1. the blues, (used with a plural verb) depressed spirits; despondency; melancholy: This rainy spell is giving me the blues.
  2. (used with a singular verb) Jazz.
    1. a song, originating with American blacks, that is marked by the frequent occurrence of blue notes, and that takes the basic form, customarily improvised upon in performance, of a 12-bar chorus consisting of a 3-line stanza with the second line repeating the first.
    2. the genre constituting such songs.

noun (used with a plural verb)

  1. any of various blue military uniforms worn by members of the U.S. armed services: dress blues.
  2. a blue uniform for work; blue work clothes: a doctor in surgical blues.
  3. Informal. police: The blues keep this neighborhood safe.


  1. the pure color of a clear sky; the primary color between green and violet in the visible spectrum, an effect of light with a wavelength between 450 and 500 nm.
  2. bluing.
  3. something having a blue color: Place the blue next to the red.
  4. a person who wears blue or is a member of a group characterized by some blue symbol: Tomorrow the blues will play the browns.
  5. (often initial capital letter) a member of the Union army in the American Civil War or the army itself.Compare gray1(def 13).
  6. bluestocking.
  7. blue ribbon(def 1).
  8. any of several blue-winged butterflies of the family Lycaenidae.
  9. Printing. blueline.
  10. the blue,
    1. the sky.
    2. the sea.
    3. the remote distance: They’ve vanished into the blue somewhere.

adjective, blu·er, blu·est.

  1. of the color of blue: a blue tie.
  2. (initial capital letter) of or relating to the Union army in the American Civil War.
  3. (of the skin) discolored by cold, contusion, fear, or vascular collapse.
  4. depressed in spirits; dejected; melancholy: She felt blue about not being chosen for the team.
  5. holding or offering little hope; dismal; bleak: a blue outlook.
  6. characterized by or stemming from rigid morals or religion: statutes that were blue and unrealistic.
  7. marked by blasphemy: The air was blue with oaths.
  8. (of an animal’s pelage) grayish-blue.
  9. indecent; somewhat obscene; risqué: a blue joke or film.

verb (used with object), blued, blu·ing or blue·ing.

  1. to make blue; dye a blue color.
  2. to tinge with bluing: Don’t blue your clothes till the second rinse.

verb (used without object), blued, blu·ing or blue·ing.

  1. to become or turn blue.
  1. blue in the face, exhausted and speechless, as from excessive anger, physical strain, etc.: I reminded him about it till I was blue in the face.
  2. out of the blue, suddenly and unexpectedly: The inheritance came out of the blue as a stroke of good fortune.

pl n the blues (sometimes functioning as singular)

  1. a feeling of depression or deep unhappiness
  2. a type of folk song devised by Black Americans at the beginning of the 20th century, usually employing a basic 12-bar chorus, the tonic, subdominant, and dominant chords, frequent minor intervals, and blue notes

pl n

  1. the Blues British the Royal Horse Guards


  1. any of a group of colours, such as that of a clear unclouded sky, that have wavelengths in the range 490–445 nanometres. Blue is the complementary colour of yellow and with red and green forms a set of primary coloursRelated adjective: cyanic
  2. a dye or pigment of any of these colours
  3. blue cloth or clothingdressed in blue
    1. a sportsperson who represents or has represented Oxford or Cambridge University and has the right to wear the university colour (dark blue for Oxford, light blue for Cambridge)an Oxford blue
    2. the honour of so representing one’s university
  4. British an informal name for Tory
  5. any of numerous small blue-winged butterflies of the genera Lampides, Polyommatus, etc: family Lycaenidae
  6. archaic short for bluestocking
  7. slang a policeman
  8. archery a blue ring on a target, between the red and the black, scoring five points
  9. a blue ball in snooker, etc
  10. another name for blueing
  11. Australian and NZ slang an argument or fighthe had a blue with a taxi driver
  12. Also: bluey Australian and NZ slang a court summons, esp for a traffic offence
  13. Australian and NZ informal a mistake; error
  14. out of the blue apparently from nowhere; unexpectedlythe opportunity came out of the blue
  15. into the blue into the unknown or the far distance

adjective bluer or bluest

  1. of the colour blue
  2. (of the flesh) having a purple tinge, as from cold or contusion
  3. depressed, moody, or unhappy
  4. dismal or depressinga blue day
  5. indecent, titillating, or pornographicblue films
  6. bluish in colour or having parts or marks that are bluisha blue fox; a blue whale
  7. rare aristocratic; noble; patriciana blue family See blue blood
  8. US relating to, supporting, or representing the Democratic PartyCompare red 1 (def. 18)

verb blues, blueing, bluing or blued

  1. to make, dye, or become blue
  2. (tr) to treat (laundry) with blueing
  3. (tr) slang to spend extravagantly or wastefully; squander


