The "standard" word I was taught is azul. But the nearest English equivalent is azure, which means light (sky) blue.

In English, a reference to "dark" blue might be "navy blue." I believe that there is a Spanish word, añil, that means "dark blue."

So English makes a distinction between "azure" and "navy blue." Does Spanish make a similar distinction using "azul" and "añil" or any other words?

2 Answers 2


Color classification and labelling are subjects of endless debate, even between people that talk the same language, so when there is a translation, you can imagine the difficulties.

My opinion is that it makes no sense to try and match all the color expressions from one language to the other, because that match will be different for every bilingual person you ask, or for every pair of speakers you try.

My idea for translation is that basic abstract color terms, that is, words that refer only to a color, without any additional adjective, should be translated as is, if the word is available in the target language. That is:

  • blue -> azul
  • green -> verde
  • yellow -> amarillo
  • red -> rojo
  • white -> blanco
  • black -> negro
  • gray -> gris
  • brown -> marrón

There is no point in trying to add details to a word that has none in the original. Plain "blue" may mean a lighter or darker tone, depending on the person talking, their cultural background, and even their sex or their mood.

Then, colors that refer to a flower, a fruit or a dye should be translated to the equivalent item, if it is available:

  • orange -> naranja
  • pistacchio -> pistacho
  • violet -> violeta
  • indigo -> añil
  • purple -> púrpura

Adjectives should be translated literally, if it makes sense:

  • light blue -> azul claro
  • dark blue -> azul oscuro
  • navy blue -> azul marino

But note that bright in English is much more used than brillante in Spanish. I would use claro as well:

  • bright green -> verde claro

Some common colors should be translated with common sense:

  • navy -> azul marino (in Spanish you do not use just "marino" as a color).
  • pink -> rosa
  • rosy brown -> rosa palo (?)

Naturally, there are times where this will look weird, because in one language the term is usual but in the other it is obscure, so translation discretion is advised:

  • magenta -> magenta? lila?
  • cyan -> cian? celeste? cerúleo?

Finally, some color idioms are invented on the spot or impossible to translate, so you will have to use imagination there.

About your suggestion about "azure", I find it unusual in English, and the tone is no so unambiuous, anyway.

  • 3
    "lila" refers to a light purple, closer to violet, while magenta is a more redish tone. Also, purple is commonly referred to as "morado".
    – Darkhogg
    Commented Jun 29, 2014 at 1:07
  • IMHO, I think translating words is the wrong approach here, in principle. The correct (and very hard) approach is looking at what people name with that word, and look up a word for that in Spanish. E.g. light blue (or perhaps cyan?) --> celeste.
    – Pablo H
    Commented Mar 15, 2022 at 14:25

As far as I know, you could have three ways:

From Wikipedia, you can analyse a broader list of colors:

By the way, I've never heard nor read about añil until your question.

  • en Cuba le decimos añil al azul muy osuro, es más conocido cuando se usa Tintes para teñir algo de un azul muy oscuro. ese tinte es de añil Commented Jun 27, 2014 at 22:06

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