12 more English colour idioms to make your writing more exciting – others will surely be green with envy

  • From ‘red herring’ to ‘white elephant’, these phrases will definitely bring some colour to any essay or story
  • Learn what these terms mean and how to use them in a sentence
Yanni Chow |

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Pick up some more idioms that will help your words come alive. Illustration: Shutterstock

Need something vibrant to brighten up a dull essay or story that you’re working on? A striking idiom could be just what your writing needs. Not only are we offering you a list of 12 exciting phrases related to colours, but we will also show you how to use them correctly.

Check out our previous list of 33 colour idioms to add to your essays


1. Red herring

Meaning: a clue or piece of information that is, or is intended to be, misleading or distracting

Example: In most mystery novels, the most obvious suspect is often a red herring meant to lead readers to a false conclusion – this makes the final reveal even more exciting.

2. Red-letter day

Meaning: a day that is pleasantly noteworthy or memorable

Example: Eileen Gu had a red-letter day when she clinched gold at the Olympics.

A good detective can distinguish between a red herring and a genuine clue. Illustration: Shutterstock


3. Green around the gills

Meaning: (of a person) looking or feeling unwell or nauseous

Example: When Timothy got off the roller-coaster ride, he was looking a bit green around the gills.

4. Green with envy

Meaning: to be very jealous

Example: Paul’s friends were green with envy after he got the chance to meet Adele backstage.

If someone appears green around the gills, they should probably get some rest. Illustration: Shutterstock

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5. Blue bloods

Meaning: a person of noble birth

Example: The children of the city’s blue bloods typically attend private schools.

6. Blue-collar

Meaning: relating to manual work or workers, particularly in industry

Example: He treats everyone, from blue-collar workers to heads of state, with the same respect.

7. Out of the blue

Meaning: without warning; unexpectedly

Example: I haven’t spoken to Stephen in almost three years, but yesterday, he sent me a message out of the blue.

Those who work in warehouses, factories and construction sites are considered blue-collar workers. Illustration: Shutterstock

Silver and gold

8. All that glitters is not gold

Meaning: refers to how the attractive external appearance of something is not a reliable indication of its true nature

Example: My grandmother warned me: all that glitters is not gold. Just because someone is well-dressed, that doesn’t mean they will be the best person to befriend.

9. Every cloud has a silver lining

Meaning: refers to how difficult or sad situations can still have a comforting or more hopeful aspect, even if this may not be immediately apparent

Example: Even though he lost the match, every cloud has a silver lining, and he has gained experience that will prepare him for future competitions.

10. Kill the goose that lays the golden egg

Meaning: to destroy a reliable and valuable source of income

Example: By laying off his best workers, Adrian has killed the goose that lays the golden egg.

The phrase, “kill the goose that lays the golden egg”, comes from one of Aesop’s Fables. Illustration: Shutterstock

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Black and white

11. Black book

Meaning: a book containing a list of secret contacts, or of the names of people liable to be punished

Example: Bob has been in Ann’s black books ever since he wrongly accused her of cheating on an exam.

12. White elephant

Meaning: a possession that is useless or troublesome, especially one that is expensive to maintain or difficult to dispose of

Example: The dam has become something of a white elephant as it no longer generates very much energy.

“White elephant” is a popular holiday game in which people try to give away things they do not want. Illustration: Shutterstock
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