color outside the lines

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A reference to children's coloring books, which contain line drawings to be colored in.


color outside the lines (third-person singular simple present colors outside the lines, present participle coloring outside the lines, simple past and past participle colored outside the lines)

  1. Used other than figuratively or idiomatically: see color,‎ outside,‎ lines.
  2. (intransitive) To behave in creative or unconventional ways, to break the rules.
    • 2009, James L. Nolan Jr, Legal Accents, Legal Borrowing: The International Problem-Solving Court Movement:
      As one American problem-solving court judge put it: “We are the judges who get to color outside the lines.”
    • 2007, Bret Anthony Johnston, Corpus Christi: Stories:
      It comes from the fact that skaters are more likely, as you say, to color outside the lines, and that inclination frightens and confuses most people and institutions.
    • 2008, Matthew Paul Turner, Churched: One Kid's Journey Toward God Despite a Holy Mess:
      For most of my life, I've watched my mother resist the urge to color outside the lines. Not because she didn't want to do it, but because some part of her wasn't free enough.