Learn English idioms | Paint the town red

English idioms are colourful expressions we use that have a special meaning. What does it mean in English to paint the town red? Watch this video lesson and find out more about English idioms...

Here's the great Billie Holiday singing I'm Painting the Town Red...

What are your favourite English idioms? Tell us in the comments below...


If you say 'I'm going to paint the town red' or ‘Let’s go out tonight and paint the town red’ it means you want to go out with your friends and have a really good time, 'to go out and paint the town red'.

So if you've been spending a lot of time at home, working and you need to go out and enjoy yourself and see your friends and have some fun, it means 'let's go out, let have a really good time, let's have a party or if it's a special occasion, let's say it's your birthday or it's your friends birthday so you could say to your friend, "come on, it's your birthday! Let's go out tonight. Let's paint the town red! Let's have a really good time!" It means you want to go out and go to lots of different bars and clubs, meet different people, have a party, let's paint the town red!

This is not something you would do every night or every weekend, so it's normally for special occasions. If you have something to celebrate or you just really want to have some fun, let's go out and paint the town red!

So where does this expression come from? It appears to be an American expression from the late 19th century and it came over from America and came into British English. Cowboys in America when they came into town if they'd been riding through the countryside for a long time, when they came to town they wanted to have a good time they wanted to drink a lot of alcohol and go a bit crazy, shoot their guns, get drunk and have a party. But if anyone tried to stop them having a party, they said they would paint the town red and this sounded like a threat. It sounded like they would kill anyone who tried to stop them from enjoying themselves and literally paint the town red with the blood of the people who tried to stop them!