from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • adj. Having color: colored tissue paper.
  • adj. Often Offensive Of or belonging to a racial group not categorized as white.
  • adj. Often Offensive Black or African-American.
  • adj. Often Offensive Of mixed racial descent.
  • adj. South African Of or belonging to a population grouping made up of persons of mixed racial descent or of certain other nonwhite descent, especially as distinguished during apartheid from Blacks, Asians, or whites.
  • adj. Distorted or biased, as by irrelevant or incorrect information.
  • n. Offensive A person belonging to a racial group not categorized as white.
  • n. Offensive A Black person; an African American.
  • n. Offensive A person of mixed racial descent.
  • n. South African A person belonging to the Coloured population grouping, especially during apartheid.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • adj. Having a particular color or kind of color.
  • adj. Having prominent colors; colorful.
  • adj. Influenced pervasively but subtly.
  • adj. Of skin color other than the white, particularly black.
  • adj. Of neither black nor white skin color.
  • n. A colored person.
  • n. A colored article of clothing.
  • v. Simple past tense and past participle of color.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adj. Having color; tinged; dyed; painted; stained.
  • adj. Specious; plausible; adorned so as to appear well.
  • adj. Of some other color than black or white.
  • adj. Of some other color than white; having a skin color darker than that of caucasian people; mostly applied to negroes or persons having negro blood. Opposite of white and caucasian.
  • adj. Of some other color than green.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • Having a color; dyed; tinged; painted or stained.
  • Having a distinguishing hue.
  • In botany, of any hue but green: as, a colored leaf.
  • Having a dark or black color of the skin; black or mulatto; specifically, in the United States, belonging wholly or partly to the African race; having or partaking of the color of the negro. In census-tables, etc., the term is often used to include Indians, Chinese, etc.
  • Hence— Of or pertaining to the negroes, or to persons partly of negro origin: as, the colored vote.
  • Having a specious appearance; deceptive: as, a colored statement.—Colored glass. See glass.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • adj. having color or a certain color; sometimes used in combination
  • adj. having skin rich in melanin pigments
  • n. a United States term for Blacks that is now considered offensive
  • adj. (used of color) artificially produced; not natural
  • adj. favoring one person or side over another


Sorry, no etymologies found.



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  • "In North America, some of the most enthusiastic customers for the new colors were immigrants from southern and eastern Europe, who had started to arrive in the United States in huge numbers just as synthetic dyes became widely available. Many eagerly bought brightly dyed dresses and other clothing, often because it had been associated with high status in their homelands. This affinity, especially on the part of Jewish immigrants, did not escape notice from journalists, who sometimes criticized and sometimes rhapsodized about what, according to them, was a 'racial love' for color.

    "In both Europe and North America, vivid colors also became associated with people of African and Asian descent, and with indigenous peoples on many continents. It is possible that linguistics may in part account for this: In English, for example, the adjective colored had been a racial term for nonwhite people from the early 1600s, and the terms Red Indian and yellow race date back at least to the early 1800s. But despite the existence of these terms, it seems that Europeans associated bright colors--especially in clothing--far more with wealthy whites than with any other group until the mid-nineteenth-century. Only then, as cochineal and other bright dyes became ever cheaper, did vivid clothing, especially in red, acquire other racial connotations."

    Amy Butler Greenfield, A Perfect Red: Empire, Espionage, and the Quest for the Color of Desire (New York: Harper Collins, 2005), 250-251.

    See also colorless, Carmen, and snazzy.

    October 6, 2017

  • 'colored' has, in my eyes, always been one of those words that ran away from its origins as an insult and assumed compelling descriptive power. I find the phrase 'advancement of colored people' sophisticated and quite moving.

    May 7, 2009

  • It's always seemed weird to me that it is part of the group NAACP. Rappers calling each other the n-word is one thing, but that and the United Negro College Fund seem very different.

    May 2, 2009

  • as an insult, it has an inherent kick in the ass for the hurlers thereof.

    May 1, 2009