Expand your English language comprehension and learn some new common English words without seeing red in this English lesson. Learn about some of the many names for the colour red in the English language, plus scenarios where you might want more creative options for describing red. We explain where you might hear these words being used. We show you how you would use them yourself. Learning this type of conversational English will help you comprehend everyday English being used naturally.
This is a good English lesson for you to listen to and comprehend the everyday conversational English being used in natural situations. This is a 10+ minute lesson where we give you an opportunity to listen to lots of different English words and phrases. When you listen to our podcast lessons, you will learn English vocabulary, English grammar, pronunciation, English idioms, English phrases and more. We use a listen and learn a system of language learning. A system which trusts and helps your brain’s natural language learning abilities to help you learn through language acquisition. We have lots more English lessons available on adeptenglish.com and we release 2 new English lessons every week.
There are many names for the colour red in English language. We will look at a few of them in this lesson. If you just want to get by, you can just use red, and pretty much everyone will understand what you are saying. But where is the fun in that? Sometimes you want to be more descriptive, especially with the colour red, which is associated with powerful emotions, such as love, passion, and anger.
There is a shade of red for every woman.
⭐ Audrey Hepburn, Actress
A situation where you might use this more expressive and descriptive English language is when you are being creative or involved in an emotional process. For example, painting, art, video, where someone might ask you “what colour is that?” and you want to express a more creative view. Or when you see artwork on display that grabs your attention and you want to describe what you see using more expressive language for the colours.
Vermilion Expressive Cochineal Claret Scenarios Burgundy Cerise Palette Gothic
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Hi there and welcome to this podcast from Adept English. We’re here to help you learn English – and we’re not talking about learning English at beginner level. If you’re listening to this, you’re not a beginner, but you are someone who is determined and motivated to improve your English language. So stick with us, stick with Adept English and we’ll provide you with all that lovely English listening material so that you can move towards fluency in English.
Now a little while ago, I gave you a whole podcast on the colour blue. Of course, English is one of the languages in the world which has the most words, the biggest number of words. So when it comes to something like colour, we have many more words for the colour blue, than just BLUE. And I promised in that podcast to return and do more words for colours with you.
I don’t know whether your language has lots of words for shades of colour – but English is very descriptive in this way. There are no words for colour in this podcast that the average English speaker wouldn’t know. So shall we tackle words for red, RED today? We like to get ‘descriptive’ in English conversation, so these are words which might catch you out, if you’ve not heard them before. So let’s look today at ‘shades of red’ – and to help you remember, for each shade of red, I’ll give you a bit of background or an association with the colour.
So just to recap what you learned in school or on your beginner’s English course – the main colours in English are:- black, white, blue, red, yellow, green, orange, purple, pink, brown and grey.
So what shades of red shall I explain today?
Well, just before we go on to that, just a reminder that if you’d like some more practice, some more English language to listen to, then Course One Activate Your Listening is more structured than the podcasts. This course helps you build your vocabulary on several topics and it’s structured so that you learn through ‘phased repetition’.
The course also contains quite a lot of English conversation practice – with two speakers, not just me! So if podcasts are a little difficult to understand, Course One Activate Your Listening will raise your level and also give you practice understanding English for conversation.
OK, back to today’s subject. So what about other colour names? This is part of our project to learn everyday English for speaking and listening. So let’s have a go today at burgundy, claret, cerise, vermilion, crimson and scarlet. All of these are words for red. There are other words for red, but these are the main ones you’ll come across. So let’s take them in turn. Some of these words are a definite shade of red – and that’s the only context that you’ll use them in, the only way that the word is used. And others of these words refer to objects or substances which are red – so sometimes we use that word to mean a particular shade of red.
A photograph crimson roses. In this English lesson we talk through more descriptive words and phrases for the colour red.
So the words which are only ever used to mean ‘red’ are vermillion, crimson and scarlet. And the words which can be used to mean a shade of red, but which also mean other things are burgundy, claret, cerise or cherry red. We’ve just gone through the process of choosing a paint colour for our spare room – and there is such a choice of paint colours for walls. All the shades have different names – and often nothing whatsoever to do with the colour itself. I guess they run out of names! So we’ve chosen a shade of grey by Dulux, which is called ‘City Break’ – but clearly it’s a very loose relationship between the colour and the name. Presumably paint companies have teams of people to think up these names. The ones I’m giving here are recognisable by most English speakers as meaning ‘red’.
