Definition of coloured in English:


(US colored)


  • 1Having a colour or colours, especially as opposed to being black, white, or neutral.

    ‘strings of coloured lights’
    in combination ‘a peach-coloured sofa’
    • ‘He could see nothing but flashes of different colored lights before everything went completely black.’
    • ‘The answer is that it is a light-coloured animal with black stripes.’
    • ‘They have formed the basis for the collection of black and white and coloured snaps, which I now possess.’
    • ‘He wore a grey top, light-coloured trousers and white trainers with a blue stripe down the side.’
    • ‘It is best to use a light-colored preferably white background with black or very dark-colored text.’
    • ‘Then, when this highly coloured infant wine is still only half fermented, it is poured into a large vat of cool brandy or grape spirit.’
    • ‘We wore flowery shirts and cheap sunglasses with round black rims and coloured lenses (Tony's blue and mine crimson).’
    • ‘Along the staircase, everything goes black except for a few colored lights here and there.’
    • ‘She had dark brown eyes that looked almost completely black in the fading light with olive-coloured skin.’
    • ‘It is preferable to have a white or light-coloured background.’
    • ‘One of the men was 6ft tall, with short black hair, of stocky build, and was wearing a black vest and cream-coloured shorts.’
    • ‘Many anglers like to use several highly coloured plastic beads just in front of the bait as an added attraction.’
    • ‘Neutral-colored paint is excellent for garden furniture, since you want to keep the attention on your colorful garden, not the furniture.’
    • ‘The double bedroom has two double wardrobes and gold carpet, which complements the neutral-coloured walls.’
    • ‘He had a chubby face, was wearing a black jacket and beige-coloured trousers, and witnesses estimate his age as around 30.’
    • ‘Do you think he would have commanded as much respect if he had worn different coloured contact lenses, white make-up and black eye-shadow?’
    • ‘But search time can be reduced if anyone seeing a goose wearing a coloured collar with black letters can report it to the laboratory.’
    • ‘He had blond hair and was wearing a light-coloured jacket, white trousers and black shoes.’
    • ‘In front of her was Cameron, leaning towards her, his black bangs falling into his light honey-coloured eyes.’
    • ‘They favor light, brightly colored clothes and are interested in the latest fashions.’
    • ‘In the international pearl market, the demand is for large-sized coloured pearls of black, silvery green and green to deep purple hues.’
    brightly coloured, bright-coloured, deep-coloured, brilliant, glowing, radiant, vivid, rich, vibrant
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1 Imbued with an emotive or exaggerated quality.
      ‘highly coloured examples were used by both sides’
      • ‘His stories are highly coloured and immoderate, both sweet and sour.’
      • ‘Another highly colored phrase worked its way from my depths as I realized that such a mistake would not be easily repaired.’
      • ‘His generally lush and highly coloured realisations of the instrumental continuo adds further dramatic weight.’
      biased, prejudiced, one-sided, discriminatory, preferential, partial, interested, parti pris, bigoted, sectarian, factional, unjust, unfair, inequitable, unbalanced
      View synonyms
  • 2offensive, dated Wholly or partly of non-white descent.

    1. 2.1South African Used as an ethnic label for people of mixed ethnic origin, including Khoisan, African, Malay, Chinese, and white.
      ‘there was a drive to recruit coloured, black, and Indian members’


  • 1offensive, dated A person who is wholly or partly of non-white descent.

    1. 1.1South African A person of mixed descent usually speaking Afrikaans or English as their mother tongue.
      ‘the ANC was not making much progress among Indians or mixed-race Coloureds’
  • 2colouredsClothes, sheets, etc. that are any colour but white.

    ‘she wouldn't mix her whites with her coloureds on washday’
    • ‘You can safely wash whites, coloureds, sheets, shirts and nappies in water as hot as you want it.’
    • ‘Yet just months later there's a so-called new breed of machine that will wash your whites and your coloureds at the same time, in separate drums.’
    • ‘The one thing it will not do though is separate the whites from the coloureds.’


In South Africa the term coloured (also written Coloured) has a different history. It is used to refer to people of mixed-race parentage rather than, as elsewhere, to refer to African peoples and their descendants (i.e. as a synonym for black). Under apartheid it was imposed as an official racial designation. However, in modern use the term is not generally considered offensive or derogatory. Coloured referring to skin colour is first recorded in the early 17th century and was adopted in the US by emancipated slaves as a term of racial pride after the end of the American Civil War. In Britain it was the accepted term until the 1960s, when it was superseded (as in the US) by black. The term coloured lost favour among black people during this period and is now widely regarded as offensive except in historical contexts.