[ESL] Expressions in Color [Part II]



  1. A grey area

Something that is not clearly defined, and there is still debate as to whether it is ‘black or white’, neither one way or another

Some of the current rules surrounding bedroom tax in the UK seem to be in a grey area, as many residents disagree with its determining factors.



  1. A golden opportunity

An opportunity that may never present itself again

Think carefully about what you’re going to do, this is a golden opportunity, and you don’t want to mess it up!

  1. Silence is golden



  1. See pink elephants

When someone sees things that are not really there, because they are in their imagination

Anyone who hears his story thinks he sees pink elephants. It’s just such a far-fetched story, and very hard to believe.

  1. Pink Slip

A termination notice received from a job

They gave me my pink slip last week, so I’ve got to find a new job now.



  1. To be shown the red card

This derives from football terminology, and means to be dismissed from your job

The company Accountant was shown the red card, after they found out he was using company money for personal gain.

  1. To be in the red

To have an overdraft, be in debt to your bank, or owe an institution some money

I’ve got three credit card bills to pay off at the moment. I hate being in the red!

  1. A red flag

A signal that something is not working properly or correctly

The fallen trees along the road raised a red flag for the safety inspectors.

  1. Blood red

Used to describe the deep red color of something

She was wearing a beautiful cocktail dress with blood red lipstick to match.

  1. Red hot

Something new and exciting, creating much demand

The new video game is red-hot. Some fans have been waiting outside stores for days, to get a hold of them!

  1. Catch someone red-handed

To catch someone in the act of committing a crime, or doing something wrong that they shouldn’t be doing

He kept lying to me about where he was going in the evenings, so yesterday I followed him and caught him red-handed. He was with another woman!

  1. Red in the face

To become embarrassed

I went red in the face when the teacher told me off in front of everyone for arriving late!

  1. Red-eye

A journey that leaves late at night and arrives early in the morning

We had to catch the red-eye flight last night, and I’m completely exhausted now.

  1. To see the red light

To recognize approaching danger. The red light is referred to as a danger signal

The doctor warned me for so many years that I should stop smoking, but I didn’t listen. When I had a minor heart attack last year, I saw the red light and realized that I had to quit smoking, and improve my health.

  1. Paint the town red

To go out and have a really good time at a party

I’ve managed to get a babysitter for this weekend. Let’s go and paint the town red!

  1. Roll out the red carpet

To greet a person with great respect, and give them a big, warm welcome

When Barack Obama came to visit our school, we rolled out the red carpet for him.

  1. Red-carpet treatment

(Similar to the one above) To receive special or royal treatment, and be received with a big, warm welcome

My aunt always gives us the red-carpet treatment when we go to visit her.



  1. The silver screen

A term for the cinema

Do you fancy going to watch that movie on the silver screen tonight?

  1. Born with a silver spoon in one’s mouth

Meaning born into a rich family

I don’t think Kelly has ever had a job. She was born with a silver spoon in her mouth.



  1. As white as a sheet

When someone is in a state of great fear or anxiety

Harold are you alright? You’re as white as a sheet, what’s the matter?

  1. Raise a white flag

This indicates that one has accepted defeat and surrenders to the other party

There was such a heated debate going on in the conference room, they wouldn’t back down! I just raised my white flag in the end.

  1. White elephant

A term used for a useless possession, something that is of no use

My mum bought a new CD player for me, but it’s a white elephant. I don’t need it, I don’t even have any CDs!

  1. White as a ghost

Used to describe someone who is very pale because of pain, fear, shock or illness

I didn’t think the movie was that scary, but my sister was as white as a ghost!

  1. A white lie

A ‘little’ or ‘harmless’ lie told in order to be polite and avoid hurting someone’s feelings, or do something that is not seriously wrong

I just wanted to get out of work so I told my boss a little white lie, and said I had a doctor’s appointment.

  1. White collar

A term used for office workers that traditionally wear white shirts with a collar.

We have a lot of vacancies for white-collar workers at the moment, but hardly anyone is applying for them!



  1. Yellow-bellied

Someone who is seen as a coward or extremely timid

There is no point in asking him what to do. He is a yellow-bellied coward, and won’t stand up for what is right!