I am looking for a quantifier means "a small amount”, similar to but more advanced than "a little bit", for the sentence:

The northern lights are neon green mixed with _______ purple.

Merriam-Webster lists words like:

smidgen, driblet, skosh, scruple, iota, etc.

Not sure which one fits the said context best. Need some help. Thanks.

EDIT: To give you more context, here is the picture of what I want to describe. https://www.nbcnews.com/mach/science/dragon-aurora-dancing-over-iceland-captured-stunning-photo-ncna974656 The first picture, largely neon green with a little purplish at the edge.

  • 5
    Smidgen was the first word I thought of when I read the title. Commented Oct 15, 2019 at 13:39
  • 4
    That was my first thought too. '... a hint of...' is less informal. But unless you tell us why say 'smidgen' doesn't fit, this becomes primarily a matter of opinion (" 'soupçon' is my favourite"). // In any case, 'mixed with the occasional aura of purple' seems more accurate; it's not one mixed colour that is usually seen. Commented Oct 15, 2019 at 13:46
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    It depends on the nuance you want. You might say dash or streak or even Steve :-).
    – S Conroy
    Commented Oct 15, 2019 at 14:17
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    I think there is a risk that your question doesn't well match the image, the two colours not really being 'mixed. If you actually mix those colours you get a sort of sludgy teal, which is very uncharacteristic of the northern lights.
    – Spagirl
    Commented Oct 15, 2019 at 15:49
  • 3
    flash - it's an electrical phenomena. dash - just a little bit. splash - a patch in one place. wash - as in painting, a translucent overlay of colour. streaks - having looked at your example image. Commented Oct 15, 2019 at 21:14

13 Answers 13



1 : a slight staining or suffusing shade or color

The Northern Lights neon green with a tinge of purple.

The word tint also has validity here.

1a : a usually slight or pale coloration : HUE

The Northern Lights are neon green with the slightest purple tint to them.

Both of these words have the advantage of being associated with color specifically.

You can also use hint.

3 : a very small amount : SUGGESTION

The Northern Lights are neon green with a hint of purple fringing.


I like dab for this context, because it's associated with paint as both a noun and a verb:

dab noun
1: a sudden blow or thrust : POKE
2: a small amount
3: a gentle touch or stroke : PAT

dab verb dabbed; dabbing

1: to strike or touch lightly : PAT
//dabbing her eyes with a handkerchief
2: to apply lightly or irregularly : DAUB
//dab paint
from m-w.com


A dab is a quick, soft application of something, like paint or makeup. [...] A dab is the motion with which you pat or apply something to a surface, and it's also the tiny amount of material you're applying. An artist might work in dabs of paint...
from vocabulary.com

  • I would expect a dab to be round
    – WendyG
    Commented Oct 16, 2019 at 13:00
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    @WendyG More to the point, a dab would be a small but distinct spot of color, while what the OP was looking for is more of an indistinct blurry wash of color. (Actually "wash" is a good word, I think I'll make that an answer... wait, never mind somebody suggested that in a comment already...) Commented Oct 16, 2019 at 13:28
  • @WendyG I always think of 'dab of color' (as well as some other quantitative descriptors like 'drop' or 'splash') as hankering back to a painter's palette where colors are mixed before being applied to an object. The addition of extra color is implied to be made at the palette level rather than the object level.
    – Brian R
    Commented Oct 17, 2019 at 14:52
  • @BrianR I hear "add a dab of purple here"
    – WendyG
    Commented Oct 17, 2019 at 14:56
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    @WendyG Oh of course, I'll make the same reference when staring at a computer screen at an image that has never been touched by a physical paintbrush. I'm thinking more of the etymology and symbolism of the phrase when I'm making my (completely speculative) comment.
    – Brian R
    Commented Oct 17, 2019 at 15:11

I would use "trace" as in

The northern lights are neon green mixed with traces of purple.

