Definition of grey in English:


(US gray)


  • 1Of a colour intermediate between black and white, as of ashes or lead.

    ‘grey flannel trousers’
    ‘his hair was grey and wispy’
    • ‘Off on the horizon, dark grey storm clouds gathered.’
    • ‘After leaving Provence, grey skies and damp weather seem like an affront to the senses.’
    • ‘Thick gray rain clouds hid the sun, and there was a hint of thunder in the air.’
    • ‘The narrow roads add to the town's character and are lined with grey buildings built out of Bath stone.’
    • ‘I'm sat on the upper floor of a Starbuck's on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh, watching people come and go in the grey drizzle, while I catch up on my e-mail.’
    • ‘Manda opened the door, and found herself looking at an elderly woman in a gray suit, sitting behind her desk.’
    • ‘Boys will wear black shoes, grey trousers, a white airtex polo shirt, and a navy v-neck sweatshirt featuring the school's specially designed logo.’
    • ‘Every day she is getting closer to her 50th birthday and her honey blonde hair is slowly turning grey.’
    • ‘Gray chairs and a dull gray carpet give the visiting area a stark, lifeless appearance.’
    • ‘He wore white T-shirt and dark gray pants with black belt.’
    • ‘The fresh-faced 52-year-old looks energetic and youthful, despite his thinning grey hair and glasses.’
    • ‘Pulling on his hat and scarf he walked out into the gray fog of San Francisco.’
    • ‘She could feel Mike looking at her, his gray eyes boring into her.’
    • ‘Opposite him sat a tall girl who looked to be no more than in her early twenties with long curly dark brown hair and thin piercing grey eyes.’
    • ‘He is of a medium build and has short grey receding hair and a moustache.’
    • ‘Out in the playground during break boys dash around kicking a ball, their white shirts hanging out of their grey flannel trousers.’
    • ‘A cast-iron open fireplace with a pale grey marble mantel provides a focal point.’
    • ‘People who dye their grey hair need to keep their roots up to date and never let them grow to an inch long.’
    • ‘The skies were grey and cloudy, and it was growing darker at an alarming rate.’
    • ‘One complaint, though: white / gray text on a black background is just plain painful on the eyes.’
    greyish, silvery
    white, silver, hoary
    ashen, wan, pale, pasty, pallid, colourless, sallow, leaden, bloodless, anaemic, white, waxen, chalky
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    1. 1.1 (of the weather) cloudy and dull.
      ‘a cold, grey November day’
      • ‘It is a grey morning, though the sun is trying to break through.’
      • ‘Woody Allen says he loves London's famous gray and dreary weather and its residents' ever-expressive slang.’
      • ‘The Phipps Bridge estate does not look very welcoming on a grey and wet January afternoon.’
      • ‘Well, it was a midweek afternoon in November; the weather was grey and dank and not much was happening.’
      • ‘It's grey and dull and slightly damp (like my spirits).’
      • ‘The weather started out grey and chill but has warmed steadily until, today, I resorted to wearing a pair of scruffy old shorts around the house and garden.’
      • ‘He looked exactly the same as yesterday, though that may have had something to do with the fact that the weather was grey and cloudy.’
      • ‘For the past three years Maggie Hall has been escaping the cold, grey winters of the UK.’
      • ‘The day dawned cloudy and gray, not typically amusement park weather, but absolutely perfect to avoid crowds.’
      • ‘With the weather being dull and grey outside, I am in shopping mood today.’
      • ‘Tannadice was enveloped by the kind of dreich, grey weather which made you wonder whether the floodlights would have sufficient wattage to illuminate the pitch.’
      • ‘The day went by quickly, everybody's mood seemed to be glum and the gray and rainy weather outside didn't help.’
      • ‘Now normally you couldn't pay me to go to Hamleys but the grey weather was getting us all down.’
      • ‘The weather was overcast and gray but rain held off for the entire day until the group was on its way back to the cars.’
      • ‘It may be cloudy and grey outside, but I'm warm at the moment.’
      • ‘It was grey and cloudy and looked as if a storm were in the works.’
      • ‘The weather is gray and gloomy throughout much of the country.’
      • ‘Last winter, I went to Tucson for a little break from the gray weather and cold in Northern California.’
