Reference > Brewer’s Dictionary > Colours.

E. Cobham Brewer 1810–1897. Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. 1898.
He was with the colours. In active military service.   1
        “The period … was raised from seven to nine years, five years being passed with the colours, and four in the reserve.”—Edinburgh Review (1886).
   His coward lips did from their colours fly. He was unable to speak. As cowards run away from their regimental colours, so [Cæsar’s] lips, when he was ill, ran away from their colour and turned pale.   2
   To come out in his true colours. To reveal one’s proper character, divested of all that is meretricious.   3
   To describe [a matter] in very black colours. To see them with a jaundiced eye, and describe them accordingly; to describe [the matter] under the bias of strong prejudice.   4
   To desert one’s colours. To become a turncoat; to turn tail. The allusion is to the military flag.   5
   To give colour or To give some plausible colour to the matter. To render the matter more plausible; to give it a more specious appearance.   6
   To paint in bright colours. To see or describe things in couleur de rose. Also “to paint in lively colours.”   7
   To put a false colour on a matter. To misinterpret it, or put a false construction on it.   8
   To see things in their true colours. To see them as they really are.   9
   Under colour of. … Under pretence of … .; under the alleged authority of … .   10
   Wearing his colours. Taking his part; being strongly attached to one. The idea is from livery.   11
        “Jim could always count on every man, woman, and child, wherever he lived, wearing his colours, and backing him … through thick and thin.”—Boldrewood: Robbery Under Arms, chap. xiv.
   Without colour.In nudâ veritate,” without disguise.   12



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