Definition of colored in US English:


(British coloured)


  • 1Having a color or colors, especially as opposed to being black, white, or neutral.

    ‘strings of colored lights’
    ‘brightly colored birds are easier to see’
    in combination ‘a peach-colored sofa’
    • ‘They favor light, brightly colored clothes and are interested in the latest fashions.’
    • ‘One of the men was 6ft tall, with short black hair, of stocky build, and was wearing a black vest and cream-coloured shorts.’
    • ‘The answer is that it is a light-coloured animal with black stripes.’
    • ‘She had dark brown eyes that looked almost completely black in the fading light with olive-coloured skin.’
    • ‘He could see nothing but flashes of different colored lights before everything went completely black.’
    • ‘He had blond hair and was wearing a light-coloured jacket, white trousers and black shoes.’
    • ‘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?’
    • ‘It is preferable to have a white or light-coloured background.’
    • ‘He had a chubby face, was wearing a black jacket and beige-coloured trousers, and witnesses estimate his age as around 30.’
    • ‘But search time can be reduced if anyone seeing a goose wearing a coloured collar with black letters can report it to the laboratory.’
    • ‘Along the staircase, everything goes black except for a few colored lights here and there.’
    • ‘It is best to use a light-colored preferably white background with black or very dark-colored text.’
    • ‘We wore flowery shirts and cheap sunglasses with round black rims and coloured lenses (Tony's blue and mine crimson).’
    • ‘They have formed the basis for the collection of black and white and coloured snaps, which I now possess.’
    • ‘The double bedroom has two double wardrobes and gold carpet, which complements the neutral-coloured walls.’
    • ‘He wore a grey top, light-coloured trousers and white trainers with a blue stripe down the side.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘In front of her was Cameron, leaning towards her, his black bangs falling into his light honey-coloured eyes.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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
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    1. 1.1 Imbued with an emotive or exaggerated quality.
      ‘highly colored examples were used by both sides’
      • ‘His generally lush and highly coloured realisations of the instrumental continuo adds further dramatic weight.’
      • ‘Another highly colored phrase worked its way from my depths as I realized that such a mistake would not be easily repaired.’
      • ‘His stories are highly coloured and immoderate, both sweet and sour.’
      biased, prejudiced, one-sided, coloured, discriminatory, preferential, partial, interested, parti pris, bigoted, sectarian, factional, unjust, unfair, inequitable, unbalanced
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  • 2offensive, dated Wholly or partly of nonwhite descent.

    1. 2.1 Relating to people who are wholly or partly of nonwhite descent.
      ‘a colored club’
  • 3South African Used as an ethnic label for people of mixed ethnic origin, including African slave, Malay, Chinese, and white.


  • 1offensive, dated A person who is wholly or partly of nonwhite descent.

  • 2South African A person of mixed ethnic origin speaking Afrikaans or English as their mother tongue.

  • 3coloredsClothes, sheets, etc. that are any color but white.

    • ‘You can safely wash whites, coloureds, sheets, shirts and nappies in water as hot as you want it.’
    • ‘The one thing it will not do though is separate the whites from the coloureds.’
    • ‘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.’


Colored referring to skin color 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 the US and Britain it was the accepted term until the 1960s, when it was superseded by black. The term colored lost favor among black people during this period and is now widely regarded as offensive except in historical contexts and in particular as part of the name of the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People). In South Africa the term colored (also written Colored) 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