In Hebrew, we say "pink glasses" to mean optimistic observation, and "black glasses" for pessimism. I was trying to figure out how popular the literal translations are in English. I found "rose-tinted glasses" as a popular equivalent to express optimism. But is there an analogous expression for pessimism?

Googling "looking through black glasses" made it seem not to be a popular phrase. Is this in fact a recognized idiom? Is there a similar, more common one?

  • I suppose sunglasses would be the logical answer … doubt that would be understood, though. Jun 3, 2014 at 10:51
  • I don't think there is a direct equivalent in English.
    – Urbycoz
    Jun 3, 2014 at 11:49
  • The only direct equivalent I know in English is profane. It could be edited to something like "He sees through fecal lenses."
    – TecBrat
    Jun 3, 2014 at 14:45
  • 1
    for maximum pessimism you still use rose-tinted glasses...whose lenses are broken and driven into your eyes.
    – Oldcat
    Jun 3, 2014 at 22:59

9 Answers 9


While it appears the idiom does not exist, you could make quite the play on words by describing someone "seeing through half-empty glasses."

On a more serious note, most English-speaking people would likely understand if you described someone who "sees the world as half-empty" or "sees (x) as a half-empty glass." I can't say I have ever heard it used before in this way, though.

Alternatively, describe someone who sees the world as bleak or grey when they are not wearing rose-tinted glasses. Unfortunately this will only work in the negative.

  • This is positive necromancy, but I had to say that I love the phrase 'seeing through half-empty glasses' and I am noting it down for strealing at some point.. Thank you.
    – Turin
    Feb 25, 2022 at 19:34

You can look on the black side, take a grim (or black, or dim) view of things and consider that the outlook is bleak and that the {prospect is / prospects are} grim or things aren't looking good.

  • Is there any expression that involves wearing something?
    – Meni
    Jun 3, 2014 at 10:22
  • @Meni - You can, of course, wear a grim expression. But I can't think of any garment or accessory that specifically connotes pessimism.
    – Erik Kowal
    Jun 3, 2014 at 10:26
  • You can also be wearing your ‘No’ hat, but that’s a bit different. Jun 3, 2014 at 10:52
  • Agreed. There is no direct glasses/wearable idiom in English. A popular idiom is "glass half-full", as in "He's a glass half-full sort of guy." Jun 3, 2014 at 13:04

Consider the rare see (or view) life/the world through gray/grey tinted glasses and see (or view) life/the world through gray/grey colored glasses.

I saw life through grey-tinted glasses; I was withdrawn, miserable, and grouchy.

For example, depressed people tend to look at the world through gray-colored glasses and have negative views of themselves.

Alternately, what comes to mind is the idiomatic doom and gloom (or gloom and doom).

doom and gloom: the feeling that a situation is bad and not likely to improve

  • Never heard this, but "grey-tinted glasses" works well for me. The similarity to "rose-tinted" makes it immediately obvious what is meant. More so than "grey-coloured" does, for me. And better than using black or dark because they could makes you think of sunglasses or blindfolds ("looking through black glasses" makes me think of not seeing anything at all rather than seeing things negatively).
    – Rupe
    Jun 3, 2014 at 12:11

One alternative that I've heard is jade-colored glasses, playing on a combination of the original glasses and "jaded".

  • That this has no votes is surprising, this is a great answer and one that's now in my vocabulary. Jan 27, 2016 at 17:41
  • I love it too, although as a non-native speaker it's hard for me to ascertain how clear the word play really is.
    – Turin
    Feb 25, 2022 at 19:38

Someone who sees the world pessimistically is a "glass half empty person".

(Conversely an optimist is a glass half full person.)

Bizarrely, Wikipedia doesn't have any citations before this century, whereas the idiom must be much older.

  • 2
    In the UK, most people would understand *Eeyorish", referring to Eeyore the gloomy donkey in the Pooh Bear stories. Jul 15, 2015 at 15:26

Here are some suggestions:

A pessimistic person is always:

Expecting the worst.

Raining on your parade.

Bursting your bubble.

Finding the touch of grey in every silver lining. (Context: every cloud has a silver lining.)


I was recently looking for a similar expression and I used "mud-tinted glasses".

I also like the other suggestions here of "jade-colored" and "grey-tinted".

  • To me, "mud-tinted" suggests a lack of clarity but not necessarily pessimism. Jul 16, 2022 at 9:36

Mud tinted can suggest a lack of clarity... but I refer to s*** (fecal, as noted by TecBrat) colored glasses which very explicitly indicates the opposite of optimism.


See the world through a glass, darkly

Corinthians 13:12 contains the phrase βλέπομεν γὰρ ἄρτι δι' ἐσόπτρου ἐν αἰνίγματι, blepomen gar arti di esoptrou en ainigmati, which was translated in the 1560 Geneva Bible as "For now we see through a glass darkly" (without a comma). This wording was used in the 1611 KJV, which added a comma before "darkly".[4] This passage has inspired the titles of many works, with and without the comma.

The Greek word ἐσόπτρου, esoptrou (genitive; nominative: ἔσοπτρον, esoptron), here translated "glass", is ambiguous, possibly referring to a mirror or a lens. Influenced by Strong's Concordance, many modern translations conclude that this word refers specifically to a mirror.[5] Example English language translations include:

"Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror" (New International Version) "What we see now is like a dim image in a mirror" (Good News Bible)

Paul's usage is in keeping with rabbinic use of the term אספקלריה, aspaklaria, a borrowing from the Latin specularia. This has the same ambiguous meaning, although Adam Clarke concluded that it was a reference to specularibus lapidibus, clear polished stones used as lenses or windows.[6] One way to preserve this ambiguity is to use the English cognate, speculum.[7] Rabbi Judah ben Ilai (2nd century) was quoted as saying "All the prophets had a vision of God as He appeared through nine specula" while "Moses saw God through one speculum."[8] The Babylonian Talmud states similarly "All the prophets gazed through a speculum that does not shine, while Moses our teacher gazed through a speculum that shines."[9]

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