Webster 1913 Edition




Definition 2024




Picture dictionary

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Alternative forms


colour (countable and uncountable, plural colours) (British)

  1. (uncountable) The spectral composition of visible light.
    Humans and birds can perceive colour.
  2. (countable) A particular set of visible spectral compositions, perceived or named as a class.
    Most languages have names for the colours black, white, red, and green.
    • 1918, W. B. Maxwell, chapter 5, in The Mirror and the Lamp:
      Here, in the transept and choir, where the service was being held, one was conscious every moment of an increasing brightness; colours glowing vividly beneath the circular chandeliers, and the rows of small lights on the choristers' desks flashed and sparkled in front of the boys' faces, deep linen collars, and red neckbands.
  3. (uncountable) Hue as opposed to achromatic colours (black, white and greys).
    He referred to the white flag as one "drained of all colour".
  4. (uncountable) Human skin tone, especially as an indicator of race or ethnicity.
    Colour has been a sensitive issue in many societies.
  5. (figuratively) Interest, especially in a selective area.
    a bit of local colour
    • 1914, Louis Joseph Vance, Nobody, chapter I:
      Three chairs of the steamer type, all maimed, comprised the furniture of this roof-garden, with (by way of local colour) on one of the copings a row of four red clay flower-pots filled with sun-baked dust [].
  6. (heraldry) Any of the standard dark tinctures used in a coat of arms, including azure, gules, sable, and vert. Contrast with metal.
  7. (in the plural) A standard or banner.
    The loss of their colours destroyed the regiment's morale.
  8. The system of colour television.
    This film is broadcast in colour.
  9. (in the plural) An award for sporting achievement, particularly within a school or university.
    He was awarded colours for his football.
  10. In corporate finance, details on sales, profit margins, or other financial figures, especially while reviewing quarterly results when an officer of a company is speaking to investment analysts.
    Could you give me some colour with regards to which products made up the mix of revenue for this quarter?
  11. (physics) A property of quarks, with three values called red, green, and blue, which they can exchange by passing gluons.
  12. (typography) The relative lightness or darkness of a mass of written or printed text on a page.
  13. (snooker) Any of the coloured balls excluding the reds.
  14. A front or façade: an ostensible truth actually false.
  15. An appearance of right or authority.
    Under colour of law, he managed to bilk taxpayers of millions of dollars.
  16. (medicine) Skin colour noted as: normal, jaundice, cyanotic, flush, mottled, pale, or ashen as part of the skin signs assessment.

Usage notes

The late Anglo-Norman colour, which is the standard UK spelling, has been the usual spelling in Britain since the 14th century and was chosen by Dr. Johnson's Dictionary of the English Language (1755) along with other Anglo-Norman spellings such as favour, honour, etc. The Latin spelling color was occasionally used from the 15th century onwards, mainly due to Latin influence; it was lemmatized by Webster's American Dictionary of the English Language (1828), along with favor, honor, etc., and is currently the standard US spelling.

In Canada, colour is preferred, but color is not unknown; in Australia, -our endings are the standard, although -or endings had some currency in the past and are still sporadically found in some regions. In New Zealand, -our endings are the standard.



Derived terms

Related terms



colour (not comparable) (Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, Britain)

  1. Conveying colour, as opposed to shades of grey.
    Colour television and films were considered a great improvement over black and white.



colour (third-person singular simple present colours, present participle colouring, simple past and past participle coloured) (Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Britain)

  1. To give something colour.
    We could colour the walls red.
  2. (intransitive) To apply colours to the areas within the boundaries of a line drawing using coloured markers or crayons.
    My kindergartener loves to colour.
  3. (of a face) To become red through increased blood flow.
    Her face coloured as she realised her mistake.
  4. To affect without completely changing.
    That interpretation certainly colours my perception of the book.
  5. (informal) To attribute a quality to.
    Colour me confused.
  6. (mathematics) To assign colours to the vertices of (a graph) or the regions of (a map) so that no two adjacent ones have the same colour.
    Can this graph be two-coloured?
    You can colour any map with four colours.


Derived terms


See also

Colors in English · colors, colours (layout · text)
     red      green      yellow      cream      white
     crimson      magenta      teal      lime      pink
     indigo      blue      orange      gray, grey      violet
     black      purple      brown      azure, sky blue      cyan


Old French


colour f (oblique plural colours, nominative singular colour, nominative plural colours)

  1. (Anglo-Norman) Alternative form of color