What color is used to describe someone who is drunk, perhaps at Oktoberfest?
What color is associated with someone who rides the train without buying a ticket?
What is the most popular car color in Germany?
We’ll answer all these questions and more in this cheat sheet to colors in German.
Colors are a universal language, which makes them an important topic to learn when traveling in German speaking countries.
So… Was ist deine Lieblingsfarbe? What is your favourite color?
Learn how to answer this question and more in German with Busuu, the app home to the world’s largest language-learning community.
Learn colors in German
Here are the most common German colors and their translation (with audio). It’s important to remember, if you are using color to describe something, the color will normally come before the noun. Der rote Apfel – the red apple.
- Red – rot
- Orange – orange
- Yellow – gelb
- Green – grün
- Blue – blau
- Light blue – hellblau
- Dark blue – dunkelblau
- Purple – lila
- Pink – rosa
- Khaki – khaki
- Black – schwarz
- White – weiß
- Grey – grau
- Brown – braun
German colors: fun facts
Red – rot
If you’re a wine drinker, rot is an important color to learn.
Red wine is Rotwein in German. The Spätburgunder is a Pinot Noir, a popular red wine variety grown in all 13 wine regions throughout Germany.
Orange – orange
Luckily for English speakers, orange in German has the same spelling as in English, with only a slight difference in pronunciation. Listen for the raspy ‘r’ sound in German.
In German, both the color and the fruit are orange – but the fruit must be capitalised when written, as it’s a noun.
Yellow – gelb
Be careful, gelb – yellow in German – is one of those tricky false friends. It can easily be mistaken for the English color gold.
Fun fact: The color gold is the same word in both English and German!
And while sunny yellow is a color associated with optimism and hope, Germans actually say they are yellow with envy: Gelb vor Neid – whereas in English, we would say we are green with envy.
Green – grün
Nature-loving Germans are often said to have a green thumb: einen grünen Daumen.
As in many countries, green in German – grün – features in the name of a ‘green-focused’ German political party: Die Grüne.
Their focus is on protecting the environment. Germany is a world leader in sustainability, renewable energy, recycling and public transport.§
Blue – blau
After a few German beers at Oktoberfest, you might be described as blau sein – literally, to be blue.
But in this context, this expression using blau – blue in German – means something entirely different. Here, it means to be drunk.
And the next day, if you are feeling hungover, you may “blau machen” (take a cheeky day off work).
Light blue – hellblau
As you drink your morning coffee, you may see a beautiful hellblau himmel, or light blue sky.
Dark blue – dunkelblau
From fashion to home decor, dunkelblau is an elegant color that has a down-to-earth quality and symbolises relaxation, balance and harmony.
Purple – lila
Throughout Germany in Autumn, lilafelden, or purple fields, spread across the countryside. These lila colored flowers are called Phacelia, and are planted after the grain harvest to restore nutrients in the soil.
Pink – rosa
Thinking of a rose is a simple way to remember the German word for pink, rosa.
The expression Durch die rosa Brille schauen, lo look through pink glasses, means you have an overly optimistic outlook on things.
Khaki – khaki
The color khaki is the same in both English and German, and refers to both the beige color, as well as the style of pants popular for outdoor sports such as hiking.
Black – schwarz
It’s highly likely you’ll meet a Frau Schwarz on a visit to German-speaking countries, as it’s one of the most popular German surnames.
And if you travel to Germany, don’t be a Schwarzfahrer – a cheeky rule-bender who rides the train without buying a ticket!
White – weiß
Another popular last name, white in German is weiß, featuring the German letter ß, which is pronounced like a double-s.
Gray – grau
Why do Autobahns in Germany may look a bit bland? Because grau is officially the most popular car color in Germany, according to Statista.
The popular expression “Nachts sind alle Katzen grau”, meaning all cats are gray in the night, is another way to say everything looks alike.
Brown – braun
Although it’s spelled slightly differently, the pronunciation of braun in German and English is very similar.
But it’s also used when someone returns from their summer holiday with a dark tan.
“Du bist aber braun geworden!” (You’ve got a nice tan!)
How to describe colors in German
Use these common adjectives to further describe colors in German. They should always be used before the color that they refer to in written and spoken German.
Light – hell
You can use hell in front of any color to modify it as a light color. When written, there is no space between the two words, so light green would be hellgrün.
Dark – dunkel
Add dunkel before a color to emphasise the level of darkness. Dunkel is also a variety of German beers, typically ranging in color from amber to dark brown: dunkelbraun.
Dull – matt
Matt is used to describe surfaces such as walls or car colors that are dull in appearance.
Colorful – bunt
A garden full of tulips in spring, or the fresh produce at a market stall on the weekend might be described as bunt.
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