  1. Australian informal a nickname for a person with red hair

as a music form featuring flatted thirds and sevenths, possibly c.1895 (though officially 1912, in W.C. Handy’s “Memphis Blues”); meaning “depression, low spirits” goes back to 1741, from adjectival blue “low-spirited,” late 14c.


c.1300, bleu, blwe, etc., from Old French blo “pale, pallid, wan, light-colored; blond; discolored; blue, blue-gray,” from Frankish *blao or some other Germanic source, from Proto-Germanic *blæwaz (cf. Old English blaw, Old Saxon and Old High German blao, Danish blaa, Swedish blå, Old Frisian blau, Middle Dutch bla, Dutch blauw, German blau “blue”), from PIE *bhle-was “light-colored, blue, blond, yellow,” from PIE root bhel- (1) “to shine, flash” (see bleach (v.)).

The same PIE root yielded Latin flavus “yellow,” Old Spanish blavo “yellowish-gray,” Greek phalos “white,” Welsh blawr “gray,” Old Norse bla “livid” (the meaning in black and blue), showing the usual slippery definition of color words in Indo-European The present spelling is since 16c., from French influence (Modern French bleu).

The exact color to which the Gmc. term applies varies in the older dialects; M.H.G. bla is also ‘yellow,’ whereas the Scandinavian words may refer esp. to a deep, swarthy black, e.g. O.N. blamaðr, N.Icel. blamaður ‘Negro’ [Buck]

Few words enter more largely into the composition of slang, and colloquialisms bordering on slang, than does the word BLUE. Expressive alike of the utmost contempt, as of all that men hold dearest and love best, its manifold combinations, in ever varying shades of meaning, greet the philologist at every turn. [John S. Farmer, “Slang and Its Analogues Past and Present,” 1890, p.252]

The color of constancy since Chaucer at least, but apparently for no deeper reason than the rhyme in true blue (c.1500). From early times blue was the distinctive color of the dress of servants, which may be the reason police uniforms are blue, a tradition Farmer dates to Elizabethan times. For blue ribbon see cordon bleu under cordon. Blue whale attested from 1851, so called for its color. The flower name blue bell is recorded by 1570s. Blue streak, of something resembling a blt of lightning (for quickness, intensity, etc.) is from 1830, U.S. Western slang.

Many Indo-European languages seem to have had a word to describe the color of the sea, encompasing blue and green and gray; e.g. Irish glass (see Chloe); Old English hæwen “blue, gray,” related to har (see hoar); Serbo-Croatian sinji “gray-blue, sea-green;” Lithuanian šyvas, Russian sivyj “gray.”


“lewd, indecent” recorded from 1840 (in form blueness, in an essay of Carlyle’s); the sense connection is unclear, and is opposite to that in blue laws (q.v.). John Mactaggart’s “Scottish Gallovidian Encyclopedia” (1824) containing odd words he had learned while growing up in Galloway and elsewhere in Scotland, has an entry for Thread o’Blue, “any little smutty touch in song-singing, chatting, or piece of writing.” Farmer [“Slang and Its Analogues Past and Present,” 1890] offers the theory that this meaning derives from the blue dress uniforms issued to harlots in houses of correction, but he writes that the earlier slang authority John Camden Hotten “suggests it as coming from the French Bibliothèque Bleu, a series of books of very questionable character,” and adds, from Hotten, that, “Books or conversation of an entirely opposite nature are said to be Brown or Quakerish, i.e., serious, grave, decent.”


“to make blue,” c.1600, from blue (1).

A kind of jazz that evolved from the music of African-Americans, especially work songs and spirituals (see also spirituals), in the early twentieth century. Blues pieces often express worry or depression.

see have the blues.

In addition to the idioms beginning with blue

  • blue funk, in a
  • blue in the face

also see:

  • between a rock and a hard place (devil and deep blue sea)
  • black and blue
  • bolt from the blue
  • have the blues
  • into thin air (the blue)
  • like greased lightning (a blue streak)
  • once in a blue moon
  • out of a clear blue sky
  • talk one’s arm off (a blue streak
  • until blue in the face)

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