(ㄋㄧˇ ㄉㄜ˙) (ㄌㄚˋ ㄅㄧˇ) (ㄕˋ) (ㄕㄣˊ ㄇㄜ˙) (ㄧㄢˊ ㄙㄜˋ)
(nǐ de.)(là bǐ)(shì)(shén me.)(yán sè)
(your)(wax + pen, pencil, or brush = crayon)(to be/is)(what)(color)
What color is your crayon?
The basic colors in Chinese are fairly straight forward. There is a character for the color which is followed by the character 色 ㄙㄜˋ (sè), which specifies that “color” is being talked about.
- 紅色 ㄏㄨㄥˊ ㄙㄜˋ (hóng sè) red
- 藍色 ㄌㄢˊ ㄙㄜˋ (lán sè) blue
- 綠色 ㄌㄩˋ ㄙㄜˋ (lǜ sè) green
- 黃色 ㄏㄨㄤˊ ㄙㄜˋ (huáng sè) yellow
- 橘色 ㄐㄩ ㄙㄜˋ (jú sè) orange
- 紫色 ㄗˇ ㄙㄜˋ (zǐ sè) purple
- 黑色 ㄏㄟ ㄙㄜˋ (hēi sè) black
- 白色 ㄅㄞˊ ㄙㄜˋ (bái sè) white
When you want to specify a color that is lighter, such as what in English would be referred to as “light blue,” either 淡 ㄉㄢˋ (dàn) or 淺 ㄑㄧㄢˇ (qiǎn) is added in front. Such as:
- 淺藍色 ㄑㄧㄢˇ ㄌㄢˊ ㄙㄜˋ (qiǎn lan sè) light blue
- 淡綠色 ㄉㄢˋ ㄌㄩˋ ㄙㄜˋ (dàn lǜ sè) light green
Two common exceptions are pink and gray, which have their own special words.
- 粉紅色 ㄈㄣˇ ㄏㄨㄥˊ ㄙㄜˋ (fěn hóng sè)
- 灰色 ㄏㄨㄟ ㄙㄜˋ (huī sè)
In Chinese, there is also a certain name for yellow with white added to it called
- 鵝黃色 ㄜˊ ㄏㄨㄤˊ ㄙㄜˋ (é huáng sè) goose yellow
Color words are varied and specific. Similar to English, things known for a specific color will be used to designate that color, such as
- 天藍色 ㄊㄧㄢ ㄌㄢˊ ㄙㄜˋ (tiān lán sè) sky blue
And also the same as English, colors are sometimes used to indicate mood, such as a gray symbolizing gloomy or white implying clean.
From there, it gets trickier, just like with colors in English. I had to ask my graphic arts daughter for further help in understanding colors. She brought up things like fading, saturation, which I can understand without thinking too hard. Then, she mentioned additive and subtractive color spectrums, which I had to look up. All this to say that while color may be a normal part of everyday life, naming it and understanding it is not always that simple!
- 褪色的 ㄊㄨㄟˋ ㄙㄜˋ ㄉㄜ˙ (tuì sè de.) faded
(ㄨㄛˇ ㄉㄜ˙) (ㄋㄧㄡˊ ㄗㄞˇ) (ㄨㄞˋ ㄊㄠˋ) (ㄕˋ) (ㄊㄨㄟˋ ㄙㄜˋ) (ㄌㄢˊ ㄙㄜˋ) [(ㄋㄧㄡˊ ㄗㄞˇ) (ㄅㄨˋ)] ㄗㄨㄛˋ ㄉㄜ˙
(wǒ de.)(niú zǎi)(wài tào)(shì)(tuì sè)(lán sè)[(niú zǎi)(bù)](zuò de.)
(my)(cowboy)(jacket)(is)(faded)(blue)[(cowboy)(fabric) = denim](made of)
My (western, denim) jacket is made from faded blue denim.
- 飽和的 ㄅㄠˇ ㄏㄜˊ ㄉㄜ˙ (bǎo hé de.) saturated, saturation
- 透明的 ㄊㄡˋ ㄇㄧㄥˊ ㄉㄜ˙ (tòu míng de.) transparent
My Chinese tutor found this Chinese wikipedia page that lists the colors in Chinese and English. It does not give pronunciation or translations of characters, though. I have listed some of them below, as well as color names my Chinese tutor knew or looked up. This is more than one option for some colors. You may notice that some of them are descriptive names, while others are sound-a-like loan words based on the words in English.