The OED defines trace as:

6c. An indication of the presence of a minute amount of some constituent in a compound; a quantity so minute as to be inferred but not actually measured;

This is the first definition given for the noun 'trace' in https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/trace, the first definition of the word as a noun in https://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/trace


The northern lights are neon green mixed with a touch of purple.

From https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/a%20touch%20of:

a touch of (idiom):

a small amount of (something) : a hint or trace of (something)

  • "A touch of purple..." – as in, the artist's paintbrush only touched the canvas at a few points.
    – Tom Hundt
    Commented Oct 18, 2019 at 18:02

The northern lights are neon green mixed with a splash of purple.


  • a small quantity of liquid that has fallen or been dashed against a surface.
    • "a splash of gravy"
    • Similar: spot, blob, dab, daub, smudge, smear, speck, speckle, fleck, patch, pop, mark, stain, splotch, splosh, splodge
  • a small quantity of liquid added to a drink.
    • "a splash of lemonade"
    • Similar: drop, dash, bit, spot, soupçon, dribble, driblet, little, small amount, scoosh
  • a bright patch of color.
    • "add a red scarf to give a splash of color"
    • Similar: patch, burst, streak

Because the second colour isn't a uniform tone, how about:

  • "neon green with flashes of purple" - the purple isn't something that affects the entire image, but is only present in small areas.

Because the purple is predominantly outside the green areas, consider:

  • "neon green, fringed with purple" - using the verb is nicer than just saying "with a purple fringe")
  • "neon green with a purple aura" - prior to its "New Age" connotations, one of the meanings of Aura was simply "luminous radiation".
  • I think fringed works very well for this, it gives not only a sense of quantity but also a sense of contrast and spatial relation.
    – Kai
    Commented Oct 17, 2019 at 17:08


The second definition from the linked page: 2: a small scattered number or amount

In your example with the aurora it could be used like so:

Largely neon green with a smattering of purple around the edges.

Be aware that this word only fits if the color is somewhat scattered.


Not a native English speaker, but how about a tad?



tad (plural tads)

(informal) A small amount; a little bit.

    Could you lean the picture to the left just a tad more?
  • 2
    FWIW as a BrE speaker I've heard "tad" often but never "a tad of [something]". Commented Oct 18, 2019 at 10:17
  • @EspeciallyLime: Yeah, I think an adjective usually follows this word.
    – d33tah
    Commented Oct 18, 2019 at 12:14

Along the same lines as some of the other suggestions, a "dash" would work as well.

The northern lights are neon green mixed with a dash of purple.

Dash is another word commonly used in cooking, similar to pinch or smidgen, meaning a small amount.


Since it's the Northern lights, I would be inclined to say something like "folds/ribbons/threads of purple" (it is often described with curtain similes, you see.) I also wouldn't use the word "mixed" in this context either. Try "blended", "woven", "laced". In fact, "The Northern lights are neon green, laced/streaked with purple" would be an option. Verbs are always better.


"A light shade of"

The northern lights are neon green mixed with a light shade of purple.

Definition of shade from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/shade

8b: a color slightly different from the one under consideration


Besides all the words already recommended, here are a few more colored pixels to consider (Some just synonyms for earlier suggestions):

A bit of purple. A wisp. A mere suggestion. An echo. A twinkle. A dusting. A dappling.

When it comes to small amounts of color in visual descriptions, almost any word that suggests small/short, brief/rapid, ephemeral/transitory can be used. There must be, literally, thousands.

But don't stop there. You can go full metaphorical: Green with a vibration of purple. Green foam on a purple sea. Purple sparkles on green gemstones. An opium haze floating over billowing jade curtains.


I would use the term "a pinch" as in

The northern lights are neon green mixed with a pinch of purple.

in this context "pinch" would be a metaphorical use of the method of mixing color powders (like makeups) by pinching a small quantity of one color and adding it into a larger pile of a different colors

  • edited, sorry, yea that's what i meant
    – Hatman
    Commented Oct 17, 2019 at 17:09

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