Vermilion - so this is a colour that you may be familiar with if you like to paint pictures. But vermilion is spelt VERMILION or apparently you can also spell it with two Ls – your choice! And Vermilion is a bright, orangey shade of red. The origin of the word ‘vermilion’ is Latin – from vermiculus, meaning ‘little worm’ – and a bit like ‘cochineal’, COCHINEAL which is a red dye made from a beetle, ‘vermillion’ became the word for this shade of red because the colour was similar to that made from an insect!
An example of a ‘vermilion’ shade of red in a painting you might now - the sky in Edvard Munch’s ‘The Scream’. Actually the red used here was Cadmium Red – a colour of paint now banned in the European Union – because it’s poisonous, toxic!
Crimson - the next word for red – and a word used only to mean red, so CRIMSON. Again the word comes again from an insect – the Kermes scale insect, which was used to produce crimson coloured dye. So the name ‘kermes’ from the insect, mutated into ‘crimson’ over time.
‘Crimson’ is a dark red. And this word seems to be a favourite for films and series – it seems to be an indicator of a bloody or gory film. So there was the film ‘Crimson’ released in 2020. I haven’t watched that one, and apparently I haven’t missed much – I could only find bad reviews for that film online! Prior to that there was ‘Crimson Peak’, a 2015 horror film, directed by Guillermo del Toro – and it’s described as ‘a gothic thriller’ – not my cup of tea particularly! And finally ‘Crimson Tide’, is a rather older film from 1995 and perhaps a better film. Good if you like a drama, a thriller of a film, set in a submarine!
Scarlet - so this one is spelt SCARLET, scarlet. And still with films and movies – if you’ve ever watched the very old film ‘Gone With the Wind’, you’ll know that ‘scarlet’ is also a name as in ‘Scarlett O’Hara’ played by Vivien Leigh – though that ‘scarlet’ has an extra T as does actress Scarlett Johansson. Wikipedia has ‘scarlet’ as a red, which is ‘bright, slightly orange, but not as orangey as vermillion’.
So what about the other names we use for shades of red, which aren’t just used as words for the colour. So burgundy, claret, cerise, cherry, raspberry?
Burgundy and claret first of all. Well, these words may already be strangely familiar to you, if you like a glass of red wine. So Burgundy, BURGUNDY is a region of France, known for its wine – and apparently you can have a white Burgundy wine. I didn’t know that - I thought Burgundy was always red – but it terms of the colour it is. And a slightly less used word to mean red, but still valid, Claret, CLARET. And again it’s wine – and a dark shade of red.
‘Claret’ is the British term that is sometimes used to describe wines from the Bordeaux region of France. Again, I knew it was a red wine, but wasn’t aware of this definition. I like wine, but I drink it, rather than studying it! So that’s Burgundy and Claret.
Cerise, cherry and raspberry red. So the remaining shades of red on my list today are ‘cerise’, ‘cherry’ and ‘raspberry’. You may recognise these words – they’re all words for fruit – or certainly ‘cherry’ and raspberry’ are. But if someone asked ‘What colour is it?’ and you replied ‘Raspberry’ – you’d be understood to mean ‘a pinky red’.
The word ‘cerise’, that’s CERISE – in English means specifically a pinky red colour, and in French ‘cerise’ means ‘cherry’, as in the fruit. So ‘cerise’, ‘cherry’ or ‘raspberry red’ – these are the sorts of names that you might have for your lipstick or your nail polish. And specifically these – we wouldn’t particularly talk about ‘strawberry red’ or ‘apple red’ for instance, even though these fruits can be red too.
And lastly, if you hear the term ‘redhead’ – that means someone with what we call ‘red hair’. Actually ‘red hair’ is much more like a shade of ginger or orangey brown – but you do see more people with red hair in the UK than you do in most other countries of the world. Famous redheads include Prince Harry, Nicole Kidman and Damian Lewis.
OK, so that’s probably enough for you to remember in one go and will help you in your English for conversions where the colour red comes up.
A little quiz now, to help you remember your shades of red? Have a go at these questions – and then restart the podcast to listen again – because the answers are all in there!
- Which three shades of red in English are associated with the names of fruit?
- Which shade of red is also a girl’s name?
- Which shade of red might be a colour in a painter’s palette?
- Which shade of red seems to feature in the names of horror or gothic movies?
- And what name might you call a person with ginger hair?
OK. Enough for now. Have a lovely day. Speak to you again soon. Goodbye.