      • ‘No great penalty because the weather has turned somewhat grey and dour, with a bite in the wind that's guaranteed to find its way through all but the stoutest of outdoor clothing.’
      • ‘The weather was cool, grey and moist, and the scenery pretty bleak, but spectacular nonetheless.’
      cloudy, overcast, dull, dim, dark, sunless
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    2. 1.2 (of a person) having grey hair.
      as complement ‘she's getting on a bit, and going grey’
      • ‘Wearing a brown jacket, blue shirt and blue jeans, he's undoubtedly grey.’
      • ‘I started going grey when I was 19.’
      • ‘When it comes to their own hair, many men seem to feel that going grey somehow just happened to them.’
      • ‘He's grey, got a few miles on the clock and hooks into the public purse as though he was a fair-dinkum member of the royal family, but a merry old soul he is not.’
      • ‘No wonder I'm completely gray; you two have worried the color plumb out of my hair.’
      • ‘Tall, unsmiling and prematurely grey, he lacks the personal presence you might expect from a media power-player.’
      • ‘He had gone quite grey, she noticed, since her last visit.’
      • ‘When the allegations became public Leslie turned grey overnight.’
      • ‘There's nothing wrong with changing your hair if you're going grey and don't like it.’
      grey-haired, hoary, grizzled
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    3. 1.3informal Relating to old people collectively.
      ‘grey power’
      ‘the grey market’
      • ‘Several companies have launched savings accounts aimed at what they call the grey market.’
      • ‘Moreover, others warn, the burden of financing Scotland's new grey army could put further pressure on the UK.’
      • ‘In a wry demonstration of grey power, the young are finally saved from annihilation when the professor assembles a team of aged scientists who are immune to the alien attraction.’
      • ‘This retirement community is the ultimate expression of grey power.’
      • ‘Away from the political and economic aspects of grey power, a quiet revolution is taking place in the retirement housing market.’
      • ‘With Britain's population ageing, the power of the grey pound is constantly on the increase.’
      • ‘‘If grey power gets itself organised, they'll be the most fantastic force in the land,’ she says.’
      • ‘At the same time, driven by less positive reasons - such as poverty and exasperation - we are witnessing a real growth of grey power.’
      • ‘The growing importance of the ‘grey market’ has shattered the travel industry's traditional view of older clients and is forcing tour operators to take people over the age of 55 more seriously.’
      • ‘In America, grey power is the key to electoral victory.’
      • ‘Tourism chiefs are waking up to the power of the grey pound, with VisitScotland now predicting the bulk of tourism income will come from the cash-rich over-50s.’
      • ‘It felt more like a rally of the grey power movement.’
      • ‘In addition, it is worth noting, Bush has struck a blow for grey power.’
      grey-haired, hoary, grizzled
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    4. 1.4 (of a person's face) pale, as through tiredness, age, or illness.
      ‘his face looked grey and drawn’
      • ‘His brown eyes were quite noticeable on his otherwise gray face.’
      • ‘She was grey, she was cold, I picked her up and patted her back and got no response.’
      • ‘He was grey and barely breathing - six days after he was first admitted after suffering a series of fits at his family's home in Flamborough.’
      • ‘Their guru's eyes were deep in their sockets, his face was gray, his lips were curled and his throat was dry.’
      • ‘Keziah could see the boy's shoulders sagging with exhaustion, and his face was grey with fatigue.’
      • ‘He turned to see Ned staggering, and then collapsing on to the floor, his face ghostly grey with beads of sweat across his forehead.’
      • ‘Even though his face was so gray, red patches of fever burned in his cheeks.’
      • ‘Matt's hair was untamed and messy and his face was grey with hot red flushes in his cheeks.’
      • ‘My sister's face was gray with tears and I knew that I had not caused them, I hadn't been there.’
      • ‘When I turned to look at him, I was shocked to see his face was gray, covered in perspiration and his breathing was shallow.’
      pale, deathly pale, pallid, white, bloodless, ashen, ashen-faced, ashy, chalky, chalk-white, white-faced, whey-faced, waxen, waxy, corpse-like, deathlike, ghostly
      View synonyms
  • 2Without interest or character; dull and nondescript.

