views updated Jun 08 2018

blue traditionally seen as the colour of constancy, as well as the colour of sorrow and anguish, and of plagues and hurtful things. It is also associated with the male sex (as pink is with the female sex).

Politically, the colour was associated with the Scottish Presbyterian or Whig party in the 17th century, and later with the Tory, and then Conservative, party.

At Oxford and Cambridge Universities, a blue is a person who has represented Cambridge (a Cambridge Blue) or Oxford (an Oxford Blue) in a particular sport.

The informal sense of blue to mean ‘obscene, indecent, profane’ developed in the mid 19th century.

blue are the hills that are far away a view seen from a distance has an added attraction (a similar idea is expressed by distance of Chancery). A northern saying, recorded from the late 19th century (green is sometimes found instead of blue). The thought is echoed in Housman's line from A Shropshire Lad (1896) ‘What are those blue remembered hills’.
blue blood that which is traditionally said to flow in the veins of old and aristocratic families; the term is a translation of Spanish sangre azul, attributed to Castilian families who claimed to have no admixture of Moorish, Jewish, or other foreign blood. The expression may have originated in the blueness of the veins of people of fair complexion as compared with those of dark skin.
blue boar the heraldic cognizance of Richard Duke of York (1411–60), father of Edward IV and Richard III.
Blue Bonnets Scots soldiery (also called Blue Caps), from the broad round horizontally flattened bonnet or cap of blue woollen material, formerly widely worn in Scotland.
blue book in the UK, a report bound in a blue cover and issued by Parliament or the Privy Council; in the US, an official book listing government officials.
blue-chip denoting companies or their shares considered to be a reliable investment, though less secure than gilt-edged stock. The term comes (in the early 20th century) from the US; from the blue chip used in gambling games, which usually has a high value.
Blue Coat a student at a charity school with a blue uniform which represents the blue coat traditionally worn by an almoner; the name is particularly associated with Christ's Hospital School, whose uniform is a long dark blue gown fastened at the waist with a belt, and bright yellow stockings.
blue-collar worker a manual worker, particularly in industry; the term is recorded (originally in the US) from the 1950s.
blue-eyed boy a person highly regarded by someone and treated with special favour; the term is first recorded in a novel by P. G. Wodehouse in 1924.
blue flag a European award for beaches based on cleanliness and safety.
Blue Hen's Chickens inhabitants of the state of Delaware. The term is said to have come from a company in the American War of Independence, led by a Captain Caldwell of Delaware, who were known in Carolina firstly as ‘Caldwell's gamecocks’, and then ‘the blue hen's chickens’ and the ‘blue chickens’. From this, the name ‘Blue Hen’ was given to the state.
Blue John a blue or purple banded variety of fluorite found in Derbyshire.
blue law in colonial New England, a strict puritanical law, particularly one preventing entertainment or leisure activities on a Sunday; currently in North America, it is a law prohibiting certain activities, such as shopping, on a Sunday.
blue moon the type of something rarely seen, as a moon that is blue is something that is seldom or never seen; once in a blue moon means very rarely. In the early 16th century, to say ‘that the moon is blue’ is recorded as the type of a fantastic statement.
Blue Nile one of the two principal headwaters of the Nile. Rising from Lake Tana in NW Ethiopia, it flows some 1,600 km (1,000 miles) southwards then north-westwards into Sudan, where it meets the White Nile at Khartoum.
blue-pencil censor or make cuts in a manuscript; a blue ‘lead’ pencil was traditionally used for marking corrections and deletions.
Blue Peter a blue flag with a white square in the centre, raised by a ship about to leave port. From 1958, Blue Peter has also been the name of a television magazine series for children which combines education and entertainment with successful charitable appeals.
Blue Riband (or Blue Ribbon) a badge worn by members of the Order of the Garter; it is also the name of a trophy for the ship making the fastest eastward sea crossing of the Atlantic Ocean on a regular commercial basis. The Blue Ribbon of the turf is the Derby; the term was used by Disraeli in his memoir Lord George Bentinck (1852).
blue-sky ignoring possible difficulties; hypothetical, not yet practicable or profitable in the current state of knowledge or technological development. A blue-sky law is a law relating to the practice of dealing in doubtful or worthless securities. The term is recorded from the early 20th century, and is supposed to allude to a person who is ready to sell the ‘blue sky’ to a credulous buyer.
out of the blue quite unexpectedly. Probably from the fuller a bolt of Chancery. Compare out of a clear blue sky.

See also clear blue water, the thin blue line, light the blue touchpaper and retire immediately, wild blue yonder.


views updated May 17 2018

blue / bloō/ • adj. (bluer , bluest ) 1. of a color intermediate between green and violet, as of the sky or sea on a sunny day. ∎  (of a person's skin) having or turning such a color, esp. with cold or breathing difficulties. ∎  (of a bird or other animal) having blue markings. ∎  (of cats, foxes, or rabbits) having fur of a smoky gray color. ∎  Physics denoting one of three colors of quark. 2. inf. (of a person or mood) melancholy, sad, or depressed. 3. inf. (of a movie, joke, or story) with sexual or pornographic content. ∎  (of language) marked by cursing, swearing, and blasphemy. 4. inf. rigidly religious or moralistic; puritanical.• n. 1. blue color or pigment. ∎  blue clothes or material. ∎  a blue uniform, or a person wearing a blue uniform, such as a police officer or a baseball umpire. ∎  (usu. Blue) the Union army in the Civil War, or a member of that army. 2. a blue thing. 3. a small butterfly (family Lycaenidae), the male of which is predominantly blue while the female is typically brown. • v. (blues , blued , bluing or blueing ) 1. make or become blue: [tr.] the light dims, bluing the retina [intr.] the day would haze, the air bluing with afternoon. ∎  [tr.] heat (metal) so as to give it a grayish-blue finish. 2. [tr.] wash (white clothes) with bluing.PHRASES: once in a blue moon inf. very rarely.out of the blue (or out of a clear blue sky) inf. without warning; unexpectedly. talk a blue streak inf. speak continuously and at great length.DERIVATIVES: blue·ness n.


views updated Jun 27 2018

blue XIII. ME. blue — (O)F. :- Rom. *blāvus — Gmc. *blǣwaz (whence OE. blǣwen, OHG. blāw, G. blau, ON. blár), prob. rel. to L. flāvus yellow. In blue blood tr. Sp. sangre azul, applied to Spaniards claiming freedom from Moorish, Jewish, or other admixture.


views updated May 08 2018

blue A quarrymen's term, applied to stone and meaning ‘hard’.