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I am looking for the particular word (if it exists in English) for the ghastly blue colour of a dead person...

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Cadavers and dead people are not generally blue. What colour exactly are you talking about? –  Janus Bahs Jacquet Jul 16 at 8:17
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Unfortunately, I can't find an image to show you. I am talking about the colour of the face/lips, a mixture of blue, white and paleness. "The lurid blue" –  Soulmirror Jul 16 at 8:26
    
In my country we use the term "bruisy", because the colour has that bluish nuance similar to bruises. –  james dean Jul 16 at 9:31
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Pallor is not blue, it is pale or white. We wouldn't say the pallor of his lifeless lips, if we're talking about the cyanosis of the corpse's lips. –  CarSmack Jul 16 at 9:45
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Depending on who you ask "ashen" is a pretty good word for this. Some people insist that is grey, but I wouldn't describe a dead person as blue unless cause of death was suffocation. I would say the ashen look of a very ill person is pretty close to someone already dead. –  fredsbend Jul 16 at 18:30
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5 Answers 5

Pathological blue coloration of the skin is known as cyanosis:

a bluish or purplish discoloration (as of skin) due to deficient oxygenation of the blood

A particularly notorious manifestation of this symptom occurred during the pan-global influenza epidemic of 1918-1919, and was termed heliotrope cyanosis because of the resemblance to the colour of the heliotrope flower, particularly in the faces of sufferers from the disease (a result of the deterioration of their lungs).

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This answer has the advantage of being correct. –  Edwin Ashworth Jul 16 at 9:34
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@EdwinAshworth - The fact that it is correct would not necessarily seen be seen as an advantage by many of this site's trigger-happy close-voters... –  Erik Kowal Jul 16 at 9:57
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Trigger-happy? Syonara, blue man. –  Edwin Ashworth Jul 16 at 10:10
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@EdwinAshworth - "Hi-Yo" is apparently more formal than I had realised. –  Erik Kowal Jul 16 at 10:31
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@EdwinAshworth - If we're lucky, we might be buried in blue velvet. Or at least cyanotic velvet. –  Erik Kowal Jul 16 at 10:41
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Livid or lividity is the correct term.

I can assure you that the recently dead are indeed blue. Rather, it depends upon the position, in situ at time of death and in the hours shortly after. Blood pools when there is no heartbeat. Where it pools, there is dark blue discoloration, visible very clearly.

See "postmortem lividity" or "cadaveric lividity" [1]

A purple coloration of dependent body parts, except in areas of contact pressure, appearing within one half to two hours after death, as a result of gravitational movement of blood within the vessels. The coloration begins to form immediately after death and is usually perceptible within two hours following the cessation of the circulation of the blood in the body.

Also, see "lividity" [2]

Say, do you watch crime shows such as CSI? Do you recognize the word lividity? What do they use this word in judging? The colour of corpses. Lividity names a discoloration caused by blood coagulating under the skin. This is one of the things that happen at a predictable time after death: Latin livor mortis.

It is different than the color of bruising. When there is bruising, the discoloration is mottled. It may be more deeply discolored, almost black-purple, but it isn't as sad or disturbing, as it indicates that there is still a heartbeat, and life.

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Pallor may suggest the idea:

  • a pale condition, esp when unnatural: fear gave his face a deathly pallor.

  • unusual or extreme paleness, as from fear, ill health, or death.

Source:Collins English Dictionary

Pallor mortis:

(Latin: pallor "paleness", mortis "of death") is a post mortem paleness which happens in those with light/white skin almost instantly (in the 15–25 minutes after the death) because of a lack of capillary circulation throughout the body.1 The blood sinks down into the lower parts (due to gravity) of the body creating livor mortis.

Source: http://en.m.wikipedia.org

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That's the one!! Thank you very much! –  Soulmirror Jul 16 at 8:30
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Pallor of tissue describes the general decrease of its colour saturation, not an increase in its degree of blueness. –  Erik Kowal Jul 16 at 9:11
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+1. You can use "pallid" if an adjective is needed. –  seismatica Jul 16 at 9:19
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... or 'cyanotic' if you want people to have a chance to grasp that 'blue' is involved. –  Edwin Ashworth Jul 16 at 10:08
    
@EdwinAshworth - as suggested in the notes by OP, the term should describe 'a mixture of blue, white and paleness'. –  Josh61 Jul 16 at 10:57
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The other answers are good, but I think you have a better likelihood of being understood if you use the word ashen instead:

ashen (ˈæʃən)
adj
1. drained of colour; pallid
2. consisting of or resembling ashes
3. (Colours) of a pale greyish colour

Example sentences: The ashen body laid lifeless on the floor. Or His face turned ashen as his vitality waned. Or The Borg appear ashen and even deathly.1

In my experience, dead bodies do not typically look bluish, but that is more a matter of opinion than fact. Certainly, suffocated persons look bluish, but otherwise, I find they do not. They look pale or grayish even.

I would readily describe the look of a very ill person as ashen, and that same look carries into death as well.


  1. The Ashen face of Locutus
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Livid was once the common adjective (Google or Google-book livid corpse), and lividity the noun. My impression is that livid is now used colloquially only in the recent transferred sense of angry (from livid with rage), but it should be acceptable in a formal register.

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