English Idiom – Yellow-belly.

Meaning – To be a coward or easily scared. This expression is used to describe a person who is not brave.

This expression can also be used in the form yellow-bellied.

A person who is always frightened can also be known as a chicken.

Is Yellow-belly A Racist Term?

There is certainly some controversy with this expression and the exact etymology is not clear. As a result the term yellow belly can be considered racist or offensive, particularly when used to refer to a person of Asian descent. This term has historically been used as a derogatory slur against people of Asian origin, particularly those from East Asian countries such as China, Japan, and Korea.

While the term yellow belly can also refer to a lack of courage or bravery, it is important to recognise the historical and cultural context of the term, and to avoid using it in a way that perpetuates racial stereotypes and discrimination. It’s always important to be aware of the potential impact of the words we use, and to strive to use language that is respectful and inclusive of all people.

Colours and Emotions:

Different colours can be used to portray different emotions or moods when speaking in English. Here are a few common colour and emotion combinations:

ColourEmotionIdiomatic Example
BlueSadnessFeel blue
GreenEnvyGreen-eyed monster
PinkHappyTickled pink
RedAnger/ShameRed in the face
WhiteShockWhite as a ghost

Idioms with the Colour Yellow:

  • Code yellow – This expression is used when somebody has accidentally urinated in a place other than the toilet.
  • Yellow brick road – A path to success.
  • Yellow light – Slow down or proceed with caution.
  • Yellow streak – Similar to yellow-belly, this expression is used to describe a person with a tendency to be scared easily.


When could you use this idiom?

  • Somebody is too frightened to perform an action.
  • You are trying to convince somebody to be brave.
  • A person is afraid to stand up and make a speech.
  • Your friend is nervous about asking somebody out on a date.


  • “You’ve liked John for ages. Stop being such a yellow-belly and ask him out for dinner!”

In The News:

“I used to call myself put-down names like yellow belly, scaredy-cat, chicken. So I felt downright queasy when my doctor proposed a double whammy: two heart surgeries.”


  • Is there an idiom like this in your country?

What is an idiom?

An idiom is a word or phrase that is not taken literally.  An idiom is an expression that cannot be understood from the meanings of its individual words, but has a separate meaning of its own.

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