Rainbow Speak

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

"Sword and Shield are different colors, so you know that they are two different items."

Zelda Speedrun Commentary

An NPC has just told you that you have to retrieve the legendary golden sphere from the ancient dragon. Legends say he's in the Cave of Horrors. To find out where that is, you'll have to ask The Town Sage.

...Yeah, you've all seen this. Important words and phrases are highlighted for your convenience in at least one different color. While the exact first game to implement this is unknown, certain games like Ultima VI (using links in the dialogue to introduce topics of conversation), the first Final Fantasy, and the opening scroll to Star Wars (putting the DEATH STAR in all caps) come to mind.

This happens mostly in video games, especially those that lack voice acting, but can occur in comics and other media from time to time. The World Wide Web, especially, invokes this for identifying hyperlinks (well, usually). Also common in subtitled anime, to differentiate characters.

See also: Painting the Medium, Bold Inflation. Contrary to what one might expect, this is not the binary opposite of Black Speech. Text of this kind lends itself very well to a Dramatic Reading.

Examples of Rainbow Speak include:

Comic Books

  • Spider-Man's foe Delilah had an odd speech pattern; some of her words would be colored and written in a formal, flowery looking font.
  • In the SLG Gargoyles comics, sound effects produced by gargoyles ("ROAR!", "SNIFF!". etc.) would be rendered in the color of the gargoyle making the noise.
  • Delirium from The Sandman. Though in her case, it's a rainbow background with black letters of varying heights and styles. Endless Nights shows that she had this type of rainbow speak even as Delight, albeit in a more muted form.

Fan Works

  • To a lesser extent, in Kira Is Justice, some of the characters (ie. Fiona and Landras) talk in bold. The former seems insane, the latter is a Shinigami.
  • Skidmark's speech becomes a wave of rainbow-colored bleeps when he runs afoul of Taylor Freakazoid! in the Worm/Freakazoid! crossover Freakout.


  • It seems that Pete's Dragon has colored closed captioning, and there are little gags whenever certain words are said. For example, the titular dragon's growly noises are all in green, money words in yellow, angry words in red...


  • House Of Leaves
    • To elaborate: The word house is in blue, Minotaur is in red (and crossed out), and only a few significant words are in purple.
  • Many versions of The Bible print all of Jesus's utterances in red font. But somehow even God's pronouncements don't rate the same treatment.
    • Jesus is God...[1]
    • Penn & Teller's book Cruel Tricks for Dear Friends parodies these "red-letter editions": everything printed in red is a lie.
    • In one case, a print run of red-letter bibles omitted the red text, effectively silencing Jesus.
    • And in many other versions LORD is the translation of Yahweh whilst Lord is just your bog standard godly title.

New Media

  • On the Internet, certain words are blue. This means they are links you can click on. If it's red, it's a dead link.
    • Sometimes, if you click on blue words, they will turn purple and won't change back
      • If you clicked on the red words and wrote something, and then went back. They will turn blue!
    • On some forums, blue is used for sarcasm and green for innuendo.
      • >implying imageboards did not know about this trope (Image Boards like 4Chan).
    • On the Penny Arcade forums, an alternative to 'quoted for truth' (QFT) is 'limed for truth', in which the quoted post is lime coloured.
  • Time Cube uses this all over the place and seemingly at random.
    • A lot of conspiracy theorist sites in general—or any site that is an online Room Full of Crazy—will do this. Expect ALL-CAPS and flashing text and GIFs as well.
  • Some moderators on internet forums use a different "ex cathedra" color or font for posts in their capacity as moderators. E.g. red in RPGNet, where it's sometimes called "mod voice".
  • Various subsets of The Slender Man Mythos use this; for example, there's A Lack of Lexicon, which has each character speak in a different font; at one point, the font actually changes in colour as it reveals one character (jokingly) masquerading as another.
  • These instructions for a the thing s. It is a good to read the mALL!
  • Oh Internet does this in their article about a Rozen Maiden character's Verbal Tic. This article needed moar desu anyway.

Live-Action TV

Troping Wikis

  • Tropers working on pages for the more recent Kamen Rider series have a tendency to work colors into text referring to riders' varying forms.
    • There's a lot of this going around on Super Sentai series pages too.
  • If you think about it, potholes on this very wiki look kind of like this, too, whether the text is green, blue, or red.
  • Trope pages dealing with colors often have this, such as Rainbow Motif, Color Character, and Color-Coded Elements. And, as mentioned above, this article right here.
  • The article on Bubble Bobble puts Bubblun/Bubby and Bobblun/Bobby in green and blue respectively, after their primary colors.
  • The articles on sentai series tend to do this for colorcoding, i.e. Red Ranger.

