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’
    • ‘A cast-iron open fireplace with a pale grey marble mantel provides a focal point.’
    • ‘Every day she is getting closer to her 50th birthday and her honey blonde hair is slowly turning grey.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘After leaving Provence, grey skies and damp weather seem like an affront to the senses.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Pulling on his hat and scarf he walked out into the gray fog of San Francisco.’
    • ‘One complaint, though: white / gray text on a black background is just plain painful on the eyes.’
    • ‘Out in the playground during break boys dash around kicking a ball, their white shirts hanging out of their grey flannel trousers.’
    • ‘The fresh-faced 52-year-old looks energetic and youthful, despite his thinning grey hair and glasses.’
    • ‘He wore white T-shirt and dark gray pants with black belt.’
    • ‘Manda opened the door, and found herself looking at an elderly woman in a gray suit, sitting behind her desk.’
    • ‘Gray chairs and a dull gray carpet give the visiting area a stark, lifeless appearance.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Thick gray rain clouds hid the sun, and there was a hint of thunder in the air.’
    • ‘He is of a medium build and has short grey receding hair and a moustache.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Off on the horizon, dark grey storm clouds gathered.’
    • ‘She could feel Mike looking at her, his gray eyes boring into her.’
    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’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Well, it was a midweek afternoon in November; the weather was grey and dank and not much was happening.’
      • ‘It may be cloudy and grey outside, but I'm warm at the moment.’
      • ‘It's grey and dull and slightly damp (like my spirits).’
      • ‘The Phipps Bridge estate does not look very welcoming on a grey and wet January afternoon.’
      • ‘The weather is gray and gloomy throughout much of the country.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘The weather was cool, grey and moist, and the scenery pretty bleak, but spectacular nonetheless.’
      • ‘The day went by quickly, everybody's mood seemed to be glum and the gray and rainy weather outside didn't help.’
      • ‘With the weather being dull and grey outside, I am in shopping mood today.’
      • ‘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 day dawned cloudy and gray, not typically amusement park weather, but absolutely perfect to avoid crowds.’
      • ‘Last winter, I went to Tucson for a little break from the gray weather and cold in Northern California.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘It is a grey morning, though the sun is trying to break through.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘It was grey and cloudy and looked as if a storm were in the works.’
      • ‘Now normally you couldn't pay me to go to Hamleys but the grey weather was getting us all down.’
      • ‘For the past three years Maggie Hall has been escaping the cold, grey winters of the UK.’
      • ‘Woody Allen says he loves London's famous gray and dreary weather and its residents' ever-expressive slang.’
      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’
      • ‘He had gone quite grey, she noticed, since her last visit.’
      • ‘Tall, unsmiling and prematurely grey, he lacks the personal presence you might expect from a media power-player.’
      • ‘When the allegations became public Leslie turned grey overnight.’
      • ‘Wearing a brown jacket, blue shirt and blue jeans, he's undoubtedly grey.’
      • ‘When it comes to their own hair, many men seem to feel that going grey somehow just happened to them.’
      • ‘I started going grey when I was 19.’
      • ‘There's nothing wrong with changing your hair if you're going grey and don't like it.’
      • ‘No wonder I'm completely gray; you two have worried the color plumb out of my hair.’
      • ‘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.’
      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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Moreover, others warn, the burden of financing Scotland's new grey army could put further pressure on the UK.’
      • ‘This retirement community is the ultimate expression of grey power.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Away from the political and economic aspects of grey power, a quiet revolution is taking place in the retirement housing market.’
      • ‘‘If grey power gets itself organised, they'll be the most fantastic force in the land,’ she says.’
      • ‘With Britain's population ageing, the power of the grey pound is constantly on the increase.’
      • ‘In addition, it is worth noting, Bush has struck a blow for grey power.’
      • ‘In America, grey power is the key to electoral victory.’
      • ‘It felt more like a rally of the grey power movement.’
      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’
      • ‘My sister's face was gray with tears and I knew that I had not caused them, I hadn't been there.’
      • ‘Even though his face was so gray, red patches of fever burned in his cheeks.’
      • ‘When I turned to look at him, I was shocked to see his face was gray, covered in perspiration and his breathing was shallow.’
