Colors in German: Name & Pronounce All the Popular Colors

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Written By Jessica Knight

Founder of Linguatics. Passionate multilinguist.

No matter what language you speak, the color of something doesn’t change.

Colors are a basic descriptive tool that you are taught early on when learning your own language and therefore they are of course important to know when learning German.

Knowing the names of colors in the German language will unlock new ways of communicating with people, as you will be able to describe the world around you. 

From clothes shopping to taking directions, colors are an important part of German vocabulary that will definitely come in handy when traveling to German-speaking countries. 

This guide will break down the 14 most popular German colors along with some interesting German cultural information relating to each color. 

The Colors in German at a Glance

  • 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
  • Light – hell
  • Dark – dunkel
  • Dull – matt
  • Colorful – bunt
  • Was ist deine Lieblingsfarbe? –  “What is your favourite color?” 

Learn colors in German

Below we will go through the most common German colors so you can easily and effectively describe something using the most basic descriptive words.

Remember, when you are using a color to describe something, you will place the color before the noun just like you would often do in English. E.g. Der rote Apfel – the red apple.

Along with each color and its translation, we will let you know what role the color plays in German culture or simply mention some interesting facts about the color. 

Rot – Red in German 

The word for “red” in German is “rot” which is easy enough to remember since it is not too dissimilar.

“Rot ” is an important descriptive word to learn especially if you love to drink wine. 

The word for “red wine” in German is “Rotwein” and if you want to try a popular German red wine, try the Spätburgunder – a Pinot Noir that is grown across all thirteen wine regions in German. 

A popular German saying that uses the color “red” that you should look out for is “Der rote Faden”.

Don’t be confused by the literal translation of “Der rote Faden” which is “the red thread”, it is actually a saying to indicate a “common thread” or “central theme” in something. 

Orange – Orange in German 

The easiest of all German colors to learn is of course “orange” since it is spelt the same as the English word. 

The only difference comes when pronouncing “orange” in German since the “r” sound is raspier and the “ge” ending is more pronounced than it is in English. 

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Much like in English the color “orange” is also used as the name for the fruit with a slight variation in pronunciation. However in German when writing the word for the fruit “orange” you would capitalize the “O” since it is a noun. 

You may come across the German word “Apfelsine” which refers only to the fruit. However,  this fruit-specific word is mainly used in Northern Germany and “Orange” is prevalent across all German-speaking countries. 

Gelb – Yellow in German 

The word “yellow” in German is “gelb”. 

Be careful not to get confused as “gelb” is a bit of a false friend and is often mistaken for the word “gold”. 

Although you don’t need to worry about remembering the German word for “gold” since it is exactly the same as the English. 

In fact, thinking of the word “gold” may actually help you remember that “gelb” means “yellow” since gold is a yellowy color.

A common German saying using “gelb” is  “Gelb vor Neid” which means “yellow with envy”. 

This may be a bit confusing for English speakers since yellow is often associated with optimism and sunshine and since “green with envy” is the English variation. 

Grün – Green in German 

Another easy color to remember is grün since it is very similar to its English meaning “green”.

Much like in other countries the color “grün” is associated with nature.

People who love nature can be called “einen grünen Daumen” meaning they have “green thumbs”. 

The German political party that is focused on protecting the world’s natural environment is “Die Grüne” much like how the UK has “the green party”. 

“Grün” is used in German to mean “good” and to say the equivalent of “everything is fine” in German you could use the saying “alles im grünen Bereich” which means “everything in the green area”.

Another common saying in German is “Das ist dasselbe in Grün” which actually translates to “that’s the same in green” but is used when a choice makes no difference either way since both options are basically the same. 

Blau – Blue in German 

As you may have noticed, learning the colors in German is not as tricky as you might think since they are often similar to the English much like “blau” and “blue”. 

If you were to be described as being “blau” by a German, it would mean that you were drunk. 

Although the saying “blau sein” literally means “to be blue” it is used to describe a drunk person. “Er ist blau” is how you would say “he is drunk” in German if you wanted to let someone know why your friend is being an embarrassment. 

Another interesting saying in German is “Das blaue vom Himmel versprechen” which directly translates as “​​to promise the blue of the sky” which is a variation of the English phrase “to promise the moon”.

Of course, the blue of the sky is just as impossible to promise as the moon and so this phrase signifies promising something that is impractical or impossible. 

Hellblau – Light Blue in German 

It is easy to make light or dark variations of colors in German as you just need to add the word for “light” or “dark” onto the start of the word of the color. 

In this case, to make the color “light blue” you would add the German word for “light”, which is “hell” onto “blau” making “hellblau”. 

When you go outside on a summer morning the first thing you will probably see is a lovely “hellblau himmel” a.k.a “light blue sky”. 

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Dunkelblau – Dark Blue in German 

Similarly, to create the color “dark blue” just add the German word for “dark”, which is “dunkel” to “blau” to form “dunkelblau”. 

“​​Dunkelblau” will be a useful word to know when describing the night sky on a clear night or even when choosing an item of clothing. 

Lila – Purple in German 

The German word for “purple” is “lila” and you can easily remember this word by thinking of the purple color “lilac”. 

If you want to know the actual German word for “lilac” it’s “Flieder”. 

