false colors

the flag of a country other than one's own, especially when used deceptively.
false or deceptive actions or statements; misrepresentation.

1565–75, for literal sense

Dictionary.com Unabridged

false color

photography using infrared-sensitive film that produces images in which heat-emitting areas or objects appear red.


false-color, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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American Heritage
Idioms & Phrases

false colors

Pretense, misrepresentation, or hypocrisy; deceptive statements or actions. For example, She's sailing under false colorsshe claims to be a Republican, but endorses Democratic legislation. This term alludes to the practice of pirate ships sailing under false colorsthat is, running a particular flag specifically to lure another vessel close enough to be captured. [Late 1600s]

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
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Example sentences
Bathymetric maps often use false colors to illustrate different aquatic depths.
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