Today’s lesson will be: The Colors in Japanese!
Learning how to say the basic colors and also the more nuanced ones is a great way to EXPAND your Japanese vocabulary and add some flavor to your conversations.
Let’s go over the basic ones, the “need to know” colors, that will work for almost all situations.
A list of the basic Japanese colors.
色 (iro) = Color
Here is the word for color. You’d better learn it now as it will appear quite often as a part of other colors.
黄色 (kiiro) = Yellow
Like right now for example. The first kanji 黄 (ki) means yellow and you already know what the second kanji means. This “two-kanji” combination is common for colors in Japanese, but there are exceptions.
白 (shiro) = White
White is one of the exceptions.
黒 (kuro) = Black
Black is also an exception. Here are a few more:
赤 (aka) = Red
青 (ao) = Blue
緑 (midori) = Green
紫 (murasaki) = Purple
That about covers the basic exceptions. Now back to colors that also have 色 (iro) in the name:
茶色 (chairo) = Brown
The first kanji 茶 (cha) means “tea”. So 茶色 (chairo) is “tea color” and of course most tea leaves are brown.
金色 (kin’iro) = Gold
The kanji 金 (kin) means gold. This is also the kanji used for Friday: 金曜日 (kin’yōbi). Friday is the Golden day of the week!
銀色 (gin’iro) = Silver
Very similar to the last one. Change the K to a G and you get 銀 (gin) for silver.
Now it gets a little interesting with these last three. They all have an “色 (iro)” color name, but in recent years it is much more common to use their katakana names which sound like the English versions.
桃色 (momoiro) = Pink
桃 (momo) means “peach.” So it makes sense that pink is “peach color.” Or you could use the katakana ピンク (pinku).
灰色 (haiiro) = Grey
灰 (hai) means “ash.” So “ash color” is another way of saying grey. Or you could say グレー (gurē).
橙色 (daidaiiro) = Orange
橙 (daidai) means “orange” so “orange color” is similar to the “yellow color” that you saw earlier. The more common katakana is オレンジ (orenji).
Using the colors as adjectives.
So far you’ve learned the colors in their noun form. But if you want to use them as an adjective, then you will have to add either an “i” or a “no” after the color. Here’s the list:
Add い (i) to the following:
白い (shiroi) = White
黒い (kuroi) = Black
赤い (akai) = Red
青い (aoi) = Blue
黄色い (kiiroi) = Yellow
Example: 黒い猫 (kuroi neko) = Black Cat
Add の (no) to the other colors to make them adjectives.
Example: 茶色の車(chairo no kuruma) = Brown Car
Some way to remember basic colors.
I recommend two different ways to learn the colors in Japanese. Check them out and use which ever one you like more.
(1) Use music to learn.
Music is a great way to learn as it engages both the left side of your brain with the words of the song, and it also engages the right side of your brain with the melody. Music activates Whole Brain Learning!
Here’s a great video if you like music. If you learn the song and sing along with it, you will accelerate the speed at which you learn!
(2) Use flash cards in a specific way.
Another great way to learn is to use flash cards. If done correctly, it will engage your senses of sight, sound, and touch – this is known as Multi-Sensory Learning!
You see the Japanese words as you look at the cards.
You hear the words as you speak them out loud.
You feel the cards in your hands as you shuffle and use them.
Take some blank index cards and write the correct meaning and pronunciation on one side. On the other side write the kanji for the color in its corresponding color!
You see, colors ENGAGE your mind emotionally. And what you mix with emotions you tend to remember. Here is an example of the front and back side of a good flash card:
Repetition is the mother of all learning.
Wither you choose to watch the video and sing along or create colorful flash cards that you use with your hands and say out loud, is completely up to you.
But here’s the key: do it multiple times.
Each time you do it, your brain strengthens a neuro-pathway so that the next time it becomes a little easier to do.
Do your chosen exercise at least three times today, twice tomorrow, and once the day after tomorrow.
You will then be well on your way to remembering the colors in Japanese!
So which are you going to do? Do you like singing along with the song, or do you prefer to use colorful flash cards to help learn and remember? Let me know with a comment below!
Further Resources for Learning Japanese: