June 27, 2024

Basic Colors in Japanese for Beginners


Various Colors in Japanese

Click here to download a free printable word search for the vocabulary found in this lesson

The Japanese word for “color” is 色 iro. The pun at the top of the page sounds like it repeats "iro" several times, but it means "various colors." 

First, try this matching game to see if you can recognize the colors. Then use the information below to learn the ones you don't yet know!

Grammatically, colors are used in two ways: as nouns and as adjectives.

The actual color names as nouns are listed in the colored area. The examples below show how to use the colors as nouns and how to make them into adjectives. When used as an adjective, most color names add a い.

Mouse over or tap (if on mobile) any kanji to see the reading.




Yellow is pretty. (This is a noun)


The yellow bird is pretty. (This is an adjective and adds the い)


  • 黄色(きいろ) yellow
  • は topic marker
  • きれい beautiful; pretty
  • 黄色(きいろ)(とり) yellow bird [黄色(きいろ)い (yellow) + (とり) (bird)]
  • です is (polite)




The sky is blue.


That blue pond is pretty.


  • (そら) sky
  • (あお)い blue
  • です is (polite)
  • あの that (over there)
  • (いけ) pond
  • きれい beautiful; pretty




This flower is red.


This is a red flower.


  • この this
  • (はな) flower
  • (あか)い red
  • です is (polite)
  • これ this (thing)
  • は topic marker




Snow is white.


Foreigners don’t usually eat plain, white rice (with no butter or salt…).


  • (ゆき) snow
  • (しろ)い white
  • 外国人(がいこくじん) foreigner
  • ごはん rice
  • を direct object marker
  • あまり not very; not much
  • たべない do not eat [negative form of たべる (to eat)]




I don’t like black clothes.


  • (くろ)(ふく) black clothes [(くろ)い (black) + (ふく) (clothes)]
  • は topic marker
  • ()きじゃない do not like [()き (like) + じゃない (negative form)]



<to make this into an adjective that connects to another word, add の>


I want grey socks.


  • 灰色(はいいろ)のくつした gray socks [灰色(はいいろ) (gray) + の (possessive or descriptive particle) + くつした (socks)]
  • が subject marker
  • ほしい want




I like purple flowers the best.


  • (むらさき)(はな) purple flower [(むらさき) (purple) + の (possessive particle) + (はな) (flower)]
  • が subject marker
  • 一番(いちばん) most; best; number one
  • ()き like




The traffic light is green.


The cow is eating green grass.


  • 信号(しんごう) traffic light
  • (みどり) green
  • です is (polite)
  • (うし) cow
  • (みどり)(くさ) green grass [(みどり) (green) + の (possessive particle) + (くさ) (grass)]
  • を direct object marker
  • ()べている eating [()べる (to eat) in the て-form + いる (to be; indicating an ongoing action)]

Go through the example sentences and then try arranging the words below in a correct order. Other sequences are possible, but the game is set to the order in the example sentences.

Sentence Scramble Game

Sentence Scramble Game

Drag and drop the words so they mean "" Be sure to drop ON words rather than between words:

Vocabulary Quiz

Take this quick quiz based on vocabulary found on this lesson page.

    Match the Meaning

    Flip two cards to match the Japanese with the English.

    Flashcard Match-Up

    Additional common colors:

    • 茶色(ちゃいろ) brown
    • ピンク pink
    • オレンジ orange
    • 水色(みずいろ) light blue
    • 紺色(こんいろ) navy blue
    • 金色(きんいろ) gold
    • 銀色(ぎんいろ) silver


    • In Japanese, the word for “Black & White” is actually “White & Black” – 白黒(しろくろ) 
    • In Japan, traffic light signals are said to be RED (あか) , BLUE (あお) (not green), and YELLOW ()
    • Most Japanese children draw the sun not yellow but RED (あか) 
    • Color words often find themselves in people's names: 青木(あおき)
    • Polar Bears are White bears in Japanese 白熊(しろくま)

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