Today just might be your lucky day!
Because today, we’re going on a search for the treasure hidden at the end of the rainbow.
On the journey to fluency in Portuguese, there’s nothing more important than being able to describe the world around you.
What better place to start than with the beautiful colors we see covering everything?
To learn the colors, vamos em uma aventura! (let’s go on an adventure!)
During this adventure, you’ll have a chance to learn all sorts of colors, including basic ones used for everyday objects, advanced colors that’ll truly impress other Portuguese speakers and even colors used only to describe people.
See if you can memorize as cores (the colors) and earn that treasure at the end of the rainbow!
Why Is Learning Colors Important?
Not only will learning colors open up your vocabulary and allow you to describe the world around you, they’re also essential to understanding all types of pop culture references, movies and songs. Most importantly, colors are used every day to distinguish between things.
Picture this: You’ve just arrived at the airport in Salvador. You’re ready to spend the best week of your life dancing and listening to incredible Brazilian music. Yeah, you guessed it. It’s Carnaval! Since you want to immerse yourself as much as possible in the city and culture, you ask someone what bus to take to get to the city center. “O ônibus amarelo,” she replies.
Outside, a bus pulls up to the curb. But what color was amarelo, again? Suddenly, you’re not sure. This could be your bus. If it is, you’ll have to hurry…
Are you prepared? Do you know your colors?
Adjectives and Agreement: Easy-to-follow Grammar Tips
Before we jump into the colors, let’s nail down a couple of simple rules for using them.
Portuguese Colors and Gender
Every Portuguese noun has a gender. When using adjectives it’s necessary to make the adjectives agree with the nouns. How about another look at that bus situation? The helpful lady at the airport used the color amarelo (yellow) to describe o ônibus (the bus).
Because o ônibus is masculine (you can tell by the article “o”), the adjective, amarelo, must be made masculine as well. To do this, we simply make it end in o.
When describing a feminine noun, such as a casa (the house), instead of ending the adjective in o, it ends in a.
O ônibus amarelo
A casa amarela
Remember, adjectives in Portuguese almost always follow the noun.
Portuguese Colors and Pluralization
Just like with gender, adjectives must agree in number with the noun being described.
To make an adjective agree with a plural noun, we simply add an s to the end of the word. So the first two examples, made plural, would become:
Os ônibus amarelos (the plural form of the word “ônibus” is the same as the singular form)
As casas amarelas
The examples listed above work only for regular adjectives ending in o or a. When a noun doesn’t end in o/a, it doesn’t change its ending for gender agreement.
There are occasional other exceptions to these agreement rules, but don’t worry! Any other exceptions will be explained as they come up on your journey to the end of the rainbow.
Follow the Rainbow! Learn Colors in Portuguese and Find a Pot of Gold
Let’s get started! Here, you’ll learn all the color words you could possibly want to know in Portuguese.
The Basics: Colors of the Rainbow in Portuguese
Since we’ll be following the rainbow on this journey, we obviously need to know the colors of that rainbow. Here they are:
Vermelho/a — red
O sangue vermelho — The red blood
Uma blusa vermelha — A red shirt
Alaranjado/a — orange
As mangas alaranjadas — The orange mangos
Um capacete alaranjado — An orange helmet
Da cor laranja — [of the color] orange
Exception: Some colors in Portuguese appear to be adjectives, but actually represent nouns of the same color. Laranja actually refers to the fruit orange. These noun-colors formally appear as da cor ____, such as:
O copo da cor laranja — The orange cup (literally, “the cup of the color orange”)
The beginning of this phrase can also be left off, such as:
O copo laranja — The orange cup
In this case, the ending of the color doesn’t change for masculine/feminine or for plurals. This is because the color is a noun, not an adjective. So the plural of the previous sentence would look like:
Os copos laranja — The orange cups
Amarelo/a — Yellow
Os pássaros amarelos — The yellow birds
A minha prancha amarela — My yellow board
Verde — Green
A grama verde — The green grass
Uns cactos verdes — A green cactus
Azul — Blue
O céu azul — The blue sky
Azul is a slightly irregular color word. It doesn’t change based gender, but in the plural form becomes azuis.
Os carros azuis — The blue cars
Índigo/a — Indigo
Much like in English, this color isn’t very commonly used in spoken Portuguese. But since it’s technically a color of the rainbow, we’ve included it here for consistency.
O meu vestido índigo — My indigo dress
As suas pulseiras índigas — Their indigo bracelets
Violeta/Da cor Violeta — Violet
Exception: Violeta, like laranja, is a color referring to a noun, and therefore doesn’t change based on gender or number.
Os óculos violeta, or os óculos da cor violeta — The violet glasses
Congratulations! Now that you know the colors of the rainbow, you’re well on your way to earning that treasure at the end of the rainbow.
Other Must-know Colors in Portuguese
While the colors of the rainbow are important, the next group of colors appears at least as frequently in Portuguese, and are therefore some must-know colors.
