Colour words in Dutch

Words for colours in Dutch, their heraldic names and colour-related expressions.


black zwart - black - sabel (heraldic name)

  • Het ziet zwart van de mensen ('The place is black with people'), used when a public area is very crowded.
  • zwartkijker ('black-looker') = somebody who always sees the dark side of things (from the verb zwartkijken)
  • pikzwart = pitch black.

white wit - white - zilver (heraldic name - silver)

  • wit wegtrekken = to become pale (of fear)
  • spierwit ('as white as a muscle') = very white.

red rood - red - keel (heraldic name)

  • vuurrood ('firy red') = very red (used e.g. when somebody is blushing heavily).

yellow geel - yellow - goud (heraldic name - gold)

  • groen en geel van nijd / jaloezie ('green and yellow with anger / envy')
  • groentje ('greenie') = rookie, freshman.

blue blauw - blue - azuur, lazuur (heraldic name)

  • bont en blauw ('many-coloured and blue') = black and blue, e.g. 'Ik ben bont en blauw geslagen' = I have been beaten up really bad.
  • blauwe maandag ('blue Monday'), used in e.g.: 'Ik heb daar wel eens een blauwe maandag gewerkt' = I have had a job there for a very short time.
  • Het staat blauw (van de rook) ('The place is blue (with smoke)'), used when e.g. a room is filled up with (cigarette) smoke.

green groen - green - sinopel (heraldic name)

  • groen en geel van nijd / jaloezie ('green and yellow with anger / envy')

brown bruin - brown


pink rose / roze - pink

  • een roze bril ophebben ('to wear pink glasses') = to be in love; to see things from a romantic perspective (through rose-tinted spectacles)

orange oranje - orange

  • appeltjes van oranje ('little apples of orange') = oranges, normally called sinaasappels (< 'China's apples') or appelsienen in the south of the Dutch-speaking area. Amongst others, the term is used in an old Sinterklaas song, and there may be an connection with the Dutch royal family, the 'Oranjes'.

grey grijs - grey


purple paars / purper (archaic) / violet - purple - purper (heraldic name)

  • pimpelpaars ('as purple as a pimple') = very purple.

liac lila - lilac


turquiose turquoise


khaki khaki


beige gebroken wit (broken white) - beige


ochre okergeel, oker - ochre


aubergine aubergine - aubergine / eggplant


Bordeau red bordeauxrood - burgundy, bordeaux red, maroon


Other colour-related expressions

Notes on Dutch colours by Dirk Bakker

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