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Basic French colors: 11 French colors to make your French conversations colorful

Learning French colors and the words used to describe them will enable you to express a variety of other emotions and experiences while also learning more about French culture. You can learn French online to get a command of basic French colors and use them in your conversations effortlessly.

To some extent, human feelings are associated with colors. Learning French colors and using them in sentences will help you command the French language. The basic French colors will make your conversations colorful and fun-filled.

Basic French colors

Rose – Pink

color pink

Rose as a color adjective in French means “pink,” not the warmer color we English people associate with “rose.”

However, as a noun, une rose refers to the same flower as in English. The typical flower purchased for your lover on the streets of Paris is a red rose, not a pink rose, so there is a strange dissonance between the noun and the color adjective in French.

Pronunciation of rose: It contrasts with the wine’s name, vin rosé, for which the last letter is pronounced.

Orange – Orange

color orange

This color is also the name of the fruit in English. Breakfast can thus include jus d’orange (orange juice) as well as marmelade d’orange (orange marmalade).

Orange brûlé (burnt orange) and the intentionally ambiguous orangé are two variations (orangey). (It should be noted that orange is an invariable adjective, whereas orangé is not.) In France, what we call a yellow stoplight is referred to as a feu orange.

Rouge – Red

color red

Red has numerous uses and associations in English, so it should come as no surprise that the same is true in French. Rouge is the color of communists and can be used as a noun to describe such a person as well as an adjective to describe a point of view.

Here are some words associated with this color:

  • la Croix-Rouge — the Red Cross
  • être dans le rouge — to be in the red (accounting)
  • chou rouge — red cabbage
  • alerte rouge — red alert
  • le tapis rouge — the red carpet

Vert – Green

color green

Vert becomes associated with various symbolism and can thus be useful in a variety of situations.

Some common uses of these words include:

  • le fruit est encore vert — the fruit isn’t ripe yet
  • une politique verte — a green/ecological policy
  • manger du vert — to eat vegetation (animals)
  • avoir le feu vert — to have the go-ahead/green light
  • être vert — to be furious
  • le Parti Vert / Les Verts — the Green Party
  • un citron vert — a lime (these are rather unpopular and can be hard to find in France compared to their yellow cousins les citrons, or lemons)
  • numéro vert — a toll-free number

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Jaune – Yellow

color yellow

One of the most popular uses of jaune is in the Tour de France, where the race leader wears the maillot jaune, or yellow jersey.

Egg yolk is referred to as a jaune d’oeuf (literally, yellow of the egg).

As a noun, jaune is an insulting term for an Asian person as well as a scab, as in someone who works during a strike.

Bleu – Blue

color blue

Bleu has famous tasks in addition to its day job as an indicator of color. Most interestingly, un bleu is the result of being punched in the face (a bruise). Les Bleus is a French term that refers to national sporting teams, such as the national soccer team.

You can also order a steak bleu, which means that your meat will be cooked with minimal contact with the pan. And if you don’t know what you’re doing, you’re not considered green in English, but rather un bleu.

Violet – Purple

color purple

Be careful not to mix this up with pourpre. They are not synonyms in French.

When you get too cold, your skin turns violet rather than blue, according to the French.

Pourpre – Reddish Purple

There is some debate about whether or not language influences color perception, but if you want to speak French, you must accept that reddish purple, or pourpre, has its own category. Cramoisi, also known as crimson, is a purplish red.

Pourpre is distinguished by the French eye from violet, which is more bluish; only the latter is what English people would call purple.

Noir Black

Noir can be a noun for a black person as well as a simple description of color. Thus, un noir is a black man, and une noire is a black woman.

The amusing and very useful phrase noir de monde simply means “crowded.” In addition to its color-related function as an adjective, noir can also mean “gloomy.”

Blanc – White

Blanc can refer to both a white person and a white wine as a noun. So le blanc boit un blanc (which sounds a little silly) could be translated as “the white man is drinking white wine.”

Be aware that the feminine form is slightly different: blanche. The noun also means “blank,” as in laisser un blanc, which means to leave a blank or space in a document. And, as in English, écrit en noir et blanc means “written in black and white.”

Gris – Gray

In addition to its use as a color, the term gris can be used to describe the weather, particularly in Brittany and Paris: il fait gris (it is overcast/dark). When used to describe a person, it means that Mathilde is a little tipsy, as in Mathilde est un peu grise.

Some French expressions with Colors

This section includes some of the basic French expressions related to color:

1.    changer de couleur –to change color. Example: Dans le Magicien d’Oz, Dorothée et ses amis voient un cheval qui change de couleur. (In The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy and her friends see a horse that changes colors.)

 2.    dans le rouge – in trouble/lower than your bank account limit. Example: Je dois acheter ces chaussures! Mais si je les achète, je serai dans le rouge. (I must buy these shoes! But if I buy them, I’ll overdraw my bank account.).

dans le rouge

3.    le tapis rouge – the red carpet.

4.    être rouge comme une tomate – to be as red as a tomato (to be sunburnt or blushing). This is the equivalent of to be beet-red/to be red as a beetroot.

5.    rougir – to blush/to turn red.

6.    être sur la liste rouge  – to have an unlisted telephone number.

7.    le Petit Chaperon rouge – Little Red Riding Hood.

8.    un poisson rouge – a goldfish.

9.    le rouge à lèvres – lipstick

le rouge à lèvres

10. être rouge de colère – red (flushed) with anger

11. être rouge de honte – red (blushing) with shame

12. un gilet jaune  – a reflective vest and now also a person who wears this for political reasons (we’ll come back to this phrase a little later on).

13. un jaune d’œuf – egg yolk.

14. un rire jaune/rire jaune –a grudging, forced, or bitter laugh/to laugh grudgingly, in a forced way, or bitterly.

15. un bleu –a bruise. Example: Pauvre Louise, elle est tombée et maintenant elle a un bleu. (Poor Louise – she fell and now she has a bruise.)

16. bleu – meat cooked very rare. Example: Vous le voulez comment, votre steak? Bien cuit? Saignant? – Bleu, a répondit le vampire. (“How do you want your steak? Well done? Rare?” “Very rare,” the vampire replied.)

17. le bleu – blue cheese.

18. un bleu de travail – a worker’s jumpsuit or overalls.

19. être vert de jalousie – to be green with envy. 

20. être vert de rage – to be furious. Literally, to be green with rage. As this and the previous example show, green is often used to express very strong emotional reactions.

21. un numéro vert  – a toll-free number.

22. avoir la main verte – to have a green thumb (be good at making things grow).

23. une orange – an orange (fruit).

24. le (vin) rouge – red wine.

le vin rouge

Conclusion

We hope this has given you a glimpse of the colorful world through the eyes of the French. There is a lot to take in. You can learn French proverbs to structure your French sentences properly.

Start with basic learning such as how to tell the time in French, it will give you the confidence to pronounce French words. You can also watch podcasts, videos, and French media to gain insights and generate meaningful notes for yourself.

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