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Colour words in Vietnamese (màu sắc)

Words for colours in Vietnamese with notes on their etymology and usage.

The word for colour, màu, can be added before the other colour words to make it clear that you are talking about colours. If that is clear from the context, there's no need to use it, except in the case of gold (vàng) and yellow (màu vàng).

black đen (𪓇); màu đen - black

  • Black is associated with dark, evil and filth

white trắng (𤽸); màu trắng - white

  • White is associated with purity, death and the end

red đỏ (𣠶) - red

  • Red is associated with happiness, love, luck and celebration

yellow màu vàng - yellow (colour) vàng (黄) - gold (colour / metal);

  • Yellow is associated with wealth, prosperity, royalty, happiness and change

blue green xanh (青) - blue/green; xanh da trời - (sky) blue; xanh lá cây - (tree) green

  • Naturalized pronunciation of 青 which is ‘thanh’ in standard Sino-Vietnamese
  • Used to indicate blue/green distinction when translating other languages (e.g. English)
  • Green is associated with jealousy and lust
  • Blue is associated with calmness, hope and growth

brown nâu – - brown; race.

pink hồng (紅) - pink

  • Can also mean red in a literary context (reverts to its original Chinese meaning), then it has the same cultural associations as Đỏ.
  • Modern association with femininity (French)

orange màu cam - orange (colour); cam - orange (fruit)

  • chảy máu cam = nosebleed (lit. "to flow orange blood")

grey xám - grey, blurry, unclear

purple tím - purple

  • Colour of bruising from being hit or from being in the cold
  • Purple is associated with nostalgia, sadness, fragility and tenderness

silver xám bạc - silver (colour); bạc - silver (metal - from silver 鉑)

  • Grey hair is referred to as silver hair in Vietnamese

indigo chàm (藍) - indigo (from the plant indigo)

An introduction to Vietnamese colours by Greg Vanderford


More information about colours in Vietnamese

Learn to Speak Vietnamese Like a Native, an online course by Greg Vanderford

Colour words in other languages

Information about Vietnamese | Chữ-nôm script | Phrases | Colours | Numbers | Tower of Babel | Learning materials

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