- 藍綠色 ㄌㄢˊ ㄌㄩˋ ㄙㄜˋ (lán lǜ sè) teal “blue-green”
- 鳧綠 ㄈㄨˊ ㄌㄩˋ (fú lǜ) teal “mallard green”
- 綠松石色 ㄌㄩˋ ㄙㄨㄥ ㄕˊ ㄙㄜˋ (lǜ sōng shí sè) turquoise
- 栗色 ㄌㄧˋ ㄙㄜˋ (lì sè) maroon “chestnut”
- 褐紫紅色 ㄏㄜˋ ㄗˇ ㄏㄨㄥˊ ㄙㄜˋ (hè zǐ hóng sè) maroon “brown purple red”
- 桃紅色 ㄊㄠˊ ㄏㄨㄥˊ ㄙㄜˋ (táo hóng sè) peachy orange, peach pink
(ㄗㄞˋ) (ㄔㄨㄣ ㄊㄧㄢ) (ㄔㄨㄢ) (ㄊㄠˊ ㄏㄨㄥˊ ㄙㄜˋ ㄉㄜ˙) (ㄧ ㄈㄨˊ), (ㄎㄢˋ ㄑㄧˇ ㄌㄞˊ) (ㄏㄣˇ) (ㄒㄧˇ ㄑㄧˋ)
(zài)(chūn tiān)(chuān)(táo hóng sè de.)(yī fú), (kàn qǐ lái)(hěn)(xǐ qì)
(at)(spring)(to wear)(peach colored)(clothes), (looks like)(very)(pleasant, cheerful)
Wearing peach colored clothes in the spring looks very cheerful.
- 淡紫色 ㄉㄢˋ ㄗˇ ㄙㄜˋ (dàn zǐ sè) mauve
- 木槿紫 ㄇㄨˋ ㄐㄧㄣˇ ㄗˇ (mù jǐn zǐ) mauve (tree hibiscus purple)
- 卡其色 ㄎㄚˇ ㄑㄧˊ ㄙㄜˋ (kǎ qí sè) khaki
- 原色嗶嘰 ㄩㄢˊ ㄙㄜˋ ㄅㄧˋ ㄐ一 (yuán sè bì jī) beige
- 米黃 ㄇㄧˇ ㄏㄨㄤˊ (mǐ huáng) beige “(brown)rice yellow”
- 淡黃綠色 ㄉㄢˋ ㄏㄨㄤˊ ㄌㄩˋ ㄙㄧˋ(dàn huáng lǜ sè) chartreuse “light yellow green”
- 查特酒綠 ㄓㄚ ㄊㄜˋ ㄐㄧㄡˇ ㄌㄩˋ (zhā tè jiǔ lǜ) chartreuse
- 古銅色 ㄍㄨˇ ㄊㄨㄥˊ ㄙㄜˋ (gǔ tóng sè) bronze, tan
- 棕褐色 ㄗㄨㄥ ㄏㄜˋ ㄙㄜˋ (zōng hè sè) tan
- 象牙白 ㄒㄧㄤˋ ㄧㄚˊ ㄅㄞˊ (xiàng yá bái) ivory (elephant tooth white)
- 金色 ㄐㄧㄣ ㄙㄜˋ (jīn sè) gold
- 銀色 ㄧㄣˊ ㄜˋ (yín sè) silver
- 洋紅色 ㄧㄤˊ ㄏㄨㄥˊ ㄙㄜˋ (yáng hóng sè) magenta
- 品紅色 ㄆㄧㄣˇ ㄏㄨㄥˊ ㄙㄜˋ (pǐn hóng sè) fuchsia
- 長春花色 ㄔㄤˊ ㄔㄨㄣ ㄏㄨㄚ ㄙㄜˋ(cháng chūn huā sè) periwinkle
- 橄欖綠 ㄍㄢˇ ㄌㄢˇ ㄌㄩˋ (gǎn lǎn lǜ) olive drab
- 蘋果綠 ㄆㄧㄥˊ ㄍㄨㄛˇ ㄌㄩˋ (píng guǒ lǜ) apple green
- 金黃色 ㄐㄧㄣ ㄏㄨㄤˊ ㄙㄜˋ (jīn huáng sè) blonde (golden yellow)
- 朱紅色 ㄓㄨ ㄏㄨㄥˊ ㄙㄜˋ (zhū hóng sè) vermilion
- 霓虹 ㄋㄧˊ ㄏㄨㄥˊ (ní hóng) neon
While doing research for finding names of Chinese colors, I looked at the Crayola website. I couldn’t find any links to Chinese products, so I emailed them and received a very polite response from corporate world headquarters informing me that their crayons still have English words on them when sold in China. That doesn’t surprise me a lot, since in Taiwan they have English classes from an early age.
There may be other brands of crayons that have Chinese characters on them, which I hope to look for next time I get to travel there. Meanwhile, this children’s book in Chinese has crayons for characters!
If you use your K-Tdict C-E iPad or iPhone dictionary, you should be able to draw any other characters from the Chinese wikipedia color page you want to decipher!