Video Games

  • In many games, especially MMORPGs like EverQuest, an NPC will say something like, "I'm glad you stopped by. Right now, our village is under attack from [dragons]." At that point you respond, "Dragons?" And he then goes on to explain. Saying anything besides the "highlighted" word gets you nowhere.
  • The Another Code series used this lightly, mostly to highlight conversation choices.
  • In Okami, key phrases were highlighted in red.
    • I heard of a guy who actually used this to play Okami in Japanese despite not knowing the language, because he could match up highlighted key phrases.
  • Was used in Breath of Fire 2, making an already bad localization an eye-gouging chore.
    • The series as a whole, really, abused Rainbow Speak like a set of perky nipples.
  • Certain words and phrases you needed to remember in the original Banjo-Kazooie trembled and shook in their text box. When Brentilda reveals Gruntilda's embarrassing secrets, the secrets are in an animated wavering font.
  • Terranigma did. "I want to go outside and see Crystal Blue." "Found throughout the world, Magirock."
  • Pikmin
  • The 7th Saga
  • The page quotes refer to The Legend of Zelda, which has been known to use it ever since the first game. Now go, Link, and save Zelda from Ganon.
    • Ocarina of Time takes this to the extreme. Especially when referring to the Sages/Temples. Light-Forest-Fire-Water-Spirit-Shadow. The game also uses purple and orange.
    • The franchise does this in most games since Ocarina of Time or so, and Wind Waker parodies it a little. The legend of the Triforce has been lost to the ages, and the few who talk about it call it the...Triumph Forks. Just hearing about it (from Fishmen or Salvage Co.) does get you on the right track, though.
  • TES:III Morrowind did it as well. It uses hyperlinks in the dialogue texts to introduce new topics of conversation.
  • The SNES game Shadowrun also used the keywords system.
  • The Savage Empire uses this.
  • Persona 3 has a variation: Words that show up as terms in the game's Dictionary are in blue, while otherwise-important words or phrases are red.
    • Persona 2 was the first Persona game to use Rainbow Speak, only using it for rumors. P4 uses it sparingly, and it's been introduced to the PSP remake of the first Persona too, even though it was unnecessary.
    • Devil Survivor has it as a plot point. After Mari is taken over by Kresnik, her text shows up as bright pink whenever she talks to distinguish between the two voices.
  • Final Fantasy II had this. "Wild Rose", anyone?
    • This was part of a larger "passwords" system where you had to advance the plot by asking NPCs about certain terms. It's pretty straightforward until the game starts throwing Guide Dang Its in there, such as the method to get the Infinity+1 Sword. The post-game Bonus Quest gives you an additional 30 or so words to work with, most of them only present to up the Guide Dang It moments.
  • Since Pokémon started as a monochrome series, it had a variation in fully capitalizing every monster, attack, place, or person name (i.e., "Wild PIKACHU appeared! PIKACHU used THUNDERBOLT!"). Diamond and Pearl eventually ditched this, reverting to just putting monster names in all caps, and using some colored text for certain items. Pokémon Mystery Dungeon and Generation V decapitalized the mons' names as well.
    • FireRed and LeafGreen colored speech by male NPCs blue and speech by female NPCs red.
    • HeartGold and SoulSilver colored the words "Sinjoh Ruins", "Mystri Stage", and "time travel" red for an unexplained reason.
  • Hellgate:London did this...every quest giver have the important facts in bold...
  • Sonic Battle. No key words, just the basic trope.
  • Super Mario Galaxy features this. Not only will the name be highlighted, but a picture of the item will be displayed next to it. I know what a Power Star looks like, Rosalina. Thanks for making me feel Stupid.
    • Civilization 5 does the icon thing too, preceding words such as production or science with hammers and beakers, respectively. It doesn't actually color the text, however.
  • The Mario Party series generally uses yellow for the word "Star" or "Stars", and green for player names and other assorted words. (e.g.: Welcome, Mario! Now's your chance to win coins and Stars!
