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the quality of an object or substance with respect to light reflected by the object, usually determined visually by measurement of hue, saturation, and brightness of the reflected light; saturation or chroma; hue.
the natural appearance of the skin, especially of the face; complexion:
She has a lovely color.
a ruddy complexion:
The wind and sun had given color to the sailor’s face.
a blush:
His remarks brought the color to her face.
vivid or distinctive quality, as of a literary work:
Melville’s description of a whaling voyage is full of color.
details in description, customs, speech, habits, etc., of a place or period:
The novel takes place in New Orleans and contains much local color.
something that is used for coloring; pigment; paint; tint; dye.
background information, as anecdotes about players or competitors or analyses of plays, strategy, or performance, given by a sportscaster to heighten interest in a sportscast.

any distinctive color or combination or pattern of colors, especially of a badge, ribbon, uniform, or the like, worn or displayed as a symbol of or to identify allegiance to, membership in, or sponsorship by a school, group, or organization.
nature, viewpoint, or attitude; character; personality:
His behavior in a crisis revealed his true colors.
a flag, ensign, etc., particularly the national flag.
U.S. Navy. the ceremony of hoisting the national flag at 8 a.m. and of lowering it at sunset.

skin complexion of a particular people or ethnic group, especially when other than white: a person of color; people of color; a man of color; alumni of color; children of color.
outward appearance or aspect; guise or show:
It was a lie, but it had the color of the truth.
a pretext:
She did it under the color of doing a good deed.
Painting. the general use or effect of the pigments in a picture.
Phonetics, .
Chiefly Law. an apparent or prima facie right or ground:
to hold possession under color of title.
Music. .
a trace or particle of valuable mineral, especially gold, as shown by washing auriferous gravel.
Physics. any of the labels red, green, or blue that designate the three states in which quarks are expected to exist, or any of the corresponding labels for antiquark states.
Compare , .
Printing. the amount of ink used.
Heraldry. a tincture other than a fur or metal, usually including gules, azure, vert, sable, and purpure.
involving, utilizing, yielding, or possessing color:
a color TV.
to give or apply color to; tinge; paint; dye:
She colored her hair dark red.
to cause to appear different from the reality:
In order to influence the jury, he colored his account of what had happened.
to give a special character or distinguishing quality to:
His personal feelings color his writing.
to take on or change color:
The ocean colored at dawn.
to flush; blush:
He colored when confronted with the incriminating evidence.
call to the colors, to summon for service in the armed forces:
Thousands are being called to the colors.
change color,

to blush as from embarrassment.
to turn pale, as from fear:
When he saw the size of his opponent, he changed color.

with flying colors. .
(in prescriptions) let it be colored.
Contemporary Examples

Unlike in stand up where there are far more women of color, in improv, their presence is sorely lacking.
SNL’s Kenan Thompson and the Invisible Black Women of Comedy Tricia Romano October 16, 2013

Some of us wore pink head scarves, the color we’ve chosen to symoblize our “pink pray-in” movement of Islamic feminism.
Showdown at the Mosque Asra Q. Nomani May 16, 2010

With a pop of color and fun print, this cotton pair is not at all stuffy.
The Daily Beast’s 2014 Holiday Gift Guide: For the Don Draper in Your Life Allison McNearney November 28, 2014

He was as brilliant a teacher as he was a storyteller, and my black-and-white writing began to bloom with color.
How I Write: Elena Gorokhova Noah Charney August 1, 2012

Murray writes: We are one nation, indivisible, in terms of whites and peoples of color.
Now All Americans Are Losing Ground David Frum February 7, 2012

Historical Examples

She had been rather pale when he entered, but now the color rushed to her face.
Galusha the Magnificent Joseph C. Lincoln

He went on until the sun was low in the west and all the sky was rimmed with color.
Way of the Lawless Max Brand

“It is certainly a strange medley of color,” Tranter admitted.
The Crooked House Brandon Fleming

No color, only light came to the surface of it, and broke in the loveliest smile.
Weighed and Wanting George MacDonald

In color he was manifestly white, for all that dirt and the weather could do to disguise it.
In the Morning of Time Charles G. D. Roberts

noun, verb
the US spelling of colour

early 13c., “skin color, complexion,” from Old French color “color, complexion, appearance” (Modern French couleur), from Latin color “color of the skin; color in general, hue; appearance,” from Old Latin colos, originally “a covering” (akin to celare “to hide, conceal”), from PIE root *kel- “to cover, conceal” (see cell).

For sense evolution, cf. Sanskrit varnah “covering, color,” related to vrnoti “covers,” and also see chroma. Meaning “visible color, color of something” is attested in English from c.1300. As “color as a property of things,” from late 14c. Old English words for “color” were hiw (“hue”), bleo.

late 14c.; see color (n.); earliest use is figurative. Related: Colored; coloring.

color col·or (kŭl’ər)

That aspect of the appearance of objects and light sources that may be specified in terms of hue, lightness, and saturation.

That portion of the visible electromagnetic spectrum specified in terms of wavelength, luminosity, and purity.

The general appearance of the skin.

The skin pigmentation of a person not classified as white.


The sensation produced by the effect of light waves striking the retina of the eye. The color of something depends mainly on which wavelengths of light it emits, reflects, or transmits.

Color charge. See also hadron.

Our Living Language : When beams of colored light are mixed, or added, their wavelengths combine to form other colors. All spectral colors can be formed by mixing wavelengths corresponding to the additive primaries red, green, and blue. When two of the additive primaries are mixed in equal proportion, they form the complement of the third. Thus cyan (a mixture of green and blue) is the complement of red; magenta (a mixture of blue and red) is the complement of green; and yellow (a mixture of red and green) is the complement of blue. Mixing the three additive primaries in equal proportions reconstitutes white light. When light passes through a color filter, certain wavelengths are absorbed, or subtracted, while others are transmitted. The subtractive primaries cyan, magenta, and yellow can be combined using overlapping filters to form all other colors. When two of the subtractive primaries are combined in equal proportion, they form the additive primary whose wavelength they share. Thus overlapping filters of cyan (blue and green) and magenta (blue and red) filter out all wavelengths except blue; magenta (blue and red) and yellow (red and green) transmit only red; and yellow (red and green) and cyan (blue and green) transmit only green. Combining all three subtractive primaries in equal proportions filters out all wavelengths, producing black. Light striking a colored surface behaves similarly to light passing through a filter, with certain wavelengths being absorbed and others reflected. Pigments are combined to form different colors by a process of subtractive absorption of various wavelengths.


Interesting background, esp details about players, etc, as used in sports coverage •A scholar in the mid-1920s wrote of color stuff as the enlivening human interest and spicy, inventive language used by sports writers to avoid mere facts: doing color, spoke of a shot put up by one of the players by calling it ”a Perot hook”: in, out, and in/ I told him I need some color for a magazine piece I’m doing (1938+ Media)

Related Terms

off color

In addition to the idiom beginning with
also see:

false colors
horse of a different color
lend color to
look through rose-colored glasses
under false colors
with flying colors


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