20 English Idioms Using the Word “Yellow”

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Yellow, often associated with brightness and energy, also colors many English idioms, infusing them with vivid imagery and emotion. From caution and cowardice to vibrancy and rarity, the use of “yellow” in idiomatic expressions paints a diverse linguistic landscape.

In this post, we’ll explore 20 idioms that incorporate this cheerful yet cautionary color, shedding light on their meanings and illustrating their use through concise examples.

Idioms With Yellow

1. Yellow-Bellied

Meaning: Cowardly or easily scared.

Example: He was too yellow-bellied to stand up to the bully.

2. Yellow Streak

Meaning: A characteristic of cowardice.

Example: Despite his tough talk, there’s a yellow streak running through him.

3. Yellow Journalism

Meaning: Sensationalized, exaggerated, or unreliable journalism.

Example: That tabloid is full of yellow journalism, focusing more on scandal than on fact.

4. Yellow Press

Meaning: Newspapers that publish sensational and low-quality news.

Example: The celebrity scandal was fuel for the yellow press.

5. Yellow Fever

Meaning: An intense attraction to someone, particularly if they are of Asian descent; also a serious viral infection.

Example: His travel stories are more about his yellow fever for the culture than the places themselves.

6. Yellow Card

Meaning: A warning for unsportsmanlike behavior in sports like soccer.

Example: The player received a yellow card for his aggressive tackle.

7. Yellow Dog

Meaning: Something utterly worthless or contemptible.

Example: I wouldn’t trust him; he’s a real yellow dog.

8. Yellow Light

Meaning: A signal to proceed with caution.

Example: The project is at a yellow light until we get more funding.

9. Mellow Yellow

Meaning: Relaxed and laid-back.

Example: On weekends, he likes to keep things mellow yellow.

10. Yellow Hammer

Meaning: A type of bird, but idiomatically used to refer to something striking or unique.

Example: That dress you wore was a real yellow hammer at the party!

11. Yellow Belly

Meaning: A term for a cowardly person.

Example: She called him a yellow belly for running away from the challenge.

12. To Have a Yellow Streak

Meaning: To show cowardice.

Example: He has a yellow streak, which is why he avoids confrontations.

13. Not a Yellow Cent

Meaning: No money at all.

Example: He didn’t earn a yellow cent from that failed business venture.

14. Yellow Submarine

Meaning: From the famous Beatles song, used to describe an unusual or quirky thing.

Example: His ideas are as creative as a yellow submarine.

15. Born With a Silver Spoon in One’s Mouth

Meaning: Born into wealth or privilege.

Example: He can afford any car he wants; he was born with a silver spoon in his mouth.

16. Like Beating a Dead Horse

Meaning: A futile effort or wasted endeavor.

Example: Arguing with him is like beating a dead horse; he never changes his mind.

17. Beat Around the Bush

Meaning: Avoiding the main topic, not speaking directly.

Example: Stop beating around the bush and tell me what happened.

18. Bite the Bullet

Meaning: To face a painful or unpleasant situation courageously.

Example: It was time to bite the bullet and have the surgery.

19. Break the Ice

Meaning: To initiate conversation in a social setting.

Example: I told a joke to break the ice at the meeting.

20. Burn the Midnight Oil

Meaning: To work late into the night.

Example: She had to burn the midnight oil to finish the report on time.

Idioms With Yellow


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