Colour words in Icelandic (Litur)

Words for colours in Icelandic, and colour-related expressions.

black svartur [ˈsvar̥tʏr] - black

Etymology: from the Old Norse svartr (black), from the Proto-Germanic *swartaz (black), from Proto-Indo-European *swordo- (dirty, dark, black).


  • sortna = to darken
  • sverta = to make black / dark
  • Svartahaf = (the) Black Sea
  • svartimarkaður = black market
  • svarthol = black hole
  • sjá e-ð svatur á hvítu - see sth in black and white
  • ég hef séð það svaturara - I have seen worse
  • útlitið er svatur - the outlook is bleak
  • nú er það svatur! - now things have turned really serious!

white hvítur [ˈkvʊiːjtʊɹ] - white

Etymology: from the Old Norse hvítr (white), from the Proto-Germanic *hwītaz (white), from Proto-Indo-European *ḱweytós (bright, white).


  • hvítna = to turn white, pale
  • hvít kál = white cabbage
  • hvít vín = white wine
  • hvít storkur = white stork (Ciconia ciconia)
  • Hvíta-Rússland - Belarus (“White Russia”)
  • hveiti mjöl = white floor
  • hveiti brauð = white bread

red rauður [ˈrøyːðʏr] - red

Etymology: from the Old Norse rauðr (red), from the Proto-Germanic *raudaz (red), from Proto-Indo-European *h₁rewdʰ- (red).


  • fram á rauðura nótt - until late into the night
  • fram í rauðuran dauðann - to the limit
  • rauðurir hundar - German measles, three-day measles
  • hann er rauður - he is a red, he is left wing
  • mála bæinn rauðuran - paint the town red

yellow gulur [ˈkuːlʊɹ] - yellow

Etymology: from the Old Norse gulr (yellow), from Proto-Indo-European *ǵʰelh₃- (to flourish, green, yellow).


  • ljósagulur - light yellow, bright yellow, pale yellow
  • myrkagulur - dark yellow
  • gulgrønur - yellow-green
  • gulbrúnur - amber
  • brandgulur - orange

blue blár [plauːr] - blue

Etymology: from the Old Norse blár (blue), from the Proto-Germanic *blēwaz (blue). from Proto-Indo-European *bʰleh₁-. (blue, dark blue, grey, black).

Shades and expressions

  • dökkblár - dark blue
  • leggja blátt bann við - ban completely
  • vera blátt áfram - be unaffected, natural
  • þetta er blátt áfram heimskulegt - this is sheer folly

green grænn [kraitn] - green

Etymology: from the Old Norse grœnn (green, fresh), from the Proto-Germanic *grōniz (green). from Proto-Indo-European *gʰreh₁- (to grow, become green).


  • ljósgrænn - light green
  • græneygður - green-eyed
  • hann er ekki svo grænn - he isn't all that dumb

brown brúnn [prutn] - brown

Etymology: from the Old Norse brúnn (brown, bright [metal]), from the Proto-Germanic *brūnaz (grey, brown). from Proto-Indo-European *bʰerH- (grey, brown).


  • brúnligur - brownish
  • dimmbrúnur / myrkabrúnur - dark brown
  • ljósabrúnur - light brown, tan
  • brúnsvartur - brownish black

pink bleikur - pink, pale (archaic)

Etymology: from the Old Norse bleikr, from the Proto-Germanic *blaikaz (pale, white). from Proto-Indo-European *bʰleyǵ- (to shine).

orange appelsínugulur - orange, orange-coloured

From appelsína (orange [fruit]), and gulur (yellow). Aappelsína comes from the Danish appelsin (orange), possibly from the Dutch appelsien (orange, lit. "Chinese apple").

grey grár [krauːr] - grey

Etymology: from the Old Norse grár (grey), from the Proto-Germanic *grēwaz (grey). from Proto-Indo-European *ǵʰreh₁- (to grow, become green).


  • grár hestur - white horse
  • gráhegri - grey heron
  • leika e-n grártt - to deal harshly with sb
  • bæta gráru ofan á svart - add insult to injury
  • elda grátt silfur - to be at loggerheads, to be at sixes and sevens (“to cook grey silver”)

purple fjólublár [ˈfjouːlʏˌplauːr] - purple, violet
purpurarauður - purple

Etymologies: fjólublár comes from fjóla (violet) and blár (blue). Purpurarauður comes from purpura and rauður (red). Purpura comes from the Latin purpura (purple-fish*, (colour) purple), from the Ancient Greek πορφύρα (porphúra - purple-fish), of Semitic origin.

*A purple-fish is a species of sea snail or Bolinus brandaris, commonly known as the purple dye murex or the spiny dye-murex, and the source of the ancient Tyrian purple dye [more information].

silver silfurlitaður [ˈsɪlvʏrˌlɪːtaðʏr] - silver

Etymology: from silfur (silver) and‎ litaður (coloured).

Hear some Icelandic colours

Etymologies from: Wiktionary

Links and sources

Information about colours in Icelandic

Information about Icelandic | Phrases | Numbers | Colours | Family words | Time | Terms of endearment | Idioms | Tongue twisters | Tower of Babel | Learning materials

Colours in Germanic languages

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Colour words in other languages

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