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col·or (kŭlər)
1. That aspect of things that is caused by differing qualities of the light reflected or emitted by them, definable in terms of the observer or of the light, as:
a. The appearance of objects or light sources described in terms of the individual's perception of them, involving hue, lightness, and saturation for objects, and hue, brightness, and saturation for light sources.
b. The characteristics of light by which the individual is made aware of objects or light sources through the receptors of the eye, described in terms of dominant wavelength, luminance, and purity.
c. A gradation or variation of this aspect, especially when other than black, white, or gray; a hue:fireworks that exploded in brilliant colors.
2. A substance, such as a dye, pigment, or paint, that imparts a hue.
a. The use of different colors in visual representation.
b. The different colors used in visual representation:one of the earliest movies in color.
a. The general appearance of the skin, especially as an indication of good health: regained her color after a few days' rest.
b. A reddening of the face, as a blush or sign of anger.
5. Skin pigmentation considered as a racial characteristic or a marker of racial identity, especially when other than white:"My father told me if I go west, there's integration; you don't worry about color"(Itabari Njeri). See Usage Note at person of color.
6. colors
a. A colored item, such as a badge, ribbon, or piece of clothing, serving as an identifying mark:wore the colors of their college.
b. A flag or banner, as of a country or military unit:a ship flying the colors of Brazil.
c. The salute made during the ceremony of raising or lowering a flag.
7. colorsOne's opinion or position:Stick to your colors.
8. oftencolorsCharacter or nature:revealed their true colors.
a. An outward and often deceptive appearance:a tale with the merest color of truth.
b. Appearance of authenticity:testimony that lends color to an otherwise absurd notion.
c. Law The appearance of a legal claim, as to a right or office.
a. Vividness or variety in expression:a story told with a lot of color.
b. Commentary distinguished by vivid details or background information, as during a sports broadcast:A former coach provided the color for the championship game.
11. Local color.
12. The use or effect of pigment in painting, as distinct from form.
13. Music Quality of tone or timbre.
14. A particle or bit of gold found in auriferous gravel or sand.
15. Physics See color charge.
16. Astronomy See color index.
v.col·ored, col·or·ing, col·ors
1. To impart color to or change the color of.
a. To give a distinctive character or quality to; modify:"Both books are colored by the author's childhood experiences"(Deborah M. Locke).
b. To exert an influence on; affect:The war colored the soldier's life.
a. To misrepresent, especially by distortion or exaggeration:color the facts.
b. To gloss over; excuse:a parent who colored the children's lies.
a. To take on color.
b. To change color.
2. To become red in the face; redden or blush.

[Middle Englishcolour, fromOld French, fromLatincolor; see kel-1 in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]

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The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2022 by HarperCollins Publishers. All rights reserved.

Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices

    Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:

    Indo-European Roots

    Semitic Roots

    The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.