    ‘grey, faceless men’
    ‘the grey daily routine’
    • ‘I went along for an interview in London, and a particularly grey, faceless person interviewed me.’
    • ‘Certainly as far as a candidate and a politician, he is gray.’
    • ‘The Holloway road is a grim grey artery filled with traffic pollution and lined by nondescript retail outlets.’
    • ‘But as long as it doesn't serve the economical interests of the grey men, those who control the governments that control the world, it won't happen.’
    • ‘Color is emotion, the opposite of the gray world of accounting.’
    • ‘Zahariev works at a gas station and participation in the contest brought him a ray of light from his normally gray and monotonous routine.’
    characterless, colourless, nondescript, unremarkable, faceless
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  • 3(of financial or trading activity) not accounted for in official statistics.

    ‘the grey economy’
    • ‘According to the e-zine, the share of the grey economy in Bulgaria has been growing since 1993.’
    • ‘UDF MP Nikola Nikolov told a news conference that for his party, such an amendment to the law will reduce the grey economy in this sector.’
    • ‘One of the problems was that these labourers were working in a part of the grey economy that is free of those often decried regulations.’
    • ‘This next phase would build on existing measures to clamp down on the grey economy and close the loopholes allowing for tax evasion.’
    • ‘According to one authoritative estimate, nearly a quarter of India's economy is in the grey economy - almost twice the level of China.’
    • ‘Some analysts believe that it will increase the scale of the grey economy.’
    • ‘Finance Minister Milen Velchev believes that the grey economy has receded in Bulgaria in recent years, albeit by a modest degree.’
    • ‘Sixty five per cent of the transactions are done by the grey economy.’
    • ‘Purvanov said he had no information on any relationship between those in the grey economy, and political parties.’
    • ‘The latest studies indicate that the grey economy in Bulgaria is at 20 per cent.’
    • ‘Increased use of electronic payments is one way to decrease the share of the grey economy.’
    • ‘Actually, the so-called grey economy operates very well outside official regulation.’
    • ‘No less alarming was the growing grey economy consistently sustained by well-organised smuggling networks and crime groups.’
    • ‘Most children working without a contract are hired in the grey economy.’
    • ‘The country's grey economy is robbing the Government of close to €1.6 billion in unpaid taxes annually.’
    • ‘In his opinion, the idea of the measures was rather to bring a larger part of the gray economy into the light.’
    • ‘The higher rates will doom some companies, while others will be forced to shift into the grey economy in order to survive.’
    unofficial, informal, irregular, back-door
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  • 4South African historical Relating to an ethnically mixed residential area.

    ‘a grey Cape Town suburb’
    • ‘Rand Afrikaans University researchers have listed 13 ‘grey’ suburbs in cities across SA.’


  • 1mass noun Grey colour or pigment.

