Definition of red in English:

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Pronunciation: /rɛd/

adjective (redder, reddest)

1Of a colour at the end of the spectrum next to orange and opposite violet, as of blood, fire, or rubies: her red lips the sky was turning red outside
More example sentences
  • Dark red blood spilled from her arm and gathered in a pool on the ground.
  • The dark red blood forms a glaring contrast to the sickly green of the flesh.
  • He opened his mouth slightly trying to say something, but he only coughed out more dark red blood.
scarlet, vermilion, ruby, ruby-red, ruby-coloured, cherry, cherry-red, cerise, cardinal, carmine, wine, wine-red, wine-coloured, claret, claret-red, claret-coloured, blood-red;
flame, flaming, coral, cochineal, rose, rosy;
brick-red, maroon, rusty, foxy, rufous;
literary damask, vermeil
Heraldry  sanguine, gules
rare rufescent
1.1(Of a person or their face) flushed or rosy, especially with embarrassment, anger, or heat: there were some red faces in headquarters he went bright red
More example sentences
  • Oshino's face was red with anger and embarrassment and he stormed off angrily.
  • His body was shaking and his own face was red in anger and shame.
  • The man's face was red from anger and he was about to carry on his yelling fit, but Ali began a coughing fit.
flushed, reddish, pink, pinkish, florid, high-coloured, rubicund, roseate;
ruddy, healthy-looking, rosy, glowing;
burning, flaming, feverish;
embarrassed, shamefaced
archaic sanguine
rare erubescent, rubescent
1.2(Of a person’s eyes) bloodshot or having pink rims, especially with tiredness or crying: her eyes were red and swollen
More example sentences
  • His eyes were red and bloodshot and he looked worn and tattered with emotion.
  • Jasmine, whose eyes were red and puffy and bloodshot, stood up, wiping her nose with the tissue in her hand.
  • Rosalie had her hair was in a long single messy braid, and her eyes were red and bloodshot.
bloodshot, red-rimmed, inflamed;
swollen, sore
1.3(Of hair or fur) of a reddish-brown or orange-brown colour: her long, red hair his hair was red
More example sentences
  • Up close he could see she was quite pretty with flaming red hair and reddish brown eyes.
  • A tall punk with flaming red hair had his arm slung tightly around her waist in a possessive manner.
  • She spotted a woman with flaming red hair walking slightly in front of her.
reddish, flaming red, flame-coloured, auburn, Titian, chestnut, carroty, ginger, sandy, foxy
1.4 dated, offensive (Of a people) having reddish skin.
1.5Of or denoting the suits hearts and diamonds in a pack of cards: a red queen
More example sentences
  • Each card is from a red suit but we do not know this: each of us sees only the suit of his own card.
  • By agreement, if the card turned up to start the discard pile happens to be a wild card or a red three, it may be put back into the stock pile and another card turned up.
  • If the card is red, the next player to the left turns over their card.
1.6(Of wine) made from dark grapes and coloured by their skins: a glass of red wine
More example sentences
  • These three grape varieties produce red wines which go lighter with age.
  • As well as being the source of red Burgundy wines, it is also a backbone of Champagne blends.
  • The principal grape used in the red wines of this region is Syrah.
1.7Denoting a red light or flag used as a signal to stop.
Example sentences
  • A red signal stops action, and green alerts the player that the coach needs his or her attention.
  • But drivers also fail to stop at red signals because they have misread a signal, or chosen to disregard it.
  • This system automatically stops the train if it passes through a red signal.
1.8Used to denote something forbidden, dangerous, or urgent: the force went on red alert
More example sentences
  • A fifth of Essex's roads have been given a red alert and are in urgent need of repair.
  • Britain's countryside was placed on red alert yesterday as both city and rural dwellers were told to keep away from farmland.
  • A senior Government vet says North Yorkshire should be on red alert to prevent an explosion of foot and mouth in the pig farming community.
1.9(Of a ski run) of the second-highest level of difficulty, as indicated by red markers positioned along it.
1.10 Physics Denoting one of three colours of quark.
2 (Red) informal, chiefly derogatory Communist or socialist (used especially during the Cold War with reference to the Soviet Union): the era of nuclear anxiety, the red scare and covert CIA plots
3 archaic or literary Involving bloodshed or violence: red battle stamps his foot and nations feel the shock
4 (also red-blanket) South African (Of a Xhosa) coming from a traditional tribal culture: a red Xhosa wife spends several years in her mother-in-law’s homestead Contrasted with school1.
With reference to the blankets traditionally worn by the Xhosa people


