Learning colors in Spanish is really important and should be among the first topics you master.
Colors are everywhere, and knowing them really well will allow you to talk about so many different topics — from clothes to food to art to many other topics. Color words are important for many things, from creative writing and understanding poetry to pointing out objects and even talking about your likes and dislikes.
In this article, we will look at colors in Spanish as well as some important grammar rules. For instance, unlike in English, color words in Spanish often change according to the gender and number of the noun they describe — but more on that, with some examples, later.
We’ll also cover a few useful expressions in Spanish with color words.
All the Colors in Spanish
Let’s take a quick look at all the colors in Spanish — los colores.
- Rojo — red
- Amarillo — yellow
- Azul — blue
- Negro — black
- Blanco — white
- Verde — green
- Morado, púrpura — purple
- Anaranjado, naranja — orange
- Marrón, café — brown
- Rosado, rosa — pink
- Gris — grey
- Beige — beige
- Ocre — ocher
- Escarlata — scarlet
- Granate — maroon
- Dorado — gold
- Plateado — silver
- Borgoña — burgundy
- Marfil — ivory
- Indigo, añil — indigo
- Bronce — bronze
- Cobre — copper
- Turquesa — turquoise
- Ámbar — amber
- Aguamarina — aquamarine
- Cian — cyan
- Limón — lemon
- Lima — lime
- Violeta — violet
- Lila — lilac
- Salmón — salmon
- Fucsia — fuchsia
- Magenta — magenta
- Champaña — champagne
- Jade — jade
How to Talk About Shades of Color in Spanish
If you need even more colors in Spanish — say, you are talking about a painting and want to discuss subtle shades of color, here is how you can do that.
The most common words you can add are claro, oscuro, and fuerte.
To talk about light shades, add claro, which literally means “clear” or “light” — azul claro (“light blue”), verde claro (“light green”)
To talk about dark shades, add oscuro, which means “dark” — azul oscuro (“dark blue”), verde oscuro (“dark green”)
When you say a color is fuerte, it means that it’s bright and intense — azul fuerte (“bright blue”), verde fuerte (“bright green”)
There are even more shades of color in Spanish that you can make by adding other words:
Lila pálido — “pale lilac”
Azúl eléctrico — “electric blue”
Naranja pastel — “pastel orange”
Verde intenso — “deep green”
By the way, note that all the words that help you identify shades of color come after the color words. While we say “light blue” in English, the Spanish equivalent is azul claro.
How to Memorize Colors in Spanish
Wow, that’s so many colors! I know, it’s hard to memorize them all at once. There is one thing that can help you memorize colors in Spanish, other vocabulary units, and learn the language overall — flashcards.
Flashcards have proven themselves over centuries of use and still remain effective, if used properly. It is a simple and fun way of using “active recall” for learning vocabulary.
You probably do not want to make the flashcards the old-fashioned way — write words and their translations with pen or pencil on pieces of paper. But don’t worry, modern technology has got you covered.
Nowadays. practically everything can be done digitally, including flashcards, and there are some amazing apps for that. Take a look at this post to read about some of the best flashcard apps that you can use to learn colors in Spanish and other vocabulary items.
The Grammar of Colors in Spanish
There are a few things that you need to be aware of when using color words in the Spanish language, such as word order, the gender and number of nouns, the verbs you can use with colors.
Word Order for Spanish Colors
In Spanish, unlike in English, adjectives, including color words, are used after the nouns they modify, and not before them.
La alfombra roja — “the red carpet”
Los lapices azules — “the blue pencils”
El coche azul — “the blue car”
You can also describe the color of an object by adding de color, literally meaning ‘of color’.
Una casa de color rosa — “a pink house”
Un gato de color gris — “a grey cat”
This does not add to the meaning but is another way to turn a phrase which you can hear from some Spanish speakers. You can also use this as a trick to avoid using gender and number endings if you forgot them, as in this construction, the singular masculine form of the adjective is always used: la alfombra de color rojo (“the red carpet”).
This phrase also allows you to use practically any object as a reference to color. For instance, you can say un coche de color cielo (“a car the color of the sky”). It can be a way out if you can’t remember the word azul or just want to use a different phrase for a change.
Gender and Numbers for Spanish Colors
In the Spanish language, every noun has a number (singular or plural) and a gender (masculine or feminine). Most color words agree with the nouns they describe in both gender and number.
