Feel Blue: Definition, Meaning and Origin

Last Updated on
May 15, 2023

The idiom "feel blue" means to feel sad, mournful, or melancholic. When someone is feeling blue, they are in a state of sadness.

In short:

"Feel blue" is an idiom used to express feelings of sadness, depression, or a generally low mood.

What Does "Feel Blue" Mean?

The idiom "feel blue" is used to communicate feelings of sadness, depression, or general unhappiness. This phrase is common in both formal and informal contexts and is often used to express one's emotional state.

  • Describing a state of sadness or depression
  • Communicating feelings of melancholy
  • Expressing a low mood or general unhappiness

Where Does "Feel Blue" Come From?

The idiom "feel blue" is closely related to the noun "the blues," which has been used since the 1700s to refer to feelings of sadness or melancholy. The earliest known references to "the blues" come from 1741, while "blue devil," referring to a demon of despair, dates back to the 1600s.

The word "blue" itself has been used to mean "sad" or "depressed" since at least the 14th century. In Chaucer's work from around 1385, "blue" was used to indicate a sorrowful or anxious state of mind. This metaphorical usage likely came from the association between the color blue and rain, darkness, and cold.

Historical Examples

"It always makes my family feel blue when they will not do as I wish them; and I suppose it affects almost every family so in this town."

- Journal of Discourses, 1854

"Now, you feel blue too, Mrs. Enderby, don't you? If I was you, I wouldn't let my husband talk in that way." 

- Colonel Enderby's Wife: A Novel, Lucas Malet, 1885

The link between the color blue and sadness was widespread in Western culture by the 1800s. Phrases like "feel blue" and "have the blues" became popular ways of expressing being in low spirits, mournful, or gloomy.

10 Examples of "Feel Blue" in Sentences

Here are some examples of the idiom "feel blue" used in various contexts:

  • To each his own, but the comedy movie just made me feel blue.
  • He's been feeling blue after failing his exam, but I'm sure he'll bounce back soon.
  • Don't worry. It's normal to feel a bit blue after such a big life change.
  • Okay, I'll spill the tea, so you'll stop feeling blue.
  • I thought I'd have a blast at the party, but I ended up feeling a bit blue.
  • After the breakup, he felt blue for several weeks.
  • Leon can't help but feel blue when he thinks about the one that got away.
  • Even the most optimistic person can sometimes feel blue.
  • It's been raining all week; the weather is making me feel blue.
  • She's been feeling blue ever since her best friend moved away.

Examples of "Feel Blue" in Pop Culture

The phrase has appeared in various forms of media and pop culture:

  • "It's Not OK to Feel Blue (and Other Lies)" is a young adult self-help book by Scarlett Curtis
  • In the book "30 Days to Self-Health" by American neurologist C. Normal Shealy, the author writes, "I feel blue; I taste blue; I smell blue. I am aware only of blue."
  • "Feelin' Blue" is a song by the American rock band Creedence Clearwater Revival from the album "Willy and the Poor Boys."

Other/Different Ways to Say "Feel Blue"

There are several other ways to express the meaning of "feel blue" in English.

Some of these alternatives include:

  • Feel down
  • Feel depressed
  • Feel low
  • Feel sad
  • Feel despondent
  • Be in low spirits
  • Feel gloomy
  • Be down in the dumps

10 Frequently Asked Questions About "Feel Blue":

  • What does "feel blue" mean?

"Feel blue" is an idiom used to express feelings of sadness, depression, or a generally low mood.

  • Where does the phrase come from?

The phrase "feel blue" has its origins in the custom among many old deepwater sailing ships. If the ship lost its captain or any of the officers during its voyage, she would fly blue flags and have a blue band painted along her entire hull when returning to home port.

  • How can I use "feel blue" in a sentence?

You can use "feel blue" in a sentence to express feelings of sadness or a low mood, such as, "I've been feeling blue ever since my pet passed away."

  • Is "feel blue" a formal or informal phrase?

'Feel blue' can be used in both formal and informal settings, as it simply conveys feelings of sadness or a low mood.

  • Are there any regional differences in the use of "feel blue"?

There are no significant regional differences in the use of 'feel blue.' It is a commonly understood phrase in English-speaking countries around the world.

  • Can "feel blue" be used in a positive context?

"Feel blue" generally conveys negative emotions and is not typically used in a positive context. It expresses feelings of sadness, depression, or a low mood.

  • What are some synonyms for "feel blue"?

Some synonyms for "feel blue" include feel down, feel depressed, feel low, feel sad, feel despondent, be in low spirits, feel gloomy, and be down in the dumps.

  • Can "feel blue" imply the severity of sadness?

Yes, "feel blue" can imply varying degrees of sadness, from a temporary feeling of melancholy to a more severe, long-lasting low mood or depression. However, it is always essential to remember that idioms should not replace professional mental health advice. If someone consistently feels blue, they should seek help from a mental health professional.

  • What is the best way to use "feel blue" in a professional context?

In a professional context, you can use "feel blue" to express feelings of disappointment or dissatisfaction with certain situations. However, it's essential to use it appropriately, considering the sensitivity of discussing personal emotions in a professional setting. For instance, "The team was feeling quite blue after the project was cancelled."

  • Can "feel blue" be used in written communication?

Yes, "feel blue" can be used in written communication, such as emails and text messages. It can be an effective way to convey feelings of sadness or disappointment. For example, "I've been feeling a bit blue since hearing the news about the funding."

Final Thoughts About "Feel Blue"

Simply put, "feel blue" is an idiom used to express feelings of sadness, depression, or a generally low mood. The phrase is applicable in both formal and informal contexts and is a common way of conveying such feelings in the English language.

Key aspects of the idiom 'feel blue' include:

  • It expresses feelings of sadness, depression, or a generally low mood.
  • The term "blue" denotes feelings of "sadness" or "depression" since as early as the 14th century.
  • It is appropriate in formal and informal settings.

By understanding and using 'feel blue' in your daily conversations, you can effectively express feelings of sadness or low mood. It can add a touch of historical richness to your language while also allowing you to empathize with others experiencing such emotions.

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