1 [mass noun] Red colour or pigment: their work is marked in red by the teacher
More example sentences
  • In the image, however, the shortest wavelengths are represented as blue, while the longest are coloured in red.
  • Presumably this is to encourage us to stop ignoring any bill not coloured in red.
  • Come here at sunset, when the colours flame in red and orange, bold and beautiful.
1.1Red clothes or material: she could not wear red
More example sentences
  • Their daughter, Molly, wore a white dress and all her bridesmaids wore red.
  • The voice belonged to a young woman dressed in bright red, a white scarf around her head, a bowl of water in her hands.
  • To note one example, when a mother comes to understand her son better near the end of the film, she is wearing red.
2A red thing, in particular:
Example sentences
  • A sunny, dry season had growers excited for that year's reds.
  • Mendoza is the most important region, particularly for reds.
  • There is usually some producer somewhere in the world deliberately fashioning light reds in this style to be consumed chilled.
2.1A red wine: good Italian reds at affordable prices [mass noun]: a bottle of red
More example sentences
  • Wine by the glass business is strong, too, he reports, and the bar offers eight white wines and seven reds.
  • The minute the mercury soars, red wines, especially big reds, start to turn volatile and taste soupy and mawkish.
  • All the great white wines are made from Chardonnay, all the great reds from Pinot Noir.
2.2A red ball in snooker or billiards.
Example sentences
  • Hunter led by four points when he found himself snookered on the last red.
  • Three reds remain but Hendry surprisingly concedes to leave his opponent just one frame from victory.
  • Wood gained four points from a snooker on the last red which left him ideally positioned for a clearance.
2.3A red light.
3 (also Red) informal, chiefly derogatory A communist or socialist.
Example sentences
  • Anton Denikin was a Russian general who fought for the Whites during Russia's civil war against the reds - Lenin's Bolsheviks.
  • Traditionally, spies revolt against Labour governments because they fear the party is made up of unpatriotic reds.
  • The fact is, fighting anarchists, reds and labor organizers played a very important part in developing modern forms of identification and police power.
Communist, Marxist, socialist, left-winger, leftist, Bolshevik, revolutionary, anti-capitalist
informal commie, lefty
4 (the red) The situation of owing money to a bank or making a loss in a business operation: the company was £4 million in the red moving the health authority out of the red will be a huge challenge small declines in revenue can soon send an airline plunging into the red
From the conventional use of red ink to indicate debt items
More example sentences
  • A film with a budget of this size but without stars to lure moviegoers is unlikely to stay out of the red.
  • He said more than five farms had been liquidated and the balance sheets of the remaining farms were in the red.
  • So, within a few days of my pay going into my bank account, I always was back in the red again.
overdrawn, in debt, in debit, in deficit, owing money, in arrears, showing a loss



better dead than red (or better red than dead)

A Cold War slogan claiming that the prospect of nuclear war was preferable to that of a communist society (or vice versa).
Example sentences
  • This was particularly true during the McCarthy era of the 1950s when anti-Communist hysteria - ‘better dead than red ‘- reached great heights, especially in Catholic circles.’
  • Ever notice how that kind of rhymes with ‘better dead than red?’
  • Having quite happily countenanced that MAD idea myself - better dead than red - I feel bound in conscience at least to give today's extremists the benefit of the doubt.

(as) red as a beetroot (North American beet)

(Of a person) red-faced, typically through embarrassment.
Example sentences
  • To my left, Mildew was red as a beetroot, and Trent looked like he was going to keel over at any second.
  • When I opened the door, his face was a red as a beetroot and I thought he was going to explode.
  • As soon as he saw me he grew red as a beet, and glared at me furiously.

red in tooth and claw

Involving savage or merciless conflict or competition: nature, red in tooth and claw
From Tennyson's In Memoriam
More example sentences
  • A well-functioning bench represents the ultimate triumph of the forces of civilizations over the rule of nature, red in tooth and claw.
  • We must celebrate the real world, the rough world, the natural human and human nature red in tooth and claw.
  • It is a war of each against all, nature red in tooth and claw.

the red planet

A name for Mars.

a red rag to a bull

An object, utterance, or act which is certain to provoke someone: the refusal to discuss the central issue was like a red rag to a bull
More example sentences
  • This makes the ‘knee jerk’ reaction to cancel his booking because he is a ‘racist’ all the more surprising and is a red rag to a bull for people who are concerned about censorship.
  • His abstention on the Iraq vote was really a red rag to a bull.
  • Like a red rag to a bull, the needlessly conceded goal sparked Dulwich back into life and the two-goal cushion was swiftly restored as James completed his hat trick.