    ‘dirty intermediate tones of grey’
    • ‘He will wear more earthy tones such as brown, and of course, black, white and gray.’
    • ‘The film is dominated by the grays, whites, and browns of Newfoundland in the early spring.’
    • ‘Although the set is colourful, the costumes themselves range from shades of grey to black and white.’
    • ‘The sky is now a uniform shade of grey and it's raining fairly steadily.’
    • ‘Instead, opt for solid colors such as plain whites, blacks and grays; they're classics and can easily be matched with the rest of your wardrobe.’
    • ‘His hair was also a light gray that looked almost white, but it was very short, like it had just been shaved.’
    • ‘I'd go for a dark shade of gray because it blends well with just about everything.’
    • ‘The anemic palate that colours the film - grays, browns, and other hushed earth tones - provide the foreboding backdrop.’
    • ‘The sun was just beginning to set and the sky was a combination of blue, orange and gray.’
    • ‘It was only two o'clock, yet the sky was a deep grey dotted with small white clouds.’
    • ‘Although the underlying colour scheme of grey and red remains the same, some old pieces have been dropped and new ones added.’
    • ‘Oriental blue and silver gray are the colors traditionally associated with Military Intelligence units.’
    • ‘The snow seemed amazingly white against the cold grey of an Ontario winter sky.’
    • ‘It's a startling shade of blue grey, but apart from that, it's very well styled.’
    • ‘Their water pots are a sudden burst of colour against the dusty grey of the road.’
    • ‘The sets are effective; economical and fairly traditional, with drained out colour, predominantly greys and blues.’
    • ‘Today the restaurant is a discreetly elegant affair, all subtle greys and white.’
    • ‘His eyes were a very deep grey, almost blue, but they were still very familiar.’
    • ‘I know that grey isn't the best background colour to use on a webpage, but I'll put up with it.’
    • ‘Suit colours for the summer include stone, muted grey, cream and oyster.’
    1. 1.1 Grey clothes or material.
      ‘the gentleman in grey’
      • ‘They walked quickly over to a young man in charcoal grey, with hair the same color.’
      • ‘For this show, Marc continues the dark, gloomy feel with black, navy and gray.’
      • ‘A woman entered dressed in dark gray, the dress was similar to mine, but the shoulders were covered.’
      • ‘My attire that evening, as my father had requested, was a gown of ivory silk overlaid in a surcoat of deep grey.’
      • ‘The one in charge had gray hair and was wearing gray.’
      • ‘Luxurious satin corsets in gun-metal grey, deep mauve, and black mix with slim-fitting trousers and ground-sweeping skirts.’
      • ‘A man wearing a smart but casual suit of light grey sat behind one of the largest desks that Jasmine had ever seen.’
      • ‘It was a man dressed in gray and in his arms he was carrying another man dressed in the same drab gray clothes.’
      • ‘Ethan's train of thought was cut short by a man dressed in monochromatic gray.’
      • ‘Diago wore gray beneath his white robes as well, though he hid it better.’
      • ‘There are two pairs of dancers on stage, one dressed in red, one dressed in pale grey.’
    2. 1.2 Grey hair.
      ‘he sighed at the amount of grey at his temple’
      • ‘There is quantity certainly, but quality too: clear skin, facial contours, thick dark hair with very little grey.’
      • ‘Kevin smiled at the older woman, who had hardly a sprinkle of gray in her hair.’
      • ‘He wasn't running to fat yet, which was a good thing, and there was no grey in his moustache, which was always a dead giveaway.’
      • ‘I've got lines on my face, grey in my hair, and after the exertion of yesterday my muscles ache like an old, old man.’
      • ‘His hair was black with some distinguished gray around his temple.’
      • ‘But take off the wig and she is proud to acknowledge just a little grey in her dark hair.’
      • ‘He laid a shaking hand on his son's forehead, then smoothed the black hair that was now streaked with gray at the temples.’
      • ‘His tawny hair was touched with wisps of silver grey.’
      • ‘The woman looked middle aged with dark black hair shot with stony gray.’
      • ‘Something in the combination seems to work for him - at 55 he looks at least a decade younger, and there's no grey in his glossy black hair.’
      • ‘That was the first time I noticed the streaks of gray in his dark hair.’
      • ‘He has brown hair with some grey that came down just below his ears.’
      • ‘She noticed the laugh lines around his eyes and the streaks of gray in his hair.’
      • ‘In the center is Frank, wearing a black tuxedo and looking much younger - no beard then, and certainly no gray in his hair.’
  • 2A grey thing or animal, in particular a grey or white horse.

    • ‘The powerful grey will carry the colours of the Fair City Flyers, who are local to Miss Russell's Kinross base.’
    • ‘Because greys are much less common in racing than horses of a darker hue, they have always been popular - and few have more fans than ‘Dessie’.’
    • ‘The Makah were renowned whale hunters and stratigraphic unit V yielded the remains of at least 67 animals, mainly humpbacks and greys.’
    • ‘Just as trumpeters wore distinctive uniforms, so too they rode distinctive horses, usually greys, to aid recognition.’
    • ‘The four greys are both carriage and riding horses - Heloise, Marta, Tayten, and Nerid.’
    • ‘Inside a house at Farm Road, Hyde, the collection of young adults, blacks, whites and greys had been happily breeding unchecked.’
    • ‘Among the greys is a darker-coloured shark with brilliant white trailing edges to its fins - the first silvertip I have seen.’
    • ‘Eager equestrians were paraded round the ring by charming chestnuts and graceful greys in the popular horse classes.’