You may see fields in Germany blooming with beautiful “lila” Phacelia flowers in the summer and autumn. These flowers are planted by German farmers after a harvest to restore nutrients back to the soil and they are also great for bees. 

A slightly old-fashioned saying using the German word for “purple” is “Lila: der letzte Versuch” which directly translates to “purple: the last try” and was a snide comment made towards aging women who wore bright clothing or makeup to try and maintain their attractiveness. 

Rosa – Pink in German 

Pink in German is “rosa” which although looking and sounding nothing alike is still easy to remember if you think of a pink rose. 

A popular expression in German that is similar to the English expression “looking through rose-tinted glasses” is “Durch die rosa Brille schauen” which means “to look through pink glasses” 

Of course, this saying is the same as the English variation and can be used when someone has an overly optimistic or nostalgic viewpoint. 

Khaki – Khaki in German 

Another nice and easy one is the color “khaki” since it is exactly the same in English and German. 

If you ever want to describe a beige or tan item of clothing in German just stick with “khaki” and you will be okay. 

If you ever want to use “khaki” when referring to the actual type of outdoor chino trousers called “khakis”, regardless of its color, then you would still use “khaki” in German. 

Schwarz – Black in German

“Schwarz” is the German word for “black” and you will just have to memorize this word since it is not similar to the English word. 

Interestingly if you ever travel to Germany you will likely meet a Frau Schwarz since “Schwarz” is one of the most common surnames in Germany! 

A common saying using this color is “Ins Schwarze treffen” which you would use when you have hit the mark or got something right, its direct translation is “to meet in the black”.

Another word you may hear often in Germany, just hopefully not when referring to yourself is “Schwarzfahrer” which directly translates to “black rider”. 

“Schwarzfahrer” is actually a fare dodger who rides the trains without buying a ticket. 

And if you travel to Germany, don’t be a Schwarzfahrer – a cheeky rule-bender who rides the train without buying a ticket!

Weiß – White in German 

The color “white” in German is “weiß” and although the word starts with the same letter as the English term, the last letter “ß” might confuse you. 

The “ß” is a common German letter that is pronounced like a double-s, so you could write “weiß” as “weiss” if you wanted help with pronunciation. 

The phrase “bis zum Weißbluten” means “to bleed white” and is used in the same way as the English phrase “to be bled dry”, 

If you are at a German market and the seller is driving a hard bargain then you could put “bis zum Weißbluten” to use. 

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Another German saying is “Eine weiße Weste haben” which would be used when someone is innocent. 

“Eine weiße Weste haben” means “to have a white vest” and is similar to the English phrase “to have a clean slate” or in other words not have anything on your conscience to worry about. 

Grau – Gray in German 

“Grau” is another easy word to learn in German since it is so similar to its English meaning. 

Although a dreary color “grau” is actually the most popular color for cars in Germany. 

In keeping with the dreariness of the color, the common saying “Alles grau in grau sehen” is used when someone is being pessimistic.  The phrase literally means “To see everything gray in gray paint” and is used when someone isn’t looking on the bright side of life. 

Another popular expression with a slightly less negative meaning is “Nachts sind alle Katzen grau”, which means “all cats are gray in the night” and can be used to express that everything is the same.

“Nachts sind alle Katzen grau” is a popular European expression and there are variations of it in many different languages such as English, Spanish and French. 

Braun – Brown in German 

The German word “braun” looks slightly similar to the English “brown” and is also pronounced very similarly too. 

You can use this word to describe someone when they come back from their summer holiday with a nice tan. You would say “Du bist aber braun geworden!”  meaning “You’ve got a nice tan!”. 

How to Describe Colors in German

As touched on above you can use adjectives to add further detail to colors in German. When using these adjectives you should always place them before the word they refer to. 

Hell – Light in German 

If you want to describe a light color then you can add “hell” in front of the word. When you write this color you wouldn’t add a space between the words, unlike the way you would in English. 

For example, to say “light green” you could combine the word “hell” meaning “light” with the word “grün” meaning “green” to make “hellgrün”. 

Dunkel – Dark in German 

Alternatively if you want to create a dark color you simply add the word “dunkle” which means “dark” to the beginning of the color. 

For example, if you want to emphasize the level of darkness in something green you would describe it as “dunkelgrün” meaning “dark green”. 

Also, the word dunkle used on its own signifies a variety of German beers, ranging in color from amber to dark brown. 

Matt – Dull in German 

If you want to describe something as dull in appearance in German then you would use the word “matt”. 

Bunt – Colorful in German 

The opposite of “matt” is “bunt” which means “colorful” in German. If something has lots of colors and you do not want to say each one then you can simply describe it as “bunt”.  

Was ist deine Lieblingsfarbe? –  “What is your favorite color?” in German

If you want to ask someone what their favorite color is then you would ask “Was ist deine Lieblingsfarbe?”. 

This is a useful phrase to know when you meet new people and want to ask some general conversational questions to keep the interaction flowing. 

Asking this question to someone is also a great way to test if you have learnt all your colors in German properly, if they reply and you can understand them then you have done a good job!


So there you have it. Hopefully, now you can make your language a bit more colorful, literally! 

Knowing how to describe something in a basic way using its color is an important part of communicating in German. 

All there is left to do is go out into the world and see if you can name the colors of all the different cars and clothes that you can see.  

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