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Various shades of yellow

Alternative forms[edit]


From Middle English yelwe, yelou, from Old English ġeolwe, oblique form of Old English ġeolu, from Proto-West Germanic *gelu, from Proto-Germanic *gelwaz, from Proto-Indo-European *ǵʰelh₃wos, from *ǵʰelh₃- (gleam, yellow).

Compare Welsh gwelw (pale), Latin helvus (dull yellow), Irish geal (white, bright), Italian giallo (yellow) Lithuanian žalias (green), Ancient Greek χλωρός (khlōrós, light green), Persian زرد(zard, yellow), Sanskrit हरि (hari, greenish-yellow), Russian жёлтый (žóltyj, yellow), Russian зелёный (zeljónyj, green). Cognate with German gelb (yellow), Dutch geel (yellow).

The verb is from Old English ġeolwian, from the adjective.



yellow (comparative yellower or more yellow, superlative yellowest or most yellow)

  1. Having yellow as its color.
    Antonyms: nonyellow, unyellow
  2. (informal) Lacking courage.
    Synonym: cowardly
  3. (publishing, journalism) Characterized by sensationalism, lurid content, and doubtful accuracy.
    • 2004 October 4, Doreen Carvajal, “Photo edict muffles gossipy press”, in International Herald Tribune, retrieved 29 July 2008:
      The denizens of the gossipy world of the pink press, purple prose and yellow tabloids are shivering over disputed photographs of Princess Caroline of Monaco.
  4. (chiefly derogatory, offensive, ethnic slur) Of the skin, having the colour traditionally attributed to Far East Asians, especially Chinese.
  5. (chiefly derogatory, offensive, ethnic slur) Far East Asian (relating to Asian people).
    • 1913, Sax Rohmer, The Insidious Dr. Fu-Manchu[1]:
      Imagine that awful being, and you have a mental picture of Dr. Fu-Manchu, the yellow peril incarnate in one man.
    • 1959, Anthony Burgess, Beds in the East (The Malayan Trilogy), published 1972, page 516:
      The two youths, the brown and the yellow, faced each other at the cross-roads, under a dim street-lamp.
  6. (dated, Australia, offensive) Of mixed Aboriginal and Caucasian ancestry.
    • 1938, Xavier Herbert, chapter VI, in Capricornia[2], page 64:
      "Eh, Oscar—you hear about your yeller nephew?".
    • 1965, Mudrooroo, Wild Cat Falling, HarperCollins, published 2001, page 74:
      A big full-blood gin cottoned onto me. “Give us a drink, yeller feller.”
  7. (dated, US) Synonym of high yellow
    • 1933 September 9, James Thurber, “My Life and Hard Times—VI. A Sequence of Servants”, in The New Yorker:
      Charley threw her over for a yellow gal named Nancy: he never forgave Vashti for the vanishing from his life of a menace that had come to mean more to him than Vashti herself.
  8. (UK politics) Related to the Liberal Democrats.
    yellow constituencies
  9. (politics) Related to the Free Democratic Party; a political party in Germany.
    the black-yellow coalition

Derived terms[edit]



English Wikipedia has an article on:

yellow (plural yellows)

  1. The colour of gold, cheese, or a lemon; the colour obtained by mixing green and red light, or by subtracting blue from white light.
    • 1892, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, The Yellow Wallpaper:
      It is the strangest yellow, that wall-paper! It makes me think of all the yellow things I ever saw—not beautiful ones like buttercups, but old foul, bad yellow things.
  2. (US) The intermediate light in a set of three traffic lights, the illumination of which indicates that drivers should stop short of the intersection if it is safe to do so.
  3. (snooker) One of the colour balls used in snooker, with a value of 2 points.
  4. (pocket billiards) One of two groups of object balls, or a ball from that group, as used in the principally British version of pool that makes use of unnumbered balls (the (yellow(s) and red(s)); contrast stripes and solids in the originally American version with numbered balls).
  5. (sports) A yellow card.
    • 2011 April 15, Saj Chowdhury, “Norwich 2 - 1 Nott'm Forest”, in BBC Sport[3]:
      Andrew Surman fired in what proved to be a 37th-minute winner before Forest's Paul Konchesky saw red late on. That second yellow for the loan signing came in stoppage time and did not affect the outcome of a game which Norwich dominated.
  6. Any of various pierid butterflies of the subfamily Coliadinae, especially the yellow coloured species. Compare sulphur.


  • (light wavelengths): xantho- (xanth-)
  • (intermediate light in a set of three traffic lights): amber (British)


  • (intermediate light in a set of three traffic lights): red, green


Derived terms[edit]



yellow (third-person singular simple present yellows, present participle yellowing, simple past and past participle yellowed)

  1. (intransitive) To become yellow or more yellow.
    • 1977, Alistair Horne, A Savage War of Peace, New York: Review Books, published 2006, page 47:
      Then suddenly, with the least warning, the sky yellows and the Chergui blows in from the Sahara, stinging the eyes and choking with its sandy, sticky breath.
    • 2013, Robert Miraldi, Seymour Hersh, Potomac Books, Inc., →ISBN, page 187:
      Interviews, clippings, yellowing stories from foreign newspapers, notebooks with old scribblings. Salisbury called it the debris of a reporter always too much on the run to sort out the paper, but there it was, an investigator's dream, []
  2. (transitive) To make (something) yellow or more yellow.


See also[edit]

Colors in English · colors, colours (layout · text)
     white      gray, grey      black
             red; crimson              orange; brown              yellow; cream
             lime, lime green              green              mint
             cyan; teal              azure, sky blue              blue
             violet; indigo              magenta; purple              pink


  • yellow”, in OneLook Dictionary Search.
  1. ^ Hans Kurath and Raven Ioor McDavid (1961). The pronunciation of English in the Atlantic States: based upon the collections of the linguistic atlas of the Eastern United States. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, p. 134.