reds under the bed

Used during the cold war with reference to the feared presence and influence of communist sympathizers.
Example sentences
  • The People's Republic of China - the communists, the reds under the bed - probably has more toll roads as a percentage of its network than anywhere else.
  • Harris though seems to be rooted in the political discourse of thirty years ago with his notion of reds under the bed controlling everything.

see red

informal Become very angry suddenly: the mere thought of Piers with Nicole made her see red
More example sentences
  • Why he was suddenly seeing red over the same man he'd been berating all week, he didn't know.
  • Protesters wore red to the rally to symbolise that the community was seeing red over the issue.
  • They are reading things like this and seeing red.
become very angry, become enraged, go into a rage, lose one's temper
informal go/get mad, go crazy, go wild, go bananas, hit the roof, go through the roof, go up the wall, go off the deep end, fly off the handle, blow one's top, blow a fuse/gasket, lose one's rag, go ape, flip, flip one's lid, go non-linear, go ballistic, go psycho
British informal go spare, go crackers, do one's nut
North American informal flip one's wig, blow one's lid/stack
vulgar slang go apeshit



Example sentences
  • So now I'm standing up to my shins in water that's being stained a sort of pungent reddy brown, and all around small fish and crabs are fighting one another to eat the eyes.
  • She has reddy brown extremely long hair usually tied in a plait and she has two dreadlocks behind each ear.
  • I don't know colours like maroon, Dude, what is maroon anyway, it's a reddy colour isn't it?


Example sentences
  • The ships became shadows concealed by the blinding glare of the morning sun which had just broken redly over the horizon, like a smouldering glim, new fallen from the forge that gave it life.
  • Dae's eyes glowed redly up at him from its depths.
  • Let the clouds drift over the red sun, sinking in blood, and sleep in a cradle of ice and terror until the dawn breaks redly over the ocean.


Old English rēad, of Germanic origin; related to Dutch rood and German rot, from an Indo-European root shared by Latin rufus, ruber, Greek eruthros, and Sanskrit rudhira 'red'.

  • An Old English word which shares an ancient root with Latin rufus, Greek eruthros, and Sanskrit rudhira ‘red’. The colour red has traditionally been associated with radical political views, and from the 19th century particularly Communists. During the Cold War, when Americans feared reds under the bed or Communist sympathizers, the expression better dead than red was used to mean that the prospect of nuclear annihilation was preferable to that of a Communist society. The slogan was reversed by nuclear disarmament campaigners of the late 1950s as ‘better red than dead’. Something involving savage or merciless competition might be described as red in tooth and claw. The phrase came from Lord Tennyson's poem ‘In Memoriam’ (1854): ‘Nature, red in tooth and claw’. In Church calendars a saint's day or Church festival was distinguished by being written in red letters. This gives us a red letter day (early 18th century) for a pleasantly memorable, fortunate, or happy day. A less cheering use of red ink was customarily made to enter debit items and balances in accounts —which gives us in the red (early 20th century) to mean in debt or overdrawn.

    The colour red is supposed to provoke a bull, and is the colour of the cape used by matadors in bullfighting. From this we say that something will be like a red rag to a bull (late 19th century). A red herring is something, especially a clue, which misleads or distracts you. Red herrings have been around since the 15th century and got their colour from being heavily smoked to preserve them. The pungent scent was formerly used to lay a trail when training hounds to follow a scent. The red light district of a town is one with a lot of businesses concerned with sex. The phrase is from the red light traditionally used as the sign of a brothel. See also paint. People have been complaining about red tape, or excessive bureaucracy, since the 1730s. Real red or pinkish-red tape is used to bind together legal and official documents. Americans sometimes talk of not having a red cent to their name. Red got attached to the cent in the mid 19th century and refers to the colour of the copper used to make the one cent coin. Ruddy is from Old English rud, a variant form of ‘red’. The word's use as a euphemism for bloody dates from the early 20th century.

Words that rhyme with red

abed, ahead, bed, behead, Birkenhead, bled, bread, bred, coed, cred, crossbred, dead, dread, Ed, embed, Enzed, fed, fled, Fred, gainsaid, head, infrared, ked, lead, led, Med, misled, misread, Ned, outspread, premed, pure-bred, read, redd, said, samoyed, shed, shred, sked, sled, sped, Spithead, spread, stead, ted, thread, tread, underbred, underfed, wed

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: red

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