  • 1no object (especially of hair) become grey with age.

    ‘he had put on weight and greyed somewhat’
    ‘a man with greying hair’
    • ‘He was an older man, hair graying at the temples and a handlebar moustache taking up most of his face.’
    • ‘His hair had been graying when she met him, but now it was completely white.’
    • ‘His black hair was slightly greying and his leathery face well worn and he seemed quite content to sit on the grass, letting the day pass him by.’
    • ‘Her flame-red hair, beginning to gray with age, marked her as a foreigner.’
    • ‘Her blond hair, though slightly graying, still curled gorgeously past her shoulders.’
    • ‘Even his neat crop of raven hair was beginning to grey at the edges.’
    • ‘His hair was starting to grey, but he still looked as if he could give anyone a good beating.’
    • ‘Her straight, dark hair is graying, but her dark eyes are just as sharp and intelligent as they ever were.’
    • ‘His hair was starting to gray around the edges, and his eyes were sunken, hidden away behind bags and wrinkles that were now forming.’
    • ‘In his late fifties, his sandy-coloured hair is greying and a thick grey beard accentuates his rounded face.’
    • ‘His once brown hair was slowly graying and he'd put on some weight.’
    • ‘I may be two stone heavier and my hair may be greying, but I've been training for a while now, and was pretty confident I'd be up to speed.’
    • ‘His dark hair was greying and his face was careworn and weary.’
    • ‘Beside him sat a jovial fellow in his late forties or early fifties, with dark greying hair which was cropped short on the sides.’
    • ‘Dapper, charming, and handsome, with a full head of sandy hair that greyed attractively over the years, Felt resembled actor Lloyd Bridges.’
    • ‘When hair starts greying prematurely, it can cause a great deal of anxiety and hopelessness.’
    • ‘Her hair had greyed prematurely, her once youthful face lined with worry and fraught with grief.’
    • ‘The hair might be greying, but the brow is unfurrowed.’
    • ‘He appears to be in a vigorous middle age, his black hair greying at the temples.’
    • ‘He's greying, but in a distinguished manner, at the temples and behind the ears.’
    1. 1.1 (of a person) become older.
      ‘a greying workforce’
      • ‘But the graying of their workforce may present problems in the near future.’
      • ‘Analysis of the academic pharmacy workforce has confirmed the graying of the professoriate.’
      • ‘The unprecedented greying of Canadian society has many calling for a seniors’ bill of rights that would enshrine in law the specific needs of this emerging group.’
      • ‘It is apparent that our membership has been graying for many years and that fewer and fewer young people are choosing to join us.’
      • ‘But the revived interest in ergonomic theories to some extent must be the result of the graying of our work force.’
      • ‘There's been a lot written recently of the greying of the Canadian population.’
      • ‘As I have grayed, however, I am much more wary of this approach.’
      • ‘The greying of the teacher librarian obviously refers to one aspect of the issue: the fact that so many of our profession are ageing.’
      • ‘On the one hand the current secondary school workforce is greying.’
      • ‘In short, the graying of entrepreneurs will change the way organizations large and small do business with smaller enterprises.’
      • ‘Plan for it because the world is graying and Seniors are already using the Internet in droves.’
      • ‘The New York Times needs to loosen up if it hopes to be relevant not just to my graying generation but to younger people.’
      age, get old, grow old, mature
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Phrasal Verbs

  • grey something out

    • Display a menu option in a light font to indicate that it is not available.

      ‘temporarily unavailable items are listed in a lighter, ‘grayed-out’ font’
      • ‘I cannot access any of the background images in the desktop background options… they are all greyed out.’
      • ‘But better to simply not show them or grey them out so they can't even be selected.’
      • ‘When it loads up you don't get a blue screen at all and all the options on the remote are greyed out so that you can't access them.’
      • ‘Unfortunately, this option is grayed out [ghosted] and I cannot change the setting.’
      • ‘When I open the Address Book and click on the File menu, the Import and Export options are grayed out.’


Old English grǣg, of Germanic origin; related to Dutch grauw and German grau.