English and Chinese, has a wealth of color words. Its alleged role in view, they can be divided into basic color words and color words.

1. Basic color words are specifically used to describe the color of physical objects. They represent a wider range of basic colors, which has a certain general, a higher frequency of use in communication. English common basic color words in Chinese can be found corresponding to the basic color words, but some of them are not entirely the same on the alleged significance.

Such as:

Red—红,赤 yellow—黄 perple—紫, black—黑,青

Blue—蓝, white—白, brown—棕,褐, green—绿,青

In the communication of language, some basic English color words have a greater differences with the Chinese one when regarding to the alleged significance. A color word in the English used to describe a color, but in Chinese it is the word to refer to another color. Sometimes the objects are described with color words in English, while the objects are described without color words in Chinese.

Read Also: Comparison of Two Chinese Translation Versions

Please make a comparison between the following expressions:

Black tea红茶, to be brown晒黑了

brown bread黑面包grey hair白头发

black in face脸色铁青, white coffee牛奶咖啡

to be looking green苍白,脸上有病色

To be blue in the face with cold冻得发紫

white meat色浅的嫩牛肉、猪肉或煮熟的鸡鸭肉,

A white Christmas大学纷飞的圣诞节

In the symbolic and associative meaning, the basic color words in English don’t correspond exactly to those of Chinese, because every color has its own unique meaning and implied meaning. People of different nationalities response differently to colors and their imagination stimulated by colors is also different, because of the constraints of the traditional culture. We shall pay more attention to this cultural factor when translating and shouldn’t be literally, otherwise we will make mistakes.

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Here are some phrases with color words:

To be in the blues闷闷不乐( “blue” in Chinese has no such meaning)

A very white man 非常忠实可靠的人(In Chinese Peking Opera, the “White face” on behalf of treacherous and also when we say a man “小白脸”,it means the man is week and not completent)

A black look恶狠狠地瞪一眼(In Chinese we only say“白眼”)

Green-eyed妒忌的(In Chinese we only say “红眼病”)

A white lie善意的谎言(In Chinese, the word “white” has no such meaning)

The basic color words in both English and Chinese are notional words, and they can appear as nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs in different parts of speech. The basic color words in English has its own characteristics. Such as, add “ deep” or “dark” before color words can express the dark colors; adding “light,pale,” expresses the light colors; adding “bright, rich, vivid, dull, pale, dirty, murky or darkling” expresses the bright colors; color words with the suffix “-ish” mean light color or with a little specific color. Two color words together is a mixed color (eg: yellow green黄绿色); two color words with an “ and” links them( such as:green-and- white) means various colors.

Furthermore, the basic color terms also have a large number of synonyms or near synonyms. For example, the color word “red” has above 200 synonyms, the common ones are crimson深红,cardinal深红,scarlet猩红,vermilion朱红,rubious深红,pink粉红,bloody血红,ruddy微红色, while the amount of the synonyms of “红”is just around 40.

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