      • ‘Their guru's eyes were deep in their sockets, his face was gray, his lips were curled and his throat was dry.’
      • ‘His brown eyes were quite noticeable on his otherwise gray face.’
      • ‘Matt's hair was untamed and messy and his face was grey with hot red flushes in his cheeks.’
      • ‘Keziah could see the boy's shoulders sagging with exhaustion, and his face was grey with fatigue.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘He turned to see Ned staggering, and then collapsing on to the floor, his face ghostly grey with beads of sweat across his forehead.’
      • ‘She was grey, she was cold, I picked her up and patted her back and got no response.’
      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’
    • ‘Color is emotion, the opposite of the gray world of accounting.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘The Holloway road is a grim grey artery filled with traffic pollution and lined by nondescript retail outlets.’
    • ‘Certainly as far as a candidate and a politician, he is gray.’
    • ‘I went along for an interview in London, and a particularly grey, faceless person interviewed me.’
    • ‘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’
    • ‘Sixty five per cent of the transactions are done by the grey economy.’
    • ‘Finance Minister Milen Velchev believes that the grey economy has receded in Bulgaria in recent years, albeit by a modest degree.’
    • ‘The latest studies indicate that the grey economy in Bulgaria is at 20 per cent.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Increased use of electronic payments is one way to decrease the share of the grey economy.’
    • ‘No less alarming was the growing grey economy consistently sustained by well-organised smuggling networks and crime groups.’
    • ‘Some analysts believe that it will increase the scale of the grey economy.’
    • ‘Most children working without a contract are hired in the grey economy.’
    • ‘According to the e-zine, the share of the grey economy in Bulgaria has been growing since 1993.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘In his opinion, the idea of the measures was rather to bring a larger part of the gray economy into the light.’
    • ‘Purvanov said he had no information on any relationship between those in the grey economy, and political parties.’
    • ‘Actually, the so-called grey economy operates very well outside official regulation.’
    • ‘The country's grey economy is robbing the Government of close to €1.6 billion in unpaid taxes annually.’
    • ‘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 sun was just beginning to set and the sky was a combination of blue, orange and gray.’
    • ‘The sets are effective; economical and fairly traditional, with drained out colour, predominantly greys and blues.’
    • ‘Suit colours for the summer include stone, muted grey, cream and oyster.’
    • ‘His hair was also a light gray that looked almost white, but it was very short, like it had just been shaved.’
    • ‘Today the restaurant is a discreetly elegant affair, all subtle greys and white.’
    • ‘It was only two o'clock, yet the sky was a deep grey dotted with small white clouds.’
    • ‘I'd go for a dark shade of gray because it blends well with just about everything.’
    • ‘The film is dominated by the grays, whites, and browns of Newfoundland in the early spring.’
    • ‘Their water pots are a sudden burst of colour against the dusty grey of the road.’
    • ‘It's a startling shade of blue grey, but apart from that, it's very well styled.’
    • ‘Oriental blue and silver gray are the colors traditionally associated with Military Intelligence units.’
    • ‘I know that grey isn't the best background colour to use on a webpage, but I'll put up with it.’
    • ‘His eyes were a very deep grey, almost blue, but they were still very familiar.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘The anemic palate that colours the film - grays, browns, and other hushed earth tones - provide the foreboding backdrop.’
    • ‘The snow seemed amazingly white against the cold grey of an Ontario winter sky.’
    • ‘Although the set is colourful, the costumes themselves range from shades of grey to black and white.’
    • ‘Although the underlying colour scheme of grey and red remains the same, some old pieces have been dropped and new ones added.’
    • ‘The sky is now a uniform shade of grey and it's raining fairly steadily.’
    1. 1.1 Grey clothes or material.
      ‘the gentleman in grey’
      • ‘There are two pairs of dancers on stage, one dressed in red, one dressed in pale grey.’
      • ‘Ethan's train of thought was cut short by a man dressed in monochromatic gray.’
      • ‘My attire that evening, as my father had requested, was a gown of ivory silk overlaid in a surcoat of deep grey.’
      • ‘A woman entered dressed in dark gray, the dress was similar to mine, but the shoulders were covered.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘For this show, Marc continues the dark, gloomy feel with black, navy and gray.’
