Colors in Russian

Posted on July 23rd, 2011

Today we will have a very colorful lesson! :-)) You will learn colors in Russian, and we will talk about different hues and shades of colors in Russian language, about grammar rules associated with colors, and about how to use them in your speech.

Before we begin, color in Russian is цвет [TSVYET]. Now that you know how to say “color” in Russian, let’s move on to learning actual colors!

Here they are:
синий [SEE-neey] = blue
красный [KRAS-niy] = red
зелёный [zee-LYO-niy] = green
жёлтый [ZHOL-tiy] = yellow
коричневый [ka-REECH-nye-viy] = brown
серый [SYE-riy] = grey
оранжевый [a-RAN-zhye-viy] = orange
фиолетовый [fee-a-LYE-ta-veey] = violet
голубой [ga-loo-BOY] = light blue
сиреневый [see-RYE-nye-viy] = lilac
розовый [RO-za-viy] = pink
белый [BYE-liy] = white
чёрный [CHOR-niy] = black

Colors in Russian

Use of Adjective (Colors) in Russian Speech

As you know, colors are adjectives, that means that they agree in gender, number and case with the nouns they describe. This also means that the ending of the adjective changes depending on the gender of the noun it describes (Please note: the grammar rules below are only for adjectives that mean colors in Russian).

  • All masculine adjectives that mean colors end with – ый. However, as you already know there are always exceptions in Russian language:
    1.    Синий is an exception and it ends with – ий.
    2.    Some adjectives/colors end with – ой. You will just need to remember them. If an adjective ends with – ой, then ending – ой will be stressed. For example: золотой, голубой.
  • All neuter adjectives – colors end with –oe, the only exception color is синее, it ends with -ee. A few examples of the colors that agree with neuter nouns in Russian: золотое, красное, коричневое.
  • All feminine adjectives – colors end with – ая: зелёная, коричневая, жёлтая. The only exception is – синяя, ends with –яя.
  • Plural adjectives that indicate colors end with – ые, for example: серые, чёрные, белые. And again, adjective синие is an exception, it ends with –ие.

To sum up, an adjective that indicates color will change its ending depending on the gender and number. So, if you know that the noun is masculine, then the adjective that describes that noun will also be masculine in Russian.

For example, let’s say “red ball” in Russian. “Ball” in Russian is “мяч”, “red” in Russian is “красный”. “Мяч” is a masculine noun, this means that the adjective “красный” will also be masculine and it’s ending will be -ый.

However, if you want to say “red dress” and you know that “dress” is “платье” and it is neuter gender, you will say “красное платье”, the ending of your adjective will change to -ое. And finally, if you are talking about a shirt, and you want to say that “a shirt is red”, you wills say “красная рубашка” , because word “рубашка” is feminine gender and your adjective will take ending -ая.

If you are talking about several balls, dresses, or shirts, then the gender of these nouns would not matter, the ending of the adjective “красный” will be -ые and you can say:
Красные мячи
Красные платья
Красные рубашки

Remember, before you use adjectives that mean colors to describe the nouns in Russian, you need to know whether the noun that is described by your adjective is singular or plural. If it’s singular you need to determine its gender before you can determine the right ending for your adjective!

More Colors in Russian

Some colors in Russian come from names of fruit or berries, for example:

Апельсиновый [apyel’-SI-na-veey] comes from апельсин = orange (color)
Лимонный [lee-MON-niy] from лимон = lemon (color)
Вишнёвый [vish-NYO-viy] from вишня = cherry (color)
Малиновый [ma-LEE-na-viy] from малина = raspberry (color)

Or veggies:
Морковный [mar-KOV-niy] from морковь = carrot (color)
Салатовый [sa-LA-ta-viy] or салатный [sa-LAT-niy] from салат = lettice/light green (color)
Баклажановый [bak-la-ZHA-na-viy] from баклажан = eggplant (color)

Here are some more yummy colors:
Горчичный [gar-CHEECH-niy] from горчица = mustard (color)
Кремовый [KRYE-ma-viy] from крем = cream (color)
Шоколадный [sha-ka-LAD-niy] from шоколад = chocolate (color)

Here are some beach colors:
Цвет морской волны [TSVYET mars-KOY val-NI] = the color of a sea wave
Песочный [pi-SOCH-niy] from песок = sand color

There is also swamp color or болотный [ba-LOT-niy] from болото= swamp green

Some more hues:

Бежевый [BYE-zhye-viy] = beige
Лазурный [la-ZOOR-niy] = azure
Хаки [HA-kee] = khaki

Серебряный [see-RYE-brya-niy] = silver
Золотой [za-la-TOY] = golden

Bright, Dark or Light Colors in Russian

As you know, any color could be described in terms of its hue. To give a color a brighter, lighter or darker hue in Russian you can do the following:

  • Add тёмно- to the color to make a darker hue. For example: тёмно-красный (dark red), тёмно-коричневый (dark brown).
  • If you would like to indicate a lighter hue of a color, you can add cветло- to the adjective that means color. For example, you can say:  светло-зелёный (light green), светло-синий (light blue).
  • Finally, if you are talking about a brighter hue of a particular color, you can add ярко- to the desirable color: ярко-оранжевый (bright orange), ярко-красный (bright red).

Shades of Colors in Russian

When talking about different shades of colors you can say that they are
Яркий [YAR-keey] = bright
Пастельный [pas-TYEL’-niy] = pastel
Бледный [BLYED-niy] = pale
Ядовитый [ya-da-VEE-tiy] = acid

Here is how you can use these in speech:
Пастельные тона = pastel shades
Ядовитый цвет = acid color
Яркий цвет = bright color

Lastly, you can combine colors to achieve a shade of your liking in Russian. For example, when talking about eyes in English you can say that they are “grey-green”  by combining two different colors – grey and green. To say the same thing in Russian you can combine серый and зелёный to achieve – серо-зелёный.

More color shades are below:

One more Russian4real tip:
This phrase will help you to remember the spectrum of colors of the rainbow in Russian:
Каждый охотник желает знать где сидит фазан. (Every hunter wants to know where a pheasant is sitting.)

Here is how you remember the colors:
Take a look at the first letter of each one of the words, it will tell you which color is followed by which.

Here is how you do it:
Word “каждый” starts with K and it’s the first letter of the color красный.
“Охотник” starts with О and it’s the first letter of color – оранжевый.
“Желает” starts with Ж – the first letter of жёлтый.
“Знать” starts with З – the first letter of зелёный.
“Где” starts with Г – the first letter of голубой.
“Сидит” starts with С – the first letter of синий.
“Фазан” starts with Ф – the first letter of фиолетовый.

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