Black & White Idioms | 黒と白の慣用句

Today, let’s learn some idioms and expressions related to 2 colors – black and white.

今日は、黒と白の2つの色の慣用句や表現について 学びましょう。

Black is called 黒(くろ) in Japanese.

黒(くろ)い originally comes from the i-adjective 暗(くら)い meaning dark, therefore the word often has a negative connotation.


腹(はら) means belly so 腹黒い literally means black belly.

It’s used to refer to someone who may look nice and innocent from outside but if you look inside her belly, it’s all dark and evil.

She looks all nice from outside but actually pretty evil so you should watch out!


幕(まく) is drapes or curtains used in the theatre
黒幕 literally means black curtains used in Kabuki theatre. When the scene changes they put black curtains to hide the transition from the audience. From there, this expression is now used to refer to a mastermind who controls everything behind the scene.

President Yamada got arrested by the police, but I’m sure there is a real mastermind behind the scenes.

Also in the police terminology, the term 黒 means guilty as opposed to 白 which means innocent.


I assumed that he was guilty but I was wrong. He turned out to be innocent.

In the above example sentence, てっきり 思う is an expression used when you assume something without a basis.

ex) てっきり、今日は日曜日だと思っていた。


Literally, a black company
It’s a company that doesn’t abide by labor laws and takes advantage of its employees by forcing them to work long hours, do overtime, work on holidays, no benefits, etc.
The opposite of such companies is called ホワイト企業 – a white company

That company is famous for its very poor working conditions, so don’t apply.

Now let’s move on to white – 白.
This kanji 白 can be sometimes read しら too.

Like I said earlier, 白 can mean innocent.
ex) 私は、シロです。I’m innocent.


It refers to a remark or an attitude that is not truthful or obviously fake. You would say 白々しい when a person is telling a lie which is so obvious that everybody knows it’s a lie.


Did you talk trash about me, didn’t you?


No way, I didn’t. I’m innocent!


Don’t lie! It’s so obvious.


to play innocent

How long are you gonna play dumb? Come clean! Tell the truth.


白い目 a cold look/scornful eyes

マスクをしないで 電車にのったら、みんなに 白い目でみられた。
When I got on a train without wearing a mask, people gave me a cold look.


to make things clear


Let’s see which one of us is stronger!


It’s time to make things clear


白紙  white/blank paper
白紙にする or 白紙にもどす means to call off something or start all over again.


Let’s call off this engagement.

Due to Covid, my travel plans were canceled.

I hope you found these idioms interesting. Let me know if you want to know more idioms related to other colors.

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