Paint The Town Red – How To Let Loose And Have Some Fun

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Candace Osmond

Candace Osmond studied Advanced Writing & Editing Essentials at MHC. She’s been an International and USA TODAY Bestselling Author for over a decade. And she’s worked as an Editor for several mid-sized publications. Candace has a keen eye for content editing and a high degree of expertise in Fiction.

Paint the town red is an idiom signifying a departure from the usual, expressing a desire for lively, exciting experiences beyond everyday life. It conjures images of vibrant, energetic celebrations and nights out. However, at its core, this expression is about indulging in a grand, often boisterous time.

Idioms like this use metaphorical language to convey things more vividly, enhancing our ability to connect with others on a deeper level.

Dive into the nuances of the idiom paint the town red as this article unravels its figurative and literal meanings, explores its fascinating origins, introduces synonyms, and guides you on its versatile applications in different contexts.

Keep reading to learn more about this idiom, and take the quick quiz at the end to test your knowledge.

Paint The Town Red – How To Let Loose And Have Some Fun

What Does the Idiom Paint the Town Red Mean?

The idiom paint the town red means to engage in a wild and lively night out, usually involving plenty of fun and entertainment. It suggests a level of enthusiasm and energy that transforms an ordinary evening into something extraordinary.

The Cambridge Dictionary gets a bit more detailed and defines it as “to go out and enjoy yourself by drinking alcohol, dancing, laughing with friends, etc.” Moreover, Collins Dictionary defines it as “to celebrate boisterously, esp. by making a round of stops at bars and nightclubs.”

However, the intent of the idiom doesn’t have to involve alcohol. I would consider a bottomless trip to the bookstore and a Starbucks stop painting the town red, too!

Is There a Difference Between Paint the Town Red and Paint the Town?

Sort of, but not really. When we say paint the town, it suggests a fun night out. However, adding red amplifies the expression, infusing it with a sense of wild, rambunctious fun. It’s the difference between meeting up for a drink after work versus planning a huge night out with friends. Both versions refer to an intent to head out and have fun.

Literal Meaning vs. Figurative Meaning

The literal meaning of paint the town red might stir up images of literally covering a town in red paint, not too far from the idiom’s origin. Figuratively, this idiom is about letting loose, celebrating without restraint, and perhaps causing a bit of harmless mischief.

Variations of the Idiom

  • Paint the town pink
  • Splash the town with color
  • Color the town vibrant
  • Jazz up the town
  • Embellish the town
  • Liven up the town
  • Bedeck the town

How Is Paint the Town Red Commonly Used in Context?

The idiom injects vivid imagery into our language, describing exuberant and celebratory activities. 

In the following sections, we’ll explore the diverse ways this colorful expression is commonly used. From celebratory nights out to metaphorical brushstrokes of excitement, discover the versatility of this idiom in everyday language.

What Are the Different Ways to Use Paint the Town Red?

The following examples showcase the versatility of paint the town red in expressing joy and celebration across various aspects of life:

  • Celebrations and nightlife: After the successful product launch, the team decided to paint the town red with a night of dancing and festivities.
  • Personal achievements: Graduating at the top of her class, Indra wanted to paint the town red to celebrate her academic accomplishments.
  • Romantic occasions: Lincoln wanted to impress his date, so he planned to paint the town red with a romantic dinner and a moonlit stroll.
  • Team victories: Winning the championship, the athletes were eager to paint the town red in a jubilant celebration with their fans.
  • Career milestones: Securing a major deal, the sales team decided to paint the town red to acknowledge their hard work and success.
  • Life milestones: Turning sixty, Clarke’s friends and family organized a surprise party to help her paint the town red in style.

Where Can You Find Examples of Paint the Town Red?

The idiom often appears in movie dialogues, song lyrics, and novels depicting vibrant nightlife or grand celebrations.

It’s the title of a popular 2017 indie horror film directed by Christopher Andrew Graham. It’s also the title of a popular book written by Matthew Brown.

In Doja Cat’s song “Paint the Town,” she sings, “I let it all get to my head. I don’t care, I paint the town red.” This usage reflects a carefree attitude, ignoring pressures and embracing a vibrant, celebratory experience.

What Is the Origin of the Idiom Paint the Town Red?

Paint The Town Red Ngram
Paint the town red usage trend.

The phrase is said to have originated in the mid-1800s, possibly linked to a wild night out by the Marquis of Waterford and his friends, who literally painted parts of a town red. He was a well-known figure throughout history for his wild antics.

However, it didn’t appear in print until the later 1800s when it was used in The New York Times, where it said,

“Mr. James Hennessy offered a resolution that the entire body proceed forthwith to Newark and get drunk… Then the Democrats charged upon the street cars, and being wafted into Newark proceeded, to use their own metaphor, to ‘paint the town red’.”

How Did the Idiom Evolve Over Time?

Originally a British phrase, it has been used globally for decades. The broader meaning evolved to represent any form of exuberant celebration or partying, not just being a hooligan literally painting buildings red.

What Are Some Related Terms to Paint the Town Red?

Understanding synonymous and antonymous phrases can enhance your grasp of paint the town red. Here are a few quick alternatives you can use:

Paint The Town Red – How To Let Loose And Have Some Fun 1


  • Party hard
  • Celebrate in style
  • Go on a spree
  • Let loose
  • Hit the town


  • Stay in
  • Have a quiet night
  • Keep it low-key
  • Take it easy
  • Maintain sobriety
  • Be reserved

Paint The Town Red: Test Your Knowledge!

Choose the correct answer.

What Have We Learned About Paint the Town Red?

The idiom paint the town red is full of history and captures the essence of making the most out of special occasions. Remember, the phrase comes from the literal act of painting buildings red while running amok in the streets. However, it now takes a more metaphorical stance to describe simply heading out and having fun.

The article covers the meaning, origin, variations, and synonyms. Now that you’re familiar with how to use paint the town red, why not explore other fascinating idioms on our site? We’ve got an endless list to study!