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Russian colour names (cheat sheet)

Colours are an essential part of the Russian culture whether you look at traditional Russian clothing, St. Basil’s Cathedral, or suprematist paintings.

Russian perception of colours, as is often the case between different cultures, may be different from that of a foreigner.

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For example, the azure-cyan combination that is generally called deep sky blue in English has a simple name of голубой in Russian, and is one of the most frequently used colour names in day-to-day life.

‘Blue’ is most often translated as синий, even if what most anglophone speakers perceive behind this colour is closer to the aforementioned голубой.

Russian colour names cheat sheet

To better illustrate these, compare the colours of the rainbow in the two languages: red — красный, orange — оранжевый, yellow — жёлтый, green — зелёный, blue — голубой, indigo — синий, violet — фиолетовый.

To better remember the above, most Russians use a handy mnemonic sentence:

«Каждый охотник желает знать, где сидит фазан».
“Every hunter knows where the pheasant is sitting.”

There is also little to no differentiation between violet and purple—two colors that are very close one to each other, yet clearly distinguished in English language—both generally called фиолетовый.

In order to help you understand some of these differences and learn to express even the most colorful ideas, I created a cheat sheet which contains both basic and more specific colors as well as as some related vocabulary.

You are free to distribute the chart wherever you want as long as the file remains intact and the work is properly credited.

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