What does the idiom "off colour" mean?

Are you using the idiom off colour but not sure about its meaning? Using idioms, which are important elements of spoken and written language, in the right place strengthens your language skills. Examine the meaning of the off colour idiom and the situations in which it is used.

Meaning of "off colour"

Meaning

The idiom "off color" is used to describe a feeling of being unwell, or being of an unhealthy color. It is often used in context with physical health. It is also used to describe something that is considered inappropriate or out of line, as if it is off in some way.

Etymology

The phrase "off color" has been used in English since the late 15th century. The earliest known usage of the phrase was in 1485. It was used to describe something that was not quite right or not the proper color. The phrase was then extended to describe a person's health, as in feeling off-color or looking off-color. The phrase is believed to be derived from the Middle English term "off-coloured," which itself was derived from the Old French "off-coulored."

Usage

The phrase "off color" is commonly used in the context of physical health. It is used to describe a person who feels unwell or looks pale. For example, "I'm feeling a bit off color today." It can also be used to describe someone who looks like they are unwell, such as "She looks a bit off color today."

The phrase can also be used to describe something that is inappropriate or not socially accepted, as in "That joke was a bit off color." It can also be used to describe something that is not quite right or has gone wrong, as in "The paint job looks a bit off color."

Example Sentences

  • I'm feeling a bit off color today, I think I should stay home from work.
  • That joke was a bit off color, I don't think anyone found it very funny.
  • The paint job looks a bit off color, we should probably get it redone.

The meanings of the words in the "off colour" idiom

The Global Spread of English Idioms

As English has become a global language, its idioms have spread far beyond the borders of the UK and USA. For instance, the idiom "beat around the bush" has equivalents in many other languages, such as "tourner autour du pot" in French and "dar vueltas al asunto" in Spanish. Meanwhile, other idioms have been adapted for local contexts, such as the Russian idiom "?? ???? ???????" (ne svoya rubashka), which translates to "not one's own shirt," meaning to be in an uncomfortable or unfamiliar situation.

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