Is there any difference (AmE vs BrE) when describing intermediate colors, that is, pairs of colors to get the color in between?

For example:

Red-blue appearance

Reddish-blue appearance

• Necrotic cartilage is recognized by its dark blue or reddish-blue appearance.

• On sectioning, hemangiomas show a typical red-blue appearance with a spongy or honeycombing surface.

This question is not specific to red and blue color only. It could also be for any other color mix such as gray-white or grayish-white.

  • 4
    Yes, colors vs colours.
    – user66974
    Commented Jun 1, 2017 at 9:35
  • Why would you think there is a difference? Have you heard instances where one AmE speaker said something different from BrE?
    – Mitch
    Commented Jun 1, 2017 at 11:14
  • @Mitch. No. I haven’t heard of such instances but a Google search results in usage of both and in sufficiently large numbers that merit attention. Due to general curiosity, I wanted to know if there is any AmE/BrE difference? One possible reason could be “style-related” differences such as “Do not hyphenate compound color modifiers unless both elements are colors of equal value: blue-black sky, gray-green eyes, but bluish black sky, lemon yellow dress, jade green lake, cobalt blue dish, dark blue suit.” Hope there isn’t any documented preference to opt for any particular usage.
    – Shaapj
    Commented Jun 1, 2017 at 12:59
  • a google search of what string exactly? and usage of both? are you comparing red-blue vs reddish-blue in AmE vs BrE? how do you restrict to AmE or BrE? I'm only asking these questions because I've never heard of a difference, but that could easily be because I've never noticed something which may in fact be very obvious if only we'd do the objective data collection/analysis.
    – Mitch
    Commented Jun 1, 2017 at 13:26
  • In terms of the names of colors, Crayola crayon colors have enjoyed an outsized influence in the U.S. since the mid-20th century, and the periodic changes in the iconic 64-crayon box make newspaper headlines. I dont perceive any difference in how colors are used, however.
    – choster
    Commented Mar 21, 2018 at 19:33

1 Answer 1


Here is quantitative data on the Google NGrams corpus separating UK sources and US sources.

Google NGrams of greenish yellow and green yellow compared BrE vs AmE

After some experimentation, I chose green and yellow as more common, in order for hypotheses to be more reliable.

The googles search is plotting ratios, red for green yellow, and blue for greenish yellow. (please forgive the unavoidable Stroop effect)

greenish yellow and green yellow compared BrE vs AmE

greenish yellow and green yellow compared BrE vs AmE

I am not confident that the graph is showing anything definite about a trend or ratio that is not purely random. Both lines seem to be roughly the same (after 1920) so that there is no difference between 'with -ish' and without. It seems that both two color terms were twice as popular in the US as UK before 1960 (~50%) and slowly rose to rough parity (~100%) by now. I think the numbers are too chaotic to establish any substantive pattern though.

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