‘Feel Blue’: Definition, Meaning, and Examples

By Sophia Merton, updated on February 3, 2023

Did someone tell you that they ‘feel blue’? What does that mean, and where does the phrase come from?

‘Feel blue’ is a phrase that means to “be sad, somber, depressed, or glum.” Essentially, it’s a succinct and poetic way to describe the feeling of being unhappy, dispirited, or bummed out.

What Does 'Feel Blue' Mean?

‘Feel blue’ is a phrase that means to “be depressed, sad, somber, or glum.”

For example, let’s say that you notice that your friend doesn’t seem like their normal self, and you ask them what’s wrong. If they’ve been feeling sad or dispirited, they might say, “oh, I’ve just been ‘feeling blue’ today.”

Where Does 'Feel Blue' Come From?

According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, the figurative meaning of “sorrowful, sad, afflicted with low spirits” for the word ‘blue’ is from around the year 1400.

There are a number of different theories about how the color blue became associated with sadness.

One such theory is that ships used to fly blue flags and have a blue band painted along the entire hull when a captain or an officer of the ship died during a voyage. Another stems from the mystical use of blue indigo to die the clothing of mourners as a part of death and bereavement ceremonies in a number of West African cultures. This connotation of blue indigo being associated with mysticism is also connected with the dirge-like songs historically sung by slaves on plantations in the southern U.S., which came to be known as “the blues.”

Others still have connected the phrase to Greek mythology. The king of all of the gods of Mount Olympus was named Zeus, and he was the supreme god of the sky, law, and destiny. It was said that whenever he was sad, he would cry, which came down in the form of rain on the earth.

The use of the phrase ‘feel blue’ or variations of it can be found in a number of texts dating back to the 1800s.

In a June 1826 article from Boston Monthly Magazine titled “Confessions of a Country School Master,” the author describes a strange dream and uses the phrase:

Yes—I was attacked, literally by a legion of live pork. The horrid circle contracted rapidly around me. Flight, in any sense of the word, was impossible. In this agonizing moment the clouds opened and discharged a tremendous shower of—dough-nuts. Hencefooth let no melancholic victim of ennui, complain of feeling blue, till he has felt the "pelting of the pitiless storm." Every nut seemed to strike like the ball of a nine-pounder [cannon]. I was reduced to paste in a twinkling.

In an 1827 journal by John James Audobon-- a famous ornithologist, naturalist, and artist-- he describes himself as having “had the blues.”

An untitled item in the Indiana Palladium from 1832 uses the phrase ‘feels blue’:

The Winter, with a proper respect for our nerves and noses, has saluted us for a few days past to the tune of 30 to 36 Fahrenheit, but, thanks to the heats of political contests, nobody has thought of shivering or turning blue but the minority; and as none acknowledge themselves in the minority, of course no one feels blue, except a few the Police court have sent to Fuddle Island to recover their carnation.

Using the Google Books Ngram Viewer, we see that ‘feel blue,’ ‘felt blue,’ feels blue,’ and ‘feeling blue’ don’t start appearing in the texts analyzed by Google until the early 1800s.

Examples of 'Feel Blue' In Sentences

How would you use the phrase ‘feel blue’ in a sentence? Let’s look at some examples:

  • “I know that you feel blue about your boyfriend breaking up with you. It’s understandable to feel sad, but hang in there! It’ll get easier as time goes on.”
  • “She’s beginning to feel blue about the fact that he’s been leading her on.”
  • “Jeremy, I know you feel blue that you didn’t get that job, but I think you dodged a bullet. I’ve only heard bad things about working for that company.”
  • “Jessica has been feeling blue for days now. She says it’s just the dreary weather, but I’m worried that there’s something going on she isn’t telling me.”
  • “Whenever he feels blue, he goes for a walk and just wanders around the city. Getting out of the house and exploring his local area always helps him get out of a funk.”
  • “I’ve been alone for a long time, but I rarely ever feel lonely. For some reason, being on my own has been making me feel blue recently.”
  • “I know it’s silly, but I’ve been feeling blue ever since they lost the football game.”
  • “Rob realized that he always felt blue after spending time with Tom. They had been good friends for a long time, but Tom always had such a negative attitude that Rob couldn’t help but be affected by it.”
  • “After losing her relationship, her job, and her home, she was feeling terribly lost in her life. It’s no surprise that she felt blue– most people would be completely distraught.”

Other Ways to Say 'Feel Blue'

What are some other phrases and words that have similar meanings as ‘feel blue’? Here are some other options:

  • Down in the dumps
  • Have the blues
  • In low spirits
  • Glum
  • Melancholy
  • Solemn
  • Sullen
  • Depressed
  • Forlorn
  • Miserable
  • Sad
  • Pessimistic
  • Weary
  • Sulky
  • Moody
  • Dispirited
  • Cheerless

Are you starting to ‘feel blue’ that this article is coming to a close? Fear not! Head over to our idioms blog for countless articles about English idioms and phrases.

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Written By:
Sophia Merton
Sophia Merton is one of the lead freelance writers for WritingTips.org. Sophia received her BA from Vassar College. She is passionate about reading, writing, and the written word. Her goal is to help everyone, whether native English speaker or not, learn how to write and speak with perfect English.

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