Colors in Japanese – How to Use Japanese Color Words

Blue Sea - Blue color in Japanese example

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In Japanese, the words for specific colors are used differently depending on their parts of speech. Having two sets – one set is the Japanese – the other being a katakana loan word version of their English counterparts – i.e. Blue as buru.

This can be very confusing for beginners in Japanese as to what context is appropriate to use which version.

Read More: japanese color names

These words will also appear on the JLPT N5 or N4 levels. This is a useful resource if you plan to take the JLPT.

In this article, we will explain to you how to describe objects with colors in Japanese.

Nouns for Basic Colors in Japanese

English Japanese Furigana Romaji Red 赤/レッド あか Aka/Reddo Orange 橙色/オレンジ だいだいいろ Daidaiiro/Orenji Yellow 黄色/イエロー きいろ Kiiro/iero- Green 緑/グリーン みどり Midori/Guri-n Blue 青/ブルー あお Ao/Buru- Purple 紫/パープル むらさき Murasaki/Pa-puru Pink 桃色/ピンク ももいろ Momoiro/Pinku Brown 茶色/ブラウン ちゃいろ Chairo/Buraun Grey 灰色/グレイ はいいろ Haiiro/Gurei Black 黒/ブラック くろ Kuro/Burakku White 白/ホワイト しろ Shiro/Howaito

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These words above are nouns that refer to different colors. As a result, the particle “の(no)” is used when describing the color of something. If you are not familiar with particles in Japanese, we recommend you to take a look at our Basic Japanese Grammar Guide

The basic sentence pattern for describing colors is :

color + + subject

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みどりの窓口(まどぐち)Midori no madoguchiGreen Window(usually referring to the ticket office at a train station in Japan)

紫(むらさき)の靴下(くつした)Murasaki no kutsushitaPurple socks.

Japanese Adjectives to Describe Colors

Color can also be described using adjectives. Surprisingly, there are only 4 colors that will become an adjective when “い” is added directly to the back.

They are:

English Japanese Furigana Romaji Red 赤い あかい Akai Blue 青い あおい Aoi Black 黒い くろい Kuroi White 白い しろい Shiroi

Why are these colors so special? It is because these were the basic forms of color in ancient Japanese language. These were the four basic categories that every color was categorized under back then. (Sounds quite rough, isn’t it?)

Example of How to Use Japanese Colors:

Use directly in front of the subject

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あおい海(うみ)AoiumiBlue sea


海(うみ)はあおいです。Umiwa aoidesuThe sea is blue.

Colors in Japanese - How to Use Japanese Color Words

“黄色い” and “茶色い”

There are 2 more colors that can become adjective -黄色 and茶色. Why didn’t I combine them with the other 4 colors? This is because although meaning yellow and brown color, “黄” and “茶” cannot be on themselves when used as colors.

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They have to be put together with the word “色 (iro colors) to become nouns for yellow and brown. As a result, when they become adjectives, they are “黄色い” and “茶色い” instead “黄い” or “茶い”

How to Say Other Colors In Japanese

If you feel that the basic colors are too general, here are some Japanese words for more specific colors.

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English Japanese Furigana Romaji Silver 銀/シルバー ぎん Gin/Shiruba- Gold 金/ゴールド きん Kin/Go-rudo Rainbow clour 虹色 にじいろ Nijiiro Light Blue 水色 みずいろ Mizuiro Navy Blue 紺色/ネービー こんいろ Koniro/Nei-bi- Purple 紫/パープル むらさき Murasaki/Pa-puru Yellowish Green 黄緑 きみどり Kimidori Beige ベージュ ベージュ Haiiro/Gurei

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