Colour words in French

Words for colours in French with notes and colour-related expressions.

black noir (m) [nwaʁ] noire (f) - black, tanned, dark; drunk, inebriated; black (person)

Shades of black

  • noirâtre - blackish
  • fumée - smoke
  • cendre - ash
  • ébène - ebony


  • noir comme dans un four - pitch-dark, pitch black (“black as the inside of an oven”)
  • travailler au noir - to work on the side, to moonlight
  • broyer du noir - to mope, to look on the black side
  • petit noir - small black coffee
  • noir sur blanc - (written) in black and white
    e.g. Mets-moi ça noir sur blanc - put it down in black and white for me
  • dans/à la nuit noire - in the/at dead of night
  • être en noir - to be in mourning
  • roman noir - detective / crime novel
  • être noir de monde - to be swarming with people
  • voir tout/la vie en noir - to be a pessimist

white blanc [blɑ̃] (m) blanche (f) - white, pale; blank, without expression

Shades of white

  • écru - dirty white
  • céruse - old white
  • coquille d'oeuf - white with a touch of pinkish tan, like an egg
  • crème - cream, white with a touch of yellow
  • blanc d'Espagne - Spanish white, white slightly cream
  • bis - soft grey
  • blanc cassé (broken white) - between "crème" and "bis"


  • blancheur - whiteness
  • blanchir - to make white, whiten; to launder, wash; to grow/become white; to blanch, bleach; whitewashing
  • à blanc - blank; risk free (coll)
  • blanc comme neige / comme la blanche hermine - as pure as driven snow
  • blanc comme un cachet d'aspirine - white as a sheet
  • chauffer à blanc - white heat, seriously excited
  • de but en blanc - suddenly
  • magasin de blanc - linen shop
  • blanc bec - novice, beginner, newcomer, greenhorn
  • donner un blanc seing à qn - to give sb a free rein / a free hand
  • blanc comme un linge - white as a sheet

red rouge [ʁuʒ] - red, lipstick, flushed


  • rougeâtre - reddish
  • rougeaud - red-faced
  • rougeoiement - reddish, flush
  • rougeoyer - to glow (red)
  • rougeur - redness, flush, flushing
  • rougir - to redden, to blush
  • rouge d'émotion - flushed with emotion
  • devenir rouge comme un cerise - to blush, go quite pink
  • il est rouge comme un coq, un coquelicot, une pivoine, une écrevisse, une tomate - he's as red as a beetroot / lobster
  • voter rouge - to vote Communist
  • passer au rouge - to jump the lights, go through red lights
  • rouge de honte - red with shame
  • rouge de colère - red with anger

yellow jaune [ʒon] - yellow, golden, (egg) yolk, blackleg/scab (strike breaker)

Shades of yellow

  • jaunâtre - yellowish
  • jaune citron - lemon, lemon yellow
  • jaune d'or - golden yellow
  • jaune paille - straw colour
  • jaune serin - canary yellow
  • jaune poussin (chick yellow) - bright yellow


  • jaune d'œuf - yolk
  • jaune comme un coing (yellow as a quince) - about the face of someone, deep yellow.
  • faire le jaune - to refuse to go on strike and therefore, in the eyes of the strikers and the unions, to be a political traitor
  • jaune cocu - the colour yellow is also associated to "cocus" (cuckolds), people, especially men, whose spouse is unfaithful

blue bleu [blø] - blue, rare/underdone (steak), bruise, overalls, new recruit

Shades of bleu

  • bleu ardoise - slate blue
  • bleu canard - peacock blue
  • bleu ciel / blue horizon - sky blue
  • bleu marine - navy blue
  • bleu nuit - midnight blue
  • bleu outremer - ultramarine


  • bleuir - to make/turn/go blue
  • bleuissement - turning blue, blueing
  • bleuté - bluish
  • les bleus - the French national football team
  • bleu de froid - blue with cold
  • être bleu de colère - to be livid / purple with rage
  • tu me prends pour un bleu? - do you think I was born yesterday
  • les Bleus - Conservatives

green vert [vɛʁ] (m) verte (f) - green, unripe (fruit), young (wine), vigorous, sprightly, spry

Shades of green

  • vert sapin - forest green
  • vert pré / vert gazon - grass green
  • vert olive/pistache/émeraude - olive/pistachio/emerald(-green)
  • vert pomme/d'eau/bouteille - apple/sea/bottle-green


  • vert de peur - green with fear
  • être au régime - to be on a green-vegetable diet
  • au temps de sa verte jeunesse - in the first bloom of his youth
  • il en a dit des vertes (et de pas mûres) - he said some pretty spicy / saucy things
  • se mettre au vert - to take a rest or refreshing break in the country
  • vert de rage - purple with rage
  • être encore vert (about a man) - to be young beyond one's years
  • les verts - (members of) the Green party

brown brun [bʁœ̃ / bʁɛ̃] (m) brune (f) - brown, dark (hair), dusky/swarthy (skin), tanned
marron (m) marrone (f) - brown, chestnut (used for people, paper, clothes and shoes)

Shades of brown

  • brun roux - auburn
  • marron glacé - light chestnut brown
  • café au lait - light brown
  • brun chocolat - coffee brown
  • marron tête de nègre (lit. "negro-head brown") - coffee brown: the expression is quite old fashioned, dating back to an era when "nègre" wasn't pejorative but merely descriptive, and has been more or less banned from newspapers that find it too politically-incorrect.
  • un canapé marron - a brown sofa
  • une robe marron - a brown dress
  • des yeux marron(s) brown eyes


  • brune - brown ale, stout
  • tabac brun - dark tobacco
  • ours brun - brown bear
  • cheveux bruns - brown hair
  • à la brune - at twilight, at dusk
  • marron d'Inde - horse chestnut
  • tirer les marrons du feu - to be sb's cat's paw

pink rose [ʁoz] - pink, rosy


  • voir la via / tout en rose - to see everything through rose-coloured glasses/spectacles
  • sa vie n'était pas bien rose - his life was not a bed of roses

orange orange [ɔ.ʁɑ̃ʒ] - orange


  • orangé - orangy, orangish
  • orange - bright orange
  • orange foncé - dark orange, burnt orange
  • faire grise mine - to look surly/grumpy

grey gris [ɡʁi] (m) grise (f) - grey, colourless, dull, tipsy


  • il fait gris - it's a grey/dull day
  • faire grise mine à qn - to give sb a cool reception
  • faire grise mine - to look surly/grumpy

purple violet [vjɔ.lɛ] (m) violette (f) - purple, violet


  • le violet lui va bien - purple suits him (well)

mauve mauve [mov] - mauve, mallow


  • mauviette - weakling

Other colours

  • azur [a.zyʁ] - azure
  • cramoisi [kʁa.mwa.zi] - crimson
  • crème [kʁɛm] - cream (colour), cool
  • cyan - cyan
  • indigo - indigo
  • magenta [ma.ʒɛ̃.ta] - magenta
  • poupre [puʁpʁ] - burgundy; purple fabric


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