22 Green Idioms in English: Useful Idioms You Should Know

When we think about the color green, it often brings to mind images of nature, renewal, and growth. In the English language, green is not just a color; it’s a source of rich imagery and figurative language woven into our everyday conversation through idioms. These expressions breathe life into our dialogue, painting pictures with words that convey ideas and emotions more vividly than literal language could.

We invite you on a linguistic journey through the verdant landscape of green idioms. Unlocking the meanings behind these colorful phrases enriches our understanding of language and can help us communicate with more flair and nuance.

What Are Green Idioms?

Green idioms are phrases in the English language that involve the word “green” or concepts associated with the color green. Often, these idioms relate to nature, growth, or freshness, but they may also be used to convey different meanings tied to characteristics traditionally linked with the color.

22 Green Idioms in English: Useful Idioms You Should Know

For example, when we say someone has a “green thumb,” we mean they are particularly skilled at gardening and making plants thrive. In contrast, if someone is “green with envy,” it indicates that they are very jealous.

These idiomatic expressions add color and richness to our language, allowing us to convey complex ideas and emotions succinctly. Using them correctly can also make our speech more engaging and vivid, enhancing our ability to connect with others.

List of Green Idioms With Meanings And Examples

Idioms Meaning and Example Sentence
Green thumb Having a natural talent for gardening.

Example: “Martha has a green thumb; her balcony is full of lush plants.”

Green with envy Feeling very jealous.

Example: “When he saw his friend’s new car, he was green with envy.”

The grass is always greener on the other side Believing others’ situations are better than one’s own.

Example: “He always looks for a new job, thinking the grass is always greener on the other side.”

Give the green light To give permission to proceed.

Example: “The manager gave the green light to start the new project.”

Green around the gills Looking sick or pale.

Example: “After the roller coaster ride, she was green around the gills.”

Greenhorn A beginner or inexperienced person.

Example: “The new recruit is a greenhorn, but he’s learning fast.”

Green-eyed monster A metaphor for jealousy.

Example: “Don’t let the green-eyed monster get the best of you over their success.”

Go green Adopting environmentally friendly practices.

Example: “The company decided to go green and reduce plastic waste.”

Green on blue An attack by allied forces on their own side.

Example: “The military is investigating the green on blue incident.”

Green as grass Very inexperienced or naive.

Example: “He’s as green as grass when it comes to urban living.”

Have a green streak To be environmentally conscious.

Example: “He has a green streak and always cycles to work to reduce his carbon footprint.”

Green light special A good deal of special attention (informal).

Example: “The store offered a green light special on all electronics for one day only.”

Green revolution Increase in crop production.

Example: “The green revolution changed agriculture in many developing countries.”

Roll out the green carpet To welcome someone warmly, with an environmental twist.

Example: “The eco-hotel rolls out the green carpet for all its guests with organic amenities.”

Green-eyed Showing or feeling envy.

Example: “He was green-eyed when his colleague received the award he wanted.”

Green fingers A British variant of “green thumb,” skilled in gardening.

Example: “Olivia has green fingers; her herb garden is thriving.”

To turn the green To become pale due to illness or shock.

Example: “He turned the green when he saw the steep drop from the mountain path.”

Green Idioms by Topics

Nature and Growth

Green thumb (or green fingers):

  • Meaning: A natural talent for gardening or growing plants.
  • Usage:  This idiom is often used to describe someone who is very good at gardening and has a natural talent for growing plants. It implies that the person has an intuitive understanding of what plants need to thrive.
  • Example: Lisa’s balcony garden is thriving; she really has a green thumb.

To turn over a new leaf:

  • Meaning: To make a fresh start or to begin anew, often improving oneself.
  • Usage: This expression means to make a new start or to begin anew, especially with better habits or a better attitude. It is often used when someone decides to make positive changes in their life.
  • Example: After his poor midterm grades, he decided to turn over a new leaf and study harder.

To nurture in the greenhouse:

  • Meaning: To develop or grow something in a protected or nurturing environment.
  • Usage:  This phrase can be used to describe a situation where someone is protected and given special conditions that allow them to develop, similar to how plants are carefully tended in a greenhouse.
  • Example: The startup was nurtured in the greenhouse of a business incubator.

Grass is always greener on the other side:

  • Meaning: A place or situation that is far away or different seems better than one’s current situation.
  • Usage: This idiom suggests that other situations, possessions, or opportunities always seem better than one’s own, even if they are not actually so. It reflects a common human tendency to be dissatisfied with one’s current situation and to assume others have it better.
  • Example: He always thinks the grass is greener on the other side, which is why he changes jobs so often.

Dig deeper: Nature Idioms

Inexperience and Naivety

Green behind the ears:

  • Meaning: To be inexperienced or immature.
  • Usage: This idiom is a malaphor, a blend of “green” and “wet behind the ears,” both of which mean inexperienced or immature. It is not commonly used but would be understood from the context of the more recognized idioms it combines
  • Example: She’s a talented recruit but still a bit green behind the ears.

Greenhorn:

  • Meaning: A novice or beginner, someone new to a field or activity.
  • Usage:  It is often used in a work environment or when referring to someone who is new to a particular activity.
  • Example: The veteran players took it upon themselves to mentor the greenhorns.

Wet behind the ears:

  • Meaning: Very young and inexperienced.
  • Usage: Similar to “green behind the ears,” this idiom also means inexperienced or immature. It originates from the idea that a newborn, particularly a farm animal, is literally wet behind the ears from birth fluids and therefore very young.
  • Example: He may be wet behind the ears, but his enthusiasm is a real asset to the team.

Green as grass:

  • Meaning: Extremely inexperienced.
  • Usage: This phrase is used to describe someone who is very naive or inexperienced, much like a young, fresh blade of grass. It emphasizes the person’s lack of experience in a particular area.
  • Example: The new intern is as green as grass, but we all have to start somewhere.

Related to: Idioms about Thinking & Learning

Feelings and Emotions

Green around the gills:

  • Meaning: Looking sick or pale, as if about to vomit.
  • Usage: This idiom is often used to describe someone who looks sick or nauseated. The phrase suggests that a person’s skin might take on a slightly greenish tinge when they are feeling unwell, much like how a fish might look around the gill area.
  • Example: You’re looking a bit green around the gills. Are you feeling alright?

Green-eyed monster:

  • Meaning: A metaphor for jealousy or envy.
  • Usage: This idiom refers to jealousy or envy. It originates from Shakespeare‘s play “Othello,” where it is used to personify the potentially destructive nature of jealousy.
  • Example: When he saw his friend’s new car, the green-eyed monster reared its ugly head.

Green with envy:

  • Meaning: Feeling very jealous or envious.
  • Usage: Similar to the “green-eyed monster,” this idiom also describes intense feelings of envy. The color green is traditionally associated with jealousy, and this phrase amplifies that emotion by suggesting that someone is so envious that their entire being is colored by it.
  • Example: She was green with envy when her sister was given the lead role in the play.

To turn green:

  • Meaning: To look or feel sick, or to become very envious.
  • Usage:  This idiom can be used in two ways. It can either mean becoming environmentally friendly or, more commonly, it can mean becoming sick, especially in the context of nausea or queasiness.
  • Example: I turned green when I heard about his massive lottery win.

Learn more: Feelings and Emotions Idioms