I can’t believe it’s already May. Springtime represents many things, including flowers, walks, days out, the year’s first ice cream cones, beers at a sunny bar and social events. Here, in Spain, this season is known as BBC time: bodas, bautizos y comuniones (weddings, christenings and first communions).


So, in other words, it’s time to get your wardrobe spruced up, and to get rid of those dull colours (colores sosos) in your closet and replace them with bright, new ones (colores alegres). It’s time to go shopping and find that great, new outfit that you will be wearing to your nephew’s first communion, your niece’s christening or your friend’s wedding. Yeah, that’s right. The one who said she’d never get married.


As for me, I’ve already been invited to one of these spring events: my nephew’s first communion (la Primera Comunión). This event consists of a Christian liturgical ceremony in which a group of children aged seven to eleven (the Communicants, los comulgantes) take part in the sacrament of the Eucharist for the first time. Relatives and friends gather in the church to attend the special mass and to enjoy a banquet and a party afterwards. Everybody wears their best clothes, very much like they would for a wedding. Children are usually dressed in white, and sometimes look like little brides and grooms (novias y novios en una boda). It is a lovely day to remember, with the children as the main protagonists.


So, I of course needed to get some new clothes for this occasion (estrenar ropa, wear clothes for the first time). A shop assistant helped me to decide what to purchase. However, while I was talking with her, I almost wondered whether she was in fact speaking my language. ¡Madre mía! How difficult it is to talk about colours nowadays! I know that I am not that “fashion literate,” but I really thought that I could at least manage to distinguish colours. I was wrong. The reality is that you need to be kind of a poet to be able to decipher the language of colours. On top of that, the language keeps changing every season. That’s crazy! For example, there’s “limpet shell” (concha de lapa), “fiesta,” “buttercup” (ranúnculo) and “snorkel blue” (azul tubo de buceo). Wow! It probably comes as no surprise that these new colour names are actually not translated into Spanish, as they would lose their glamour, and perhaps their appeal (el gancho) as well.


We do, however, have some colours that are easy to recognize, unless you happen to be colour blind (daltónico). We also have some colours that are very similar to the classic ones, that is, with some tone difference. These are as follows:



Que Tira a…


Which resembles...


































An example of one of these words in action would be:


  • Me he comprado una camisa rojiza (que tira a roja).


This translates as:


  • I’ve bought a reddish shirt (a shirt that is similar to red, that is kind of red).


However, this is not enough when talking about fashion. Depending on the shade, we sometimes create new names for colours using actual real life things that resemble them. There are some classic examples, such as “navy blue” (azul marino), “bottle green” (verde botella), “egg yolk yellow” (amarillo huevo), “sky blue” (azul celeste), “ash grey” (gris ceniza), and “pistachio green” (verde pistacho). However, while we do use these names in Spanish, they have become kind of old fashioned and no longer seem to appeal to our modern sense of fashion.


So, there I was, in front of the shop assistant trying to figure out what she was talking about. She talked about “rose quartz” (rosa cuarzo) and “serenity blue” (azul serenidad), the 2016 Pantone Colors of the Year. She explained that the symbolism for these colours went beyond metaphors. Instead, they represented feelings and emotions. Of course, she referred to these two colours as rosa quartz and azul serenity.


What a responsibility! What if I ruined my nephew’s communion party just because I didn’t wear the right colours! Come on! What’s happening to us? Selling emotions as a lure in this stressed society? Is it colour therapy (cromoterapia) or is it just using language to persuade us to buy?


Regardless of why these colour names are being used, here are some useful phrases using colour in Spanish:


Expression #1: ¡Ah!, ¿Qué me pongo? (What should I wear?)


Ponerse means wear, but ponerse + adjective means “become + adjective” (change). You can also use ponerse + colours, and keep on playing with colours and words ;)


Expression #2: Ponerse rojo: ruborizarse (to get red faced: to blush)




  • Cuando la dependienta me habló de los colores, me puse roja, pues me dio mucha vergüenza no saber nada de las nuevas tendencias (When the shop assistant spoke to me about colours, I blushed because I was ashamed that I did not know about the new trends).


Expresson #3: Poner verde a alguien (to backstab, to badmouth)




  • No me gustan nada los chismosos que aprovechan cualquier reunión para poner verde al resto del mundo (I hate those gossips who take advantage of every meeting to badmouth everyone else).


Expression #4: Poner a alguien negro (to irritate)




  • Sí, es verdad. A mí también me ponen negra (Yeah, you’re right. They irritate me too).


Expression #5: Ponerse morado (to pig out)




Seguro que en el banquete nos ponemos morados de marisco (I’m sure that we will pig out on shellfish at the banquet).


Finally, after going through the colours and their metaphorical meanings (and after taking into account what a communion in Spain is like), I opted for “buttercup yellow” (amarillo botón de oro / ranúncul) together with “iced coffee” (café con hielo). The former was said to reflect energy and dynamism, while the latter gave my outfit a more formal hint.


This is an example of the power of colour and the power of language. Use it sensibly.


Image Sources


Hero Image by Valeria Boltneva (CC0)