Definition of coloured in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈkʌləd/
(US colored)


1Having a colour or colours, especially as opposed to being black, white, or neutral: strings of coloured lights [in combination]: a peach-coloured sofa
More example sentences
  • He had blond hair and was wearing a light-coloured jacket, white trousers and black shoes.
  • The answer is that it is a light-coloured animal with black stripes.
  • It is preferable to have a white or light-coloured background.
1.1Imbued with an emotive or exaggerated quality: highly coloured examples were used by both sides
More example sentences
  • His stories are highly coloured and immoderate, both sweet and sour.
  • His generally lush and highly coloured realisations of the instrumental continuo adds further dramatic weight.
  • Another highly colored phrase worked its way from my depths as I realized that such a mistake would not be easily repaired.
2 (also Coloured) dated or offensive Wholly or partly of non-white descent.
2.1South African Used as an ethnic label for people of mixed ethnic origin, including Khoisan, African, Malay, Chinese, and white: there was a drive to recruit coloured, black, and Indian members
More example sentences
  • Never again may white South Africans forget their coloured brothers and sisters, leaving them behind.
  • The only time I ever saw him lose his temper was when a white beach official at St James yanked a small coloured boy out of the tidal pool and told him to get lost as the pool was for whites only.


1 (also Coloured) dated or offensive A person who is wholly or partly of non-white descent.
1.1South African A person of mixed descent usually speaking Afrikaans or English as their mother tongue: the ANC was not making much progress among Indians or mixed-race Coloureds
More example sentences
  • Indians and Zulus, Xhosas and coloureds, Anglos and Afrikaners are so geographically and economically integrated that they could not be parted without catastrophic consequences.
  • Marriages took place between Indians and coloureds to allow Indians, who were prohibited from buying property in the suburb, to purchase plots.
  • And these people called coloureds are probably more South African than anybody.
2 (coloureds) Clothes, sheets, etc. that are any colour but white: she wouldn’t mix her whites with her coloureds on washday
More example sentences
  • You can safely wash whites, coloureds, sheets, shirts and nappies in water as hot as you want it.
  • Yet just months later there's a so-called new breed of machine that will wash your whites and your coloureds at the same time, in separate drums.
  • The one thing it will not do though is separate the whites from the coloureds.


Coloured referring to skin colour is first recorded in the early 17th century and was adopted in the US by emancipated slaves as a term of racial pride after the end of the American Civil War. In Britain it was the accepted term until the 1960s, when it was superseded (as in the US) by black. The term coloured lost favour among black people during this period and is now widely regarded as offensive except in historical contexts.In South Africa the term coloured (also written Coloured) has a different history. It is used to refer to people of mixed-race parentage rather than, as elsewhere, to refer to African peoples and their descendants (i.e. as a synonym for black). Under apartheid it was imposed as an official racial designation. However, in modern use the term is not generally considered offensive or derogatory.

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: col|oured

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