While looking up the various senses of "while" in the Oxford English Dictionary, I came across the following:

[B 2 c.] In modern colourless use: At the same time that, besides that, in addition to the fact that; often = and at the same time, and besides.


I'm not sure what is implied by "colourless use" here.

  • Well, the sense listed could contrast with an earlier, more playful or colorful use. But what would a colorful use of "while" look like?!
    – DyingIsFun
    Feb 10, 2016 at 21:41
  • 1
    I think they just mean that sense B2c doesn't have the explicitly contrastive implications of the one immediately before it, which talks about those "coloured" usages as being made up of two sub-categories (adversatively and concessively). Feb 10, 2016 at 21:50
  • It's synonymous with or at least analogous to (though probably less in degree) the term 'bleached [of meaning]' (eg 'take' in 'take a bath' as opposed to 'take' in 'take your umbrella'). Feb 10, 2016 at 23:27
  • Does that mean that when 'while' means 'although' or 'but', it is coloured; but when 'while' means 'coincident', it is bleached?
    – AmI
    Feb 10, 2016 at 23:40

1 Answer 1


In this case, 'colourless' is used figuratively to mean 'impartial, neutral':

colourless | colorless, adj.
3. fig. Conveying no bias or inclination toward any party, view, etc.; impartial, neutral.

Thus, 'while' in this definition refers to the transferred sense of 'while' (see definition 2c), but without implications of

  • 'provided that'
  • 'if only'
  • opposition
  • contrast

Those implications 'color' (that is, 'supply nuances of the sense of') the word in other transferred senses: see definitions and accompanying quotes 2a and 2b.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.