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I am trying hard to understand how to properly determine the difference.

  • A gold watch. --A watch that is made of gold
  • A golden watch --A watch that looks like and could be made of gold

But why then I cannot use the same logic for the following:

  • A gold T-Shirt -- why not golden?
  • A shirt with gold stripes --why not golden? They look like gold but they are not
    • wrapped in gold and silver paper. -- the same problem

How would you perceive it if I used golden instead?

marked as duplicate by RubioRic, Hellion, Jason Bassford, Chenmunka, Davo Feb 7 at 17:54

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  • I think the explanations, that you gave for both gold and golden, always hold. What is the confusion? – Zeeshan Ali Feb 6 at 10:30
  • Some might improperly use 'gold'+Noun to actually imply 'golden'+Noun or 'gold' could be used as a brand-name and therefore 'gold'+Noun implying Noun of brand 'gold', either could be the case with 'A gold T-Shirt' – Zeeshan Ali Feb 6 at 10:51
  • Even gold-medals these days are merely golden-medals ^^ Cheers! – Zeeshan Ali Feb 6 at 10:53
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    @ZeeshanAli Well, they certainly do not hold for the examples I provide :) Those are actually from the Cambridge dictionary. In addition, for GOLDEN, it also reads "made of gold", which to me makes it equal to GOLD. – John V Feb 6 at 11:45
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Gold also refers to the colour, as does silver. This may well be a modern drift, but it's how it works.

"Gold", applied to something that we would never expect to be made of gold, will be read as describing the colour. When it's something that we might expect to be made of gold, it will be read as the material.

"Golden", to refer to the colour, will sound odd to many people except in some phrases - probably due to phrases of those types being familiar to us from old sources.

  • Thanks. But in "golden watch, golden ring" etc. I guess this works just fine? Or by referring to color you mean in other cases than metals? – John V Feb 6 at 11:44
  • Yes, the gold/golden distinction works differently, in practice, based on where it's an object that works plausibly be made of gold. – SamBC Feb 6 at 11:57
  • Yes as a t-shirt is never made with real gold we know it must just mean the colour. So it is all about probability really is this ever made of real gold? If somebody you knew was very poor just said they had bought a gold watch you would look at them oddly trying to work out what they meant. So it is a lot of context as well. – WendyG Feb 6 at 11:58
  • Though I will say that "golden" isn't wrong or to weird to use for things never made of gold. In that case, 'gold' would mean a colour and 'golden' might intimate that it looks more like actual gold. – SamBC Feb 6 at 12:00

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