Branco/a — White
As nuvens brancas — The white clouds
O seu guardanapo branco — Your white napkin
Preto/a — Black
O pneu preto — The black tire
As nossas mochilas pretas — Our black backpacks
Cinza — Gray
Exception: Again, like violeta and laranja, cinza is a color referring to a noun (ash, or cinder). Therefore, it doesn’t change based on gender or number.
Os gatos cinza — The gray cats
Roxo/a — Purple
A parede roxo — The purple wall
A minha caneta roxa — My purple pen
Rosa — Pink
Exception: You guessed it, rosa refers to the noun “rose,” and doesn’t change based on gender or number of the word it’s describing.
As flores rosa — The pink flowers
Marrom — Brown (Brazil)
A cadeira marrom — The brown chair
Exception: In Portuguese, when a noun ends in “m” it’s made plural by changing the “m” to an “n” and adding “s,” as in:
As cadeiras marrons — The brown chairs
Castanho/a — Brown (Portugal)
A mesa castanha — The brown table
Uns sapatos castanhos — Some brown shoes
Bonus Portuguese Colors to Really Sound Like a Native
If your goal is to pass as a native or to really impress your Portuguese speaking friends, learning these less common colors will really put you a step ahead of the rest.
Bege — Beige
Exception: Here we have another example of a noun-referring color, which won’t change based on gender or number.
As calças bege —The beige pants
Carmesim — Crimson
Os seus batons carmesins — Your crimson lipsticks
O campo carmesin — The crimson field
Transparente — Transparent
A água transparente — The transparent water
With these bonus colors under your belt, describing the world around you will be a breeze.
Killer Vocabulary to Use with Your New Colors
These next few vocabulary words will allow you more flexibility with your descriptions. Using them, you’ll be able to better describe everything around you and even modify the colors you already know.
Colorido/a — Colorful
Incolor — Colorless
Claro/a — Light
Escuro/a — Dark
These last two can be used to modify any color to make it lighter or darker. Remember to modify both adjectives for gender and number!
A garrafa verde clara — The light green bottle
As camisas azuis escuras — The dark blue shirts
The Human Touch: How to Describe People Using Colors
Portuguese, even more than English, has a whole set of colors used specifically to describe people. If you want to be able to talk about your family and friends, these words are definitely necessary. To start, here are some words used for skin tones.
Branco/a — White
Moreno/a — Brown or darker-skinned
Negro/a — Black
Amarelo/a — Yellow
Note: Unlike in English, where calling someone “yellow” can be considered offensive, Amarelo is a normal and generally inoffensive term for someone’s skin tone in Portuguese. In fact, it often appears on demographics sections of standardized tests and surveys.
This next group is full of colors used to describe someone’s hair color. Which of these describes you?
Ruivo/a — Redhead
Loiro/a — Blonde
Moreno/a — Brown or dark-haired
Note: moreno can also mean “dark-skinned.” So, Ele é moreno can mean “he is dark-haired,” or “he is dark-skinned.” Make sure to clarify, if not already clear through context.
Grisalho/a — Grey
Branco/a — White
Note: Someone who, in English, would be described as having gray hair, is frequently described in Portuguese as having cabelo branco. This description stands even if the person’s hair isn’t bright white.
Except for branco, all of these words for hair color can also be used as nouns, such as:
Ela é uma loira — She is a blonde
Ele é um moreno — He is a dark-haired person
For branco, you’d instead say:
Eles tem cabelo branco — They have white hair
Four Phrases to Jump-start Your Color Conversations
If you’re really dedicated to learning these colors in Portuguese, you’re going to want to practice them as often as possible. Here are four phrases that’ll make talking about colors easy and fun.
Qual é a cor de _____? — What color is ____?
De que cor é _____? — What color is ____?
Que cor é essa? — What color is this?
Qual é a sua cor preferida? — What is your favorite color?
If you want to jump-start your Portuguese practice, check out the videos on FluentU. FluentU transforms real-world Portuguese videos—like movie trailers, music videos, new clips and inspiring talks—into language-learning experiences. Each video features native Portuguese speakers, so you’ll see how Portuguese is spoken in the real world. Plus, interactive subtitles in Portuguese and English make it easy to follow along, practice pronunciation and quickly look up unfamiliar words.
As you listen and watch, the color words, their pronunciation and their grammar rules will become more and more clear. It’s a great way to build confidence before using these words in the real world!
Check out FluentU’s free trial and get started!
Congratulations! You’ve Made It to the End of the Rainbow
You made it! After all that hard work, you’ve finally arrived at the finish line; the tesouro (treasure) at the end of the rainbow. Here are a couple more colors so you can talk about what you got!
Dourado — Gold
Prateado — Silver
Você achou moedas douradas e joalheria prateada — You found gold coins and silver jewelry
Hopefully, this lesson brought a little more color to your Portuguese journey. If you want some help with pronouncing a lot of these colors, check out this video. On the other hand, if you’d rather find out how that pot of gold got to the end of the rainbow, you’ll want to check this one out. Good luck!
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