  • Final Fantasy X highlights the names of places you have go in blue, and there's that weird colour-coding translation thing going on with the Al Bhed language, but other than that, it (mercifully) gives this trope a rest.
  • From videogamerecaps.com's recap of Final Fantasy VIII, a prime abuser:
    • She also reminds Squally (read: us) that he can review his studies at the [study panel] which he can access from [[his] seat], but if he's ready, he should meet her at the [front gate] and they'll head over to the [Fire Cavern]. Ah, I [get it]. The brackets are to let us know where the hell we're supposed to go. It's a nice touch when you're the type of gamer who doesn't always pay attention and sometimes misses the destination, but I think it's a little overdone in [this case]. Next thing you know, they'll have blinking text, a big neon sign, fireworks, blaring horns, dancers in sequined leotards dancing around, and a big flashing arrow that says "GO HERE" to let you know the next destination. Jeez.
      • Xenogears was even -worse-, with [several] methods of -catching- one's "attention".
  • Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney highlights hints and key evidence in orange.
    • It also plays a 'ping!' noise when a hint is displayed.
    • Also, the protagonist's inner monologue is presented in blue, and witness testimony during the cross-examination stage is a nice green.
      • Investigations: Miles Edgeworth adds light green for leads that are added to Miles' logic page.
  • Star Ocean: Till the End of Time not only does this, but gives you an electronic encyclopedia which gives description of all the location names, etc, you encounter...Including in the text of the encyclopedia. The game not only talks in WikiWords, it gives you a read only wiki for reference purposes.
    • Amusingly, you could find a mild spoiler before you were supposed to by reading (and unlocking) certain articles before you meet Maria.
  • Used in City of Heroes, particularly in later missions. The user-created story arcs also permit the player to colour text as desired; in fact, one of the people who will give you advice on how to build an arc suggests coloring important information in mission briefings/debriefings to make sure people who only skim the text will see it.
  • Cave Story uses a variation of this which few people have seen before: Important words are surrounded by ●bullets●.
  • In Hey You, Pikachu!, words that Pikachu can understand are red, while important terms, like locations, are in blue.
  • The Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles games use this almost randomly.
  • In The World Ends With You, memes (words or sentences you can influence people's thoughts with) are written in red.
  • Brave Fencer Musashi abused this quite badly. The colored words are apparently chosen at random.
  • Animal Crossing uses this one quite a bit, sometimes with motion.
  • This is a major annoyance in Folklore.
  • Wild ARMs 3 crossed this with a gimmick called the {].
    • The ASK System allowed you to press for further information on a highlighted phrase or topic by selecting it. In practice, all it did was give you a small conversation tree that didn't give you that much more information than you would have otherwise gotten.
  • Xenosaga episode III colored words that you could "ask" about when overhearing someone else's conversation, leading to conversation trees.
  • Rayman 2 puts anything of remote importance in red. Particularly noticeable during the intro sequence, where you learn about the pirates led by Razorbeard who imprisoned Ly the fairy and broke the Heart of the World into 800 lums. Fortunately, Ly was able to send Globox to help Rayman escape from the pirates. And if you didn't notice the importance of the pirates the first time, don't worry; the game won't stop putting the word "pirates" in red. Ever.
  • Neverwinter Nights had the option; traditionally, normal text was displayed in white, skill checks in red, and actions in green.
  • In Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire, everyone has their own color-coded dialog. Dash, Luke, Leia, Leebo, Xizor, Guri, Palpatine. IG-88 and the nameless swoop jockey speak in white.
    • Similarly, the subtitles for Half Life 2 give a distinctive color to each character.
  • Dragon Spirit: The New Legend for the NES uses the Star Wars version of this.

