Components

Grammar detail: colors in Japanese

colors in Japanese
Tweet
My current mastery of this grammar:
LOG IN to view grammar mastery data
As in English, colors in Japanese can be used as nouns or as adjectives. However, color words can be somewhat irregular.
Let's start with the basics! The most common colors in Japanese have forms which end in い and function as normal い adjectives.
redあかい
blueあおい
whiteしろい
blackくろい
Usage of any of these colors is perfectly regular. For example:
あか
ネクタイ
いました

I bought a red tie.
かお
あか

Your face is red.
When using these forms as nouns, the い is simply omitted. For example:
わたし
だいす
大好
きな
いろ
あか
です
My favorite color is red.
More generally, the noun form of a color is created by taking the kanji for the color, and then adding the kanji that *means* color,
いろ
. For example:
yellowきいろ
grayはいいろ
greenみどりいろ
brownちゃいろ (literally 'tea color')
When a color name is formed this way, it can be turned into an adjective by adding い:
この
きいろ
黄色
セーター
てみません

Why don't you try on this yellow sweater?
Some colors are irregular - the kanji is used to make the noun form, and the noun form is turned into an adjective using の:
purpleむらさき
greenみどり
むらさき
じゅうたんこの
あか
カーテン
ちょうわ
調和
しない
だろう
A purple carpet will not go with this red curtain.

Reading of

is read either with its on reading ショク or its kun reading いろ. As we've already seen, it is somewhat irregular - it's often read in kanji compounds with いろ (whereas you would expect the on reading). So when do you use each reading? In general:
  • When you see on its own, it is read いろ.
  • When you are referring to a *specific* color, or a situation where a single color applies, you would use いろ. So for example: , , .
  • When you are *counting* colors, or referring to a concept which might involve *several* colors, you use しょく. So for example: , , , , .
  • When combined with kanji that function as color adjectives on their own, such as い, the reading tends to be しょく. For example: , .
To see comprehensive lists of words that use each reading, use our kanji reading search tool:

Some additional notes

In Japanese, the color い is usually translated 'blue' and as 'green'. However, the 'blue' color of い includes the blue-green color of traffic lights, and is usually reserved for brighter greens such as emerald. Partly as a result of this, Japan traffic lights are considered to be (red, yellow, blue-green) - not 'red, orange, green' (for more on Japanese traffic lights, see the link below).
The English expression 'black and white' has a parallel expression, but in Japanese the colors are reversed:
しろくろ
(white and black).
LOG IN to view flashcard data

Kanji used in this grammar

セキ   シャク   あか    あか red   あからむ to turn red   あからめる to blush   
2
セイ   ショウ   あお-    あお blue   
Please LOG IN to view this kanji's mnemonic
2
ハク   ビャク   しろ white   しろ    しら-    
Please LOG IN to view this kanji's mnemonic
1
コク   くろ    くろ black   
Please LOG IN to view this kanji's mnemonic
2
ショク   シキ   いろ color   
Please LOG IN to view this kanji's mnemonic
2
オウ   コウ   き    こ yellow   
Please LOG IN to view this kanji's mnemonic
4
カイ   はい ashes   
Please LOG IN to view this kanji's mnemonic
4
ロク   リョク   みどり green   
Please LOG IN to view this kanji's mnemonic
4
チャ   サ    tea   
Please LOG IN to view this kanji's mnemonic
2
シ   むらさき purple   
Please LOG IN to view this kanji's mnemonic
5
カ   なに    なん what?   
Please LOG IN to view this kanji's mnemonic
1
ガン   かお face   
Please LOG IN to view this kanji's mnemonic
3
イチ   イツ   ひと    ひと- one   
1
ニ   ふた    ふた two   
1
ハイ   くば to distribute   
Please LOG IN to view this kanji's mnemonic
3
ゲン   はら meadow   
Please LOG IN to view this kanji's mnemonic
3
テン   あめ    あま- heaven   
Please LOG IN to view this kanji's mnemonic
1
ゼン   ネン    resemble   
Please LOG IN to view this kanji's mnemonic
3
バイ   か to buy   
Please LOG IN to view this kanji's mnemonic
2
シ   わたくし    わたし I, myself   
Please LOG IN to view this kanji's mnemonic
2
ダイ   タイ   おおきい big   おおいに very much   おお-    
Please LOG IN to view this kanji's mnemonic
1
コウ   この    す to like   
Please LOG IN to view this kanji's mnemonic
3
チャク   ジャク   つ to arrive   つける to attach   き to wear   きせる to make wear   
Please LOG IN to view this kanji's mnemonic
2
調
チョウ   しらべる to investigate   ととの to be arranged, to be in order   ととのえる to adjust, tune   
Please LOG IN to view this kanji's mnemonic
3
ワ   オ    peace, harmony   なご to be calmed down   なごやか calm, gentle   やわらぐ to be softened   やわらげる to soften; to alleviate   
Please LOG IN to view this kanji's mnemonic
3
Problem with this grammar? Question or comment? Please CONTACT US.
×
Change component list
By default the component builder shows the most common components (themselves joyo kanji, or used in at least 3 other joyo kanji). Select an alternative set of components below.



Full details of all components and their English names can be found here.
Help with the component builder
For detailed instructions, see the Component builder how to guide.
To find any kanji, first try to identify the components it is made up of.
For any components you recognize, if you know the English meaning or name, start typing it in the text area. Full details of all components and their English names can be found here.
Alternatively, count the strokes of the component, and scan the list to find it visually.
Example
To find the kanji :
  • Notice that it is made of several components: 氵 艹 口 夫.
  • 氵 艹 口 all have three strokes, so you could look in the list in the 3 stroke section. 夫 has four strokes.
  • Alternatively, you could start typing 'water' (氵), 'grass' (艹), 'mouth' (口) or 'husband' (夫) in the search area, and the components will be highlighted in yellow.
  • Keep adding components until you can see your kanji in the list of matches that appears near the top.