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The A to Z of IELTS: B is for ‘blue’ and ‘black’ idioms

Having a diverse vocabulary to express your ideas in different ways is essential for achieving a high IELTS score. Brighten up your language by adding colorful expressions to your vocabulary. In this article, we look at some “black” and “blue” idioms.

Using adjectives, especially colors, to describe things is a quick and easy way to build vocabulary for the IELTS Speaking and Writing test. In addition to its traditional use as an adjective, color also appears in a number of common idioms. But unlike adjectives, colors in idioms have historical/cultural symbolic meanings and should not be taken literally. Let’s look at some examples and learn some idioms using the colors “black” and “blue”.

Out of the blue:

(Suddenly or unexpectedly)

My old school friend Ruby rang me yesterday out of the blue. It was a bit of shock as I hadn’t heard from her in years.

Do something until you are blue in the face:

(To do something with a lot of effort but without results)

I told my parents why it was so important for me to go to this party until I was blue in the face but they still refused to let me go.


(Describes a manual worker)

Unfortunately, a lot of the blue-collar workers lost their jobs because the factory decided to introduce some new automated machinery.

Once in a blue moon:

(Something that hardly happens)

When I return to visit my hometown, I prioritize seeing my family first because I cannot stay long. That’s why I only see my old classmates once in a blue moon.

Feel blue:

(Feel down/sad)

When my best friend moved to another city to go to college, I felt a little blue for a while because I missed him so much.

Black sheep:

(A person who is very different or a bad member of a group)

I’m the only one in my entire family who is an artist. Everyone else was a doctor, lawyer or engineer, so I was a bit like the black sheep of the family.

Black and white:

(When something is very clearly explained or written down)

They made me a great job offer over the phone, but I wouldn’t accept until I saw all the black and white details in the contract.

Black mark / black mark next to your name:

(When there is a record of someone’s negative behavior)

I always make sure to attend staff meetings with senior management on time. Since I’m new to the company, the last thing I want is to have a black mark next to my name.

Black and blue:

(When you are hurt emotionally or have physical bruises)

After I crashed my bike while speeding downhill, I was blue for almost two weeks.

Colorful idioms are easy to remember and if used correctly, they will help you add impact to your sentences. Next step, can you think of any idioms that use the color “red”?

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