AMRU and ARISHA were married and had twins named LACE and IRIS. AMRU became ill from his battle with ZAWEL. Meanwhile, GALDA started conquering the EARTH.

  • Umineko no Naku Koro ni features Rainbow Speak as a plot point. In it, any thing said in red is guaranteed to be true, while things said in blue are used for theories of possible explanations of events. This carries over to the anime adaption, making it possibly the only non-textual example.
    • As of Episode 5, Umineko has a third colour: gold. What gold is has yet to be expanded on.
      • It's pretty clear, actually. It's used for making statements that use Beato's rules as a basis for deduction.
    • And on the final Episode, there's purple, which is functionally the same as the red truth, except that anyone can use it, and only the culprit may lie using it.
  • Nethergate has no Dialogue Tree in the proper sense, instead letting you type in words to ask about. If a character mentions, say, Emperor Nero, asking about him will get the standard "I don't understand" message, but Emperor Nero indicates that they have something special to say about him if asked.
  • Eternal Darkness is all over this trope. There's your usual keywords, and then there's Chattur'gha, Ulyaoth, Xel'lotath, and Mantorok.
  • During the briefings of Descent: FreeSpace and its sequel, the names of friendly ships (like the GTD Galatea) are in green, while the names of enemy ships (like the SJ Sathanas) are in red. There is also purple for unknown-allied ships, but is rarely, if ever, used. These colors are also used during the game for targeting ships.
  • The Mario & Luigi series also use this trope, usually when referring to one of the brothers.
  • In Alone in the Dark' The New Nightmare, any info on the books you can find that's required to solve a puzzle is highlighted in red.
  • Sid Meier's Colonization uses this too, so that you can quickly get to the point without looking for the relevant parts in the text messages.
  • Spotted in Tetris Attack/Panel de Pon for Super NES.
  • Disney's Guilty Party; this trope, with the lie detector, makes it easier to find out whether someone is telling the truth or lying.
  • Golden Sun: Dark Dawn uses these like internet hyperlinks; if a phrase is in red then you can pull up a short encyclopedia article explaining it on the second screen (bright red means it's new or updated, dark red means the entry hasn't changed since the last time you saw it).
  • Assassin Blue marks Assassin Blue's and Red's names in blue and red respectively. A smaller version of this would appear again in Banov's another game Dubloon where the Chest and the key to it would be marked in yellow.
  • In the game Lux-Pain, in the pages that showed information on certain subjects, they would use this to indicate what type of information it was.
  • The intros to Hydlide and Hydlide II for the PC-88.
  • Throughout the Monkey Island series, Guybrush is the only character whose text is always white when he speaks, even when voices were added to the later Monkey Island games. Many characters often speak lines of dialogue in colors, with one text color attributed to each character's speech. In Tales of Monkey Island, for example, in forming subtitles, Elaine's text is "cameo pink", while Demon LeChuck's text is "asparagus green". Similarly, the Voodoo Lady's text is "thistle" (a shade of purple), the Marquis De Singe's text is "pink lace", and Morgan LeFlay's text is "munsell red".
  • Solatorobo uses red for items or people vital to the plot, green for important-but-not-quite-vital sentences, and (blue in parenthesis for thoughts or whispered words.)
  • If you talk to the villagers in Rune Factory 3 and they mention an item they like a lot or give you a hint regarding the storyline, it will be highlighted in blue. The things that Sophia and her father mean in the opposite are highlighted in red.
  • In Shantae: Risky's Revenge, important items and innuendos in dialogue are highlighted yellow.
  • Undertale has a lot of fun with this. Important hints are said in different colors, a particular pair of NPC have colored text to identify each speaker, and allusions to particular powers are said in the same colors such powers have in battle. In the Bad Route, the increasing use of red text is used to signify that the player character is increasingly hickjacked by the now deranged Fallen Child.

Web Comics

  • Homestuck has recently started using this trope. universe and universe, for example. Often, these differently colored words are also converted into animated GIFs and have a sort of supernatural sparkle to them. Then there's this particularly memorable piece of Angrish:

Hella Jeff: ahahahahaha just HOW high do you even have to BE just to DO something like that........

    • In an offshoot timeline where Gamzee succeeded in killing all the trolls minus Aradia, he used their blood to write a code in a book. Each letter used an alternating color of the rainbow. Literal Rainbow Speak.
    • Then there's the fact that all the kids and trolls speak with some color of the rainbow, with the colors corresponding to eye color for the kids and blood color for the trolls, with the exception of Karkat (who writes in slate gray to hide his blood color).
  • The webcomic Sodium Eyes started using distinctively colored speech balloons for each character, so that readers could more easily tell which lines of dialog were spoken by which character. It works so well it's surprising the technique wasn't employed by many comics long ago.
  • Gunnerkrigg Court also uses colored speech balloons for various characters, though the colors are very subtle.
  • MS Paint Masterpieces uses this for emphasis.
  • In Poink-Blank Assassin, [dead link] special words are highlighted with [brackets].
  • In Sinfest, Squigley's Mushroom Samba has significant words in color. Then, before that, he sees his "WOW" turn into a bird. . . .

Real Life

  • Closed captions sometimes give different characters different colors.
  • Subtitles for anime often use different colours for the different characters, especially while several are talking over each other (including background conversations); and plain white or yellow for translations of text (signs, newspapers, etc.) AnimEigo is known for this, and with the expanded color palette available on Blu-Ray discs, some of their releases give each character a different color font in the subtitles.
  • For aspiring authors writing their synopses, it is common practice to put the first instance of each character name in all caps. This is used both to denote importance and to help the agent/publisher in case they need to reference back who a character with a certain name is.

--In loving memory of User:CAD, who fell off the face of the Earth shortly after proposing this trope. May he forever exist in the memory of children everywhere. Goodnight, Sweet Prince.

  1. But not The Father. It's complicated