way or the other, good or bad.

Our boss always thinks that everything is straightforward, but he doesn’t realize that this whole situation is not as black and white as he thinks!

  1. Black and blue: Used to describe something that is badly bruised

John’s face was black and blue after the boxing match.

  1. Black eye: A bruise near one’s eye

Fred came home with a horrible black eye today, but he won’t tell us what happened!

  1. Black out: This means to, either darken by putting out or dimming the lights, or to lose consciousness.

We had a huge black out here last night, the whole town was out of power for about 7 hours!

I don’t know what happened to him, he just blacked out! Maybe he banged his head.

  1. Black market: A term used for places where goods are illegally bought and sold for a profit.

Jerry used to sell cigarettes from South America on the black market!

  1. Blacklist someone: To write someone’s name on a list if they break any rules, and ban them from having the opportunity to take part again

“I was in a lot of debt a while ago, and was unable to pay it all back, so I’ve been blacklisted. I’m not allowed to get a mortgage in my own name.

  1. Blackmail someone: To extort or take money from someone by using their secrets against them and threatening to reveal it to others

He has been blackmailing me for months with some photos that I didn’t know he had. I need someone to help me stop him!

  1. Black tie event/affair: A formal event where male guests wear black bow ties with tuxedos or dinner jackets

The award’s ceremony will be a black tie event, so I’ll have to buy a smart suit. My wife is going to wear her purple ball gown.

  1. Black sheep: Used to describe a person who is the ‘odd one out’ of a group, and doesn’t fit in with others around them. This could also be used to talk about someone who is a disgrace or embarrassment to their group.

I have always been the black sheep in my family, I have a completely different personality to all of them, and we don’t even look the same!

  1. In the black: Meaning successful or profitable

Their company has been in the black ever since the new CEO took over, and changed it all around!

  1. Pitch black: Another term for somewhere that is very dark, and you are unable to see anything

I was afraid to go downstairs, the whole house was pitch black, and very quiet.



  1. Out of the blue: To appear out of nowhere without any warning, to happen quite suddenly or randomly by surprise

You won’t believe it but Sarah called me out of the blue yesterday, and told me she’s coming to visit! How unexpected!

Greg has decided to quit his job out of the blue, and go travelling for a year!

  1. Blue ribbon: To be of superior quality or distinction, the best of a group

A blue ribbon panel of experts were invited to investigate the extraordinary remains.

  1. Feel blue:When someone looks or feels depressed or discontented

What’s that the matter with you today? You seem really blue. Is there something you’d like to talk about?

  1. Once in a blue moon: To occur extremely rarely, or only once in a lifetime

My sister is working in Africa, she hardly ever has the time to call us. My parents only hear from her once in a blue moon.

  1. Men/boys in blue:Used to describe the police, because of the color of their uniforms

I saw the boys in blue outside our neighbor’s house last night. I hope everything is okay.

  1. Blue collar:Used to describe men used as laborers, or factory workers

The got rid of a lot of the blue-collar workers during the recession. I would say they definitely suffered the most.



  1. To be colorless: Used to describe someone who lacks personality, and is really boring

It’s really hard to make conversation with her. She’s just really dull and colorless.

  1. Local color: Used to describe the traditional features of a place that give it its own character

The weekend vegetable market added much local color to the small town.

  1. A highly colored report: Refers to a report that is exaggerated or has a biased view

The highly colored burglary report had to be rewritten when they found out that the police officer who wrote it was a relative of the family.

  1. See someone’s true colors: To understand someone’s actual character, often for the first time

I thought I knew her so well, but it was only until I asked her for the money she owed me that I saw her true colors.

  1. Chase rainbows: When someone tries to get or achieve something that is difficult or impossible

My brother doesn’t think realistically. He’ll never get a decent job if he just chases rainbows all the time.

  1. To show one’s true colors: To reveal one’s true nature

When he got so angry at her in front of everybody, he showed his true colors.



  1. Go green!
  1. All money is green. Not all money is green.
  1. To be green: Used to describe someone who is immature, or inexperienced

He can be rather green sometimes. I don’t think he’s ready to be promoted to a higher position yet.

  1. Give someone the green light / get the green light: When someone receives, or is given, permission to go ahead with something

We have been given the green the light by the Marketing Executive to go ahead with the new advertising campaign.

  1. Grass is always greener on the other side: Used to describe a place that is far away, and better than, where you are now, or another person’s situation that is very different from your own

He realized that the grass is always greener on the other side when he saw that his new job wasn’t perfect, and had its own problems too.

  1. Green belt: An area of fields and trees around a town

Our city has a policy of increasing the green belt around it.