Learn the Colors, and Colorful Expressions, in German

Sound files also help students to learn the correct pronounciatioins

Brushes and oil paint forming a messy colour wheel
Dimitri Otis/The Image Bank/Getty Images

Every language has its own colorful expressions and symbolism, including German. But in German, bunt or farbenfroh (colorful) expressions are usually very literal: Expressions that contain colors—grün (green), rot (red), blau (blue), schwarz (black), and braun (brown)—use colors literally.

Adjectives and Expressions

As in English, the German words for colors (Farben) usually function as adjectives and take the normal adjective endings.

In certain situations, colors can also be nouns and are thus are capitalized, as in:

  • Eine Bluse in Blau > a blouse in blue
  • Das Blaue vom Himmel versprechen > to promise heaven and earth, or literally, the blue of the heavens

In German, colors are used, literally, to give color to expressions. For example, in English, you can "feel blue," "be yellow," or "see red." In German, these colors may or may not have the same meaning. Blau, for example, can have numerous meanings in German, including "drunk" or "black" (as in "black eye").

In Germany and Austria, political parties are often identified by or associated with a specific color. Both the Austrian and German conservative parties are schwarz, while the socialists are rot. Various other political parties in German-speaking Europe are identified by other colors, and one political coalition is even called Ampelkoalition, the"traffic-light" coalition (red, yellow, green: SPD, FDP, Grüne).

Learning the Colors

The table provides literal translations of the colors, as well as colorful expressions, in German. The color is listed in German in the first column, with the English translation in the second, followed by a colorful phrase or expression in the third. Click on the link in the third column to bring up a sound file that will allow you to hear the color in German followed by the expression using the color.

Colors - Farben
Click on Audio to hear a color and its sample phrases.
FarbeColor"Colorful" Phrases (color adjectives)
rotredder rote Wagen (the red car), der Wagen ist rot
rosapinkdie rosa Rose (the pink rose)*
blaublueein blaues Auge (a black* eye), er ist blau (he's drunk)
*In German, a black eye is blue.
hell-
blau
light
blue
die hellblaue Bluse (the light blue blouse)**
dunkel-
blau
dark
blue
die dunkelblaue Bluse (the dark blue blouse)
grüngreen

der grüne Hut (the green hat) 

gelbyellowein gelbes Licht (a yellow light)
orangeorangedas orange Buch (the orange book) 
braunbrowndie braunen Schuhe (the brown shoes) 
beigebeigeder beige Kasten (the beige box)
violettvioletder violette Hut (the violet hat) 
lilalilac/mauveder lila Hut (the lilac hat)* 
weißwhitedas   weiße Papier (the white paper) 
schwarzblackder schwarze Koffer (the black suitcase)
graugrayder graue Pulli (the gray sweater) 
türkisturquoiseeine türkise Karte (a turquoise card) 
silbersilvereine silberne Münze (a silver coin) 
goldgoldeine goldene Münze (a gold coin), eine Goldmünze
 
* Colors ending in -a (lila, rosa) or -e (beige, orange) do not take the normal adjective endings.
** Light or dark colors are preceded by hell- (light) or dunkel- (dark), as in hellgrün (light green) or dunkelgrün (dark green).