English Idioms with the Red Colour

like a red rag to a bull

English has many idioms with the names of different colours. One of the most popular colours for idiomatic use is red.

Here is the list of most widespread English idioms with the word “red“:

1. In the red

If you are in the red, that means that you have debts. Earlier, bookkeepers used red ink to show debts or credits and black ink to show profit.

My company is in the red again.

2. Red-handed

“Red-handed” means in the act of committing something wrong. It is connected with the colour of blood, when a murderer could be caught red-handed.

The pickpocket was caught red-handed.

3. A red-letter day

This idiom means a memorably important or happy occasion.

When I graduated, it was a red-letter day for me.

4. Like a red rag to a bull

If a statement or an action is like a red rag to a bull, it makes someone very angry.

For Tom, the suggestion that the Labour party can win was like a red rag to a bull.

5. The red carpet treatment

This idiom means very special treatment. According to etiquette rules members of royal family were met with a special red carpet. The origin of this idiom goes back to ancient Greece, when  Clytemnestra laid out a red carpet as a welcome for the returning king Agamemnon.

When the Minister arrived, they gave him the red carpet treatment.

6. Red herring

This expression means a piece of information which is misleading or distracting. Some people say that hunters used a red herring (or a smoked herring) to distract a hound from a fox. Others argue that it was William Cobbett who invented this expression and that real hunters never used herring.

The argument about women’s choices was a complete red herring

7. Red tape

This idiom means excessive bureaucracy. It was first recorded at the time of Henry  VIII, who sent about 80 petitions to the Pope in order to to annul his marriage with Catherine of Aragon. Those petitions were rolled, sealed and bound with the obligatory red tape.

There is a lot of red tape in the Ministry.

8. To go as red as a beet root

When somebody goes as red as a beet root, they become very red in the face.

When Michael paid Julia a compliment, she went as red as a beet root.

9. To paint the town red

This idiom means to enjoy yourself by going to places such as bars and clubs. It is attributed to the event when the notorious hooligan, Marquis of Waterford and a group of friends ran riot in the Leicestershire town of Melton Mowbray, painting the town’s toll-bar and several buildings red.

Let’s go out tonight and paint the town red!