green around the gills


green around the gills


  • someone who looks sick or nauseated.
  • to indicate someone who is feeling unwell or experiencing discomfort, whether physically or emotionally.
  • also used to refer to motion sickness, car sickness, or even seasickness.
  • the drooling seen before vomiting and the overindulgence that causes it are associated with this phrase.

Example Sentences

  1. The sight of blood always makes her go green around the gills.
  2. After the boat hit rough waters, everyone aboard started to look green around the gills.
  3. His face turned green around the gills as soon as he stepped off the spinning amusement park ride.
  4. She became green around the gills when she saw the moldy sandwich in the refrigerator.
  5. Even the mention of heights makes him go green around the gills.

Origin and History

The use of the color green to describe the complexion of an ailing individual has been documented since around 1300, while the term “gills” has referred to the flesh around human jaws and ears since the 1600s. Though in the 1800s, the colors white and yellow were also associated with gills to suggest illness, the alliterative choice of green has persisted through time.

“Gills,” typically associated with the organs through which fish breathe, has also been used since the early 1600s to describe the flesh under the jaws and ears of humans. The phrase “to look green around the gills,” indicating illness, has been in use since 1628. It’s among several expressions describing various states of illness or well-being, such as “green, yellow, blue, white, rosy,” in reference to one’s complexion.

Another theory suggests that the phrase actually originated in nautical terminology. In maritime tradition, sailors have long used descriptive language to communicate various conditions or states of being. One such condition was seasickness, which often caused individuals to become pale or greenish in complexion due to the nausea and discomfort experienced while at sea.

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