Show one’s true colors

Photo of author


The phrase show one’s true colors is an idiom. We will examine the meaning of the idiom show one’s true colors, where it came from, and some examples of its use in sentences.

To show one’s true colors is to reveal one’s true nature, one’s true feelings, or one’s true motives. In order to show one’s true colors, one must have first been covering up one’s true feelings, motives, or nature. The phrase show one’s true colors is derived from nautical jargon. The colors of a ship are its flags. Sometimes, a ship would lower its colors or even fly the enemy’s colors to gain the advantage in a naval battle. Therefore, to show one’s true colors meant to lower a counterfeit flag and raise the flag of the sovereignty whose allegiance the ship truly pledged. Related phrases are shows one’s true colors, showed one’s true colors, showing one’s true colors.


“It’s one of those things that puts you in a position to be successful or it’s going to show your true colors.” (The Miami Herald)

“Throughout this entire impeachment process, complicit John Cornyn showed his true colors,” said Texas Democratic Party spokesman Abhi Raman. (The Valley Morning Star)

But people always show their true colors, and after enough time you may begin to realize the best way to get out of all the friendship heartbreak is to just take a step back; the best thing may be to not have that person in your life anymore. (The Eastern Echo)

“In refusing to visit flood-hit communities, nowhere-to-be-seen Boris Johnson is showing his true colors by his absence,” Corbyn said. (The New York Times)