Colours in Cantonese

Cantonese Colours unlike English, they are very systematic. In English, you have words like Magenta, Indigo or violet, if you have never heard of these terms or colours, you probably will not be able to figure out even what type of hue it is. In Cantonese it is different, we have the base names of the basic colours, and the more detailed shades of colours, we add some description or adjective in front of the color word to describe what types of colours they are. Sounds complicated but it is actually easy. Let’s run with me and hopefully you will be able to see exactly what I am saying.

First thing first, colours in Cantonese is 顏[ngaan4]色[sik1].

Let’s start with the basic colours. Colours that you are able to see on a rainbow:

Red 紅[hung4]/ 紅[hung4]色[sik1]

Orange 橙[chaang2]/ 橙[chaang2]色[sik1]

Yellow 黃[wong4]/ 黃[wong4]色[sik1]

Green 綠[luk6]/ 綠[luk6]色[sik1]

Turquoise 青[ching1/cheng1]/ 青[cheng1]色[sik1]

Blue 藍[laam4]/ 藍[laam4]色[sik1]

Purple 紫[ji2]/ 紫[ji2]色[sik1]

Some other versions of the colour spectrum of a rainbow includes Indigo - 靛[din6]色[sik1] is not a term that we use very often. Instead because indigo is a bluish purple colour, we will usually call it 紫[ji2]藍[laam4]色[sik1] literally purplish blue. Let’s talk more about that in a little bit.

Brown 啡[fe1]/ 啡[fe1]色[sik1]/ 咖[ga3]啡[fe1]色[sik1]

Black 黑[haak1/hak1]/ 黑[hak1]色[sik1]

White 白[baak6]/ 白[baak6]色[sik1]

Grey 灰[fui1]/ 灰[fui1]色[sik1]

Gold 金[gam1]/ 金[gam1]色[sik1]

Silver 銀[ngan4/ngan2]/ 銀[ngan4]色[sik1]

Multi colour 彩[choi2]色[sik1]

Rainbow colour 彩[choi2]虹[hung4]色[sik1]

For any lighter shade colours, you can add the word 淺[chin2] meaning shallow in front of the colour to indicate it is a light shade.

Light red 淺[chin2]紅[hung4]色[sik1]

Light blue淺[chin2]藍[laam4]色[sik1]

Light yellow 淺[chin2]黃[wong4]色[sik1]

Light green 淺[chin2]綠[luk6]色[sik1]

Light grey 淺[chin2]灰[fui1]色[sik1]

Light purple 淺[chin2]紫[ji2]色[sik1]

Light brown 淺[chin2]啡[fe1]色[sik1]

For even light colours, like pink and baby blue, you will need to use the word 粉[fan2] instead. 粉[fan2] means powder, so it is describing a powdery colour with white hues in the colour.

Pink 粉[fan2]紅[hung4]色[sik1]

Baby blue 粉[fan2]藍[laam4]色[sik1]

Powdery purple/ pink purple/ peony 粉[fan2]紫[ji2]色[sik1]

Powdery green 粉[fan2]綠[luk6]色[sik1]

Powdery yellow 粉[fan2]黃[wong4]色[sik1]

For any darker shade, you can add the word 深[sam1] meaning deep in front of the colour to indicate it is a dark shade.

Dark red 深[sam1]紅[hung4]色[sik1]

Dark blue 深[sam1]藍[laam4]色[sik1]

Dark Yellow 深[sam1]黃[wong4]色[sik1]

Dark green 深[sam1]綠[luk6]色[sik1]

Dark grey 深[sam1]灰[fui1]色[sik1]

Dark purple 深[sam1]紫[ji2]色[sik1]

Dark Brown 深[sam1]啡[fe1]色[sik1]

With neon colours, you just need to add the term 螢[ying4]光[gwong1] meaning neon in front of the colour to indicate it is a neon colour.

Neon Red 螢[ying4]光[gwong1]紅[hung4]色[sik1]

Neon Blue 螢[ying4]光[gwong1]藍[laam4]色[sik1]

Neon yellow 螢[ying4]光[gwong1]黃[wong4]色[sik1]

Neon Green 螢[ying4]光[gwong1]綠[luk6]色[sik1]

Neon purple 螢[ying4]光[gwong1]紫[ji2]色[sik1]

How about colours that are a mix of colours? Just like indigo, since it is a blue purplish colour, then you will add the other colour in front of the base colour to describe the colour.

Indigo / purplish blue - 紫[ji2]藍[laam4]色[sik1]

Blackish blue - 黑[haak1/hak1]藍[laam4]色[sik1]

Orangey yellow - 橙[chaang2]黃[wong4]色[sik1]

Yellowish green - 黃[wong4]綠[luk6]色[sik1]

Brownish red - 啡[fe1]紅[hung4]色[sik1]

Orangey red - 橙[chaang2]紅[hung4]色[sik1]

Golden yellow - 金[gam1]黃[wong4]色[sik1]

Greyish white - 灰[fui1]白[baak6]色[sik1]

Silver white - 銀[ngan4/ngan2]白[baak6]色[sik1]

Greyish pink/ pale pink - 灰[fui1]粉[fan2]紅[hung4]色[sik1]

Unlike English, we don’t generally form a brand new word for a colour, like I said like Magenta, and cyan or burgundy and what not, we again just add description so then the person can have some reference point as to what colour we are referring to.

Sky blue - 天[tin1]藍[laam4]色[sik1]

Ocean Blue - 海[hoi2]藍[laam4]色[sik1]

Aqua (water blue) - 水[seui2]藍[laam4]色[sik1]

Brick red - 磚[jyun1]紅[hung4]色[sik1]

Date red - 棗[jou2]紅[hung4]色[sik1]

Hot pink (peach pink)- 桃[tou4]紅[hung4]色[sik1]

Lemon yellow - 檸[ning4]檬[mung1]黃[wong4]色[sik1]

Muddy yellow - 泥[nai4]黃[wong4]色[sik1]

Grass green - 草[chou2]綠[luk6]色[sik1]

Ink Green (black green) - 墨[mak6]綠[luk6]色[sik1]

Jade Green (emerald) - 翡[fei2]翠[cheui3]綠[luk6]色[sik1]

Finally we sometimes do form new names of colours but again we use some other description to describe the colour, but sometimes when we don't have a name for that colour, we borrow the names of foreign languages.

Beige (uncooked rice colour)- 米[mai5]色[sik1]

Lavender colour - 薰[fan1]衣[yi1]草[chou2]色[sik1]

Chocolate colour - 朱[jyu1]古[gu1]力[lik1]色[sik1]

Khaki - 卡[kaat1/ka1]其[kei4]色[sik1]

If honestly it comes down to a colour you have no idea how to say it in Cantonese, then you can always reference a colour, for example, you can say

“Yellow like Siu Mai yellow”



“green like forest green”


But granted you have to know the Cantonese Vocab of whichever item you want to describe the colour with!