Word of the Day


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Liz Potter
Written by Liz Potter


1. if a colour pops, it shows up very distinctly

2. a patch of colour

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.

Origin and usage

The noun and verb pop in their core meanings of ‘(to make) a sudden noise like a small explosion’ were first used in Late Middle English and are onomatopoeic in that they imitate the sound they describe. The informal word for ‘father’ is an abbreviation of ‘poppa’ and was first used in the mid 19th century. Other meanings came later.


Pop has numerous meanings in several different parts of speech, far too many to cover in a single post. As well as being a verb, noun, adjective and adverb, it occurs as an abbreviation and in numerous compounds, phrasal verbs and fixed expressions. The core senses of the verb and noun go back to Middle English, but other meanings are more recent, including the adjective pop and its related noun pop or pop music, which is a shortening of the word ‘popular’ dating from the late 19th century. Two more newish meanings, the ones shown above, were recently added to the Open Dictionary. They are related and usually refer to colours or other things you can see, although they can be used to refer to things such as flavours. The verb meaning occurs both with and without the particle ‘out’. The examples below are taken from the enTenTen15 corpus used to compile Macmillan Dictionary and show a selection of the ways in which the words are used.


“A rain overnight really made the fall colors pop on Sunday.”

“The color pops out and brings life into basically any bedroom.”

“A little lime zest on top really makes the flavours pop.”

“I’ve been applying this [eyeshadow] with a synthetic brush … and it makes my blue eyes pop.”

“Grab the attention of the interviewer with a pop of colour to demonstrate your creative side.”

“The sharp currants are little electric pops of flavour that are smoothed out by the buttery lemon.”

Related words

burst, explode, explosion, zing

Browse related words in the Macmillan Thesaurus.

About the author

Liz Potter

Liz Potter

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