      • ‘It was a man dressed in gray and in his arms he was carrying another man dressed in the same drab gray clothes.’
      • ‘They walked quickly over to a young man in charcoal grey, with hair the same color.’
      • ‘Diago wore gray beneath his white robes as well, though he hid it better.’
    2. 1.2 Grey hair.
      ‘he sighed at the amount of grey at his temple’
      • ‘His hair was black with some distinguished gray around his temple.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘He has brown hair with some grey that came down just below his ears.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘There is quantity certainly, but quality too: clear skin, facial contours, thick dark hair with very little grey.’
      • ‘She noticed the laugh lines around his eyes and the streaks of gray in his hair.’
      • ‘But take off the wig and she is proud to acknowledge just a little grey in her dark hair.’
      • ‘In the center is Frank, wearing a black tuxedo and looking much younger - no beard then, and certainly no gray in his hair.’
      • ‘His tawny hair was touched with wisps of silver grey.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘That was the first time I noticed the streaks of gray in his 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.’
      • ‘Kevin smiled at the older woman, who had hardly a sprinkle of gray in her hair.’
      • ‘The woman looked middle aged with dark black hair shot with stony gray.’
  • 2A grey thing or animal, in particular a grey or white horse.

    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Just as trumpeters wore distinctive uniforms, so too they rode distinctive horses, usually greys, to aid recognition.’
    • ‘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 powerful grey will carry the colours of the Fair City Flyers, who are local to Miss Russell's Kinross base.’
    • ‘The Makah were renowned whale hunters and stratigraphic unit V yielded the remains of at least 67 animals, mainly humpbacks and greys.’


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

    ‘he had put on weight and greyed somewhat’
    ‘a man with greying hair’
    • ‘He appears to be in a vigorous middle age, his black hair greying at the temples.’
    • ‘Her flame-red hair, beginning to gray with age, marked her as a foreigner.’
    • ‘Dapper, charming, and handsome, with a full head of sandy hair that greyed attractively over the years, Felt resembled actor Lloyd Bridges.’
    • ‘He was an older man, hair graying at the temples and a handlebar moustache taking up most of his face.’
    • ‘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 hair was starting to grey, but he still looked as if he could give anyone a good beating.’
    • ‘His dark hair was greying and his face was careworn and weary.’
    • ‘The hair might be greying, but the brow is unfurrowed.’
    • ‘Even his neat crop of raven hair was beginning to grey at the edges.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘His hair had been graying when she met him, but now it was completely white.’
    • ‘Her hair had greyed prematurely, her once youthful face lined with worry and fraught with grief.’
    • ‘Her blond hair, though slightly graying, still curled gorgeously past her shoulders.’
    • ‘In his late fifties, his sandy-coloured hair is greying and a thick grey beard accentuates his rounded face.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘When hair starts greying prematurely, it can cause a great deal of anxiety and hopelessness.’
    • ‘Beside him sat a jovial fellow in his late forties or early fifties, with dark greying hair which was cropped short on the sides.’
    • ‘He's greying, but in a distinguished manner, at the temples and behind the ears.’
    • ‘His once brown hair was slowly graying and he'd put on some weight.’
    1. 1.1 (of a person) become older.
      ‘a greying workforce’
      • ‘On the one hand the current secondary school workforce is greying.’
      • ‘But the revived interest in ergonomic theories to some extent must be the result of the graying of our work force.’
      • ‘Analysis of the academic pharmacy workforce has confirmed the graying of the professoriate.’
      • ‘The greying of the teacher librarian obviously refers to one aspect of the issue: the fact that so many of our profession are ageing.’
      • ‘Plan for it because the world is graying and Seniors are already using the Internet in droves.’
      • ‘It is apparent that our membership has been graying for many years and that fewer and fewer young people are choosing to join us.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘But the graying of their workforce may present problems in the near future.’
      • ‘In short, the graying of entrepreneurs will change the way organizations large and small do business with smaller enterprises.’
      • ‘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 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’
      • ‘Unfortunately, this option is grayed out [ghosted] and I cannot change the setting.’
      • ‘I cannot access any of the background images in the desktop background options… they are all greyed out.’
      • ‘When I open the Address Book and click on the File menu, the Import and Export options are grayed 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.’


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