Some Spanish color words change the ending depending on the gender of the noun, which usually just involves changing the final letter to o for masculine nouns or to a for feminine ones.
un coche amarillo — “a yellow car” (the word coche is masculine)
una taza amarilla — “a yellow cup” (the word taza is feminine)
If the noun described by the adjective is in the plural form, you need to add s or es to the end of the color word. The rule about agreeing with gender still applies!
coches amarillos — “yellow cars”
tazas amarillas — “yellow cups”
Color words that do not change with gender include naranja, azul, verde, lila, gris, rosa, marrón, turquesa, magenta, granate, púrpura, beige, ocre, marfil, añil, bronce, cobre, ámbar, cian, limón, lima, salmón, fucsia, champaña, jade.
Compound colors, those made of more than one word, using words like claro or oscuro, do not change with gender or number: hojas verde oscuro (“dark-green leaves”).
Sometimes a color word can also be a noun in the sentence: El rojo enfurece a los toros (“Red makes bulls angry” – which is, by the way, not true, but a grammatically correct way to use an adjective rojo as a noun).
The Verbs Ser and Estar, and How They Relate to Colors in Spanish
To describe what color something is, like “the sky is blue”, we often use the verb “to be” in English. In the Spanish language, there are two equivalents to the verb “to be” — the verbs ser and estar.
The verb ser is used to describe permanent states. When you describe the permanent color of an object, you will most likely use this verb.
El cielo es azul. —” The sky is blue.”
Mis gatas son negras. — “My cats are black.”
Don’t forget about the number and gender agreement. The color words function as adjectives in such phrases as well and the same grammar rules apply.
Another common use of the verb ser is to describe people’s physical appearance, like, for instance, height, as it is pretty permanent — at least in adults: El es alto (“He is tall”).
The verb estar is used to describe temporary states. It is not used with colors in Spanish too often, but it can be used when we want to stress that the object can change its color or is not normally of this color.
Sus ojos están rojos. — “Her eyes are red.” (they are not normally red, but maybe she has been crying)
El cielo está gris hoy. — “The sky is grey today.” (it’s not usually grey, and it’ll likely change its color soon)
These two verbs are very useful when learning Spanish, so don’t forget about them when you are using color words, either.
Useful Expressions with Colors in Spanish
Just like in English, colors in Spanish are used not only to describe the literal color of an object — un coche rojo, una taza blanca. Color words are used in some idiomatic phrases that you can use to make your speech more expressive and a bit ‘more Spanish’.
Let’s take a look at some useful expressions using color words:
Pensa amarilla — “yellow press” (Ella lee mucha pensa amarilla).
Novela negra — “a crime novel” (No me dustan novels negras).
Ponerse rojo — “to blush” (Cuando lo miro, me pongo roja).
Ver la vida de color rosa — “to be optimistic” (Siempre ve la vida de color rosa).
Chiste verde — “an adult joke” (Él siempre cuenta chistes verdes).
Príncipe azul — “an ideal man, prince charming” (Sigo esperando a mi príncipe azul).
Pasar la noche en blanco — “to have a sleepless night” (Ayer pasé la noche en blanco).
Ponerse morado — “to stuff one’s face, to overeat” (Se puso morado en la festa).
Media naranja — “soulmate, one’s better half” (Por fin he encontrado a mi media naranja).
As you can see, colors can be found anywhere — on your cheeks, in someone’s jokes, and even in people’s relationships. Use these phrases to add some “color” to your speech and to impress your Spanish speaking friends with your knowledge of idioms.
Some of these phrases can be easier to understand than others. For instance, the color negro is usually associated with something negative or dark. Some may be more tricky — media naranja (literally, “half an orange”) doesn’t immediately scream soulmate.
If you hear something you don’t quite understand from a Spanish speaker, don’t hesitate to ask. They will probably be glad to explain anyway, and asking for an explanation is much better than a misunderstanding.
You’re On Your Way to Mastering Colors in Spanish!
Colors in Spanish are quite easy to learn and — forgive the repetition — are very colorful. They can be used to describe objects, talk about art, read or even write poetry. Color words can make for very interesting idiomatic expressions.
To put it in a nutshell, color words are a great tool for your Spanish vocabulary that will definitely be of great use to you.
Practice Spanish colors with flashcards until you memorize them and use them when speaking Spanish — whenever appropriate, of course — and you will be the master of colors in no time!