Why does "blue mood" means "sad mood"? Why is the color blue associated with sadness?

According to Cambridge dictionary "blue" means sad or unhappy.

  • This is a duplicate of this question from the English Language and Usage Stack Exchange: Origin of the phrase "Feeling Blue"
    – Rykara
    Jan 1, 2019 at 23:57
  • Note that "blue mood" doesn't mean a bad mood. As you say, it means "sad". I might feel blue because my baby left me, I lost my job, my car broke down, my guitar broke a string, and I ran out of whiskey (i.e. I might be singing the blues), but that doesn't mean I would also be in a bad mood. That would require some amount of anger.
    – Andrew
    Jan 2, 2019 at 0:18
  • @Andrew You're right, it was my own interpretation when I saw the original text with the word "blue mood" I understand what I wrote from the context. I'll edit it now. I'll just change the 'b's into 's'es (bad > sad, badness > sadness). Jan 2, 2019 at 0:21
  • 1
    @Wittyloquacity Oh, it's fine. I just wanted to make sure you understood the difference. To quote "Bleeding Gums" Murphy from the show The Simpsons: "The blues isn't about making yourself feeling better, it's about making other people feel worse." :)
    – Andrew
    Jan 2, 2019 at 4:52

3 Answers 3


Nobody is quite sure.

The OED says "probably from sense A. 2", and sense A. 2 is:

"Of the skin: having a bluish or leaden colour, esp. as a result of reduced circulation or oxygenation of the blood (as in exposure to cold or certain diseases); livid; cyanotic; (also) bruised."


From the English Language stack (https://english.stackexchange.com/questions/41804/origin-of-the-of-the-phrase-feeling-blue):

"Feeling blue" and "feel blue" begin to appear in Google Books publications from the 1830s. It seems highly likely that the wording arose naturally from earlier slang terms involving the word blue. Here are two early (and potentially relevant) entries from Francis Grose, A Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue (1785):

BLUE, to look blue; to be confounded, terrified, or disappointed.

BLUE DEVILS, low spirits.

John Barrett, Dictionary of Americanisms, first edition (1848) shows a similar range of meanings in U.S. English slang usage:

BLUE. Gloomy, severe; extreme, ultra.

BLUE DEVILS. To have the blue devils is to be dispirited.

Either term could reasonably be interpreted as providing the immediate referent for early use of the phrase "feeling blue."

It doesn't appear that there is consensus on the origin of a "blue mood" or "feeling blue." It likely has something to do with the idea of blue being a "cold" color -- the opposite of hot red.


Etymology online has this sense dating from 1400, and speculates that it could be from the "colour of bruises" sense of the word (that was introduced through Norse). Giving the notion of a "blue and bruised heart".

Figurative meaning "sad, sorrowful, afflicted with low spirits" is from c. 1400, perhaps from the "livid" sense and implying a bruised heart or feelings.

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