What Does Paint the Town Red Mean?

Paint the Town Red Meaning

Definition: To celebrate with abandon; to have a wild outing.

Origin of Paint the Town Red

The exact origins of this expression are unclear. One of its first uses in print as we know it today was in an 1884 edition of the Boston Journal:

  • Whenever there was any excitement or anybody got particularly loud, they always said somebody was “painting the town red.”

Some sources speculate that it comes from a wild night in the year 1837 when the Marquis of Waterford literally painted several buildings red with his friends. This man was famous for having many nights of mayhem.

However, there is no evidence to support this event as the source of the idiom.

Examples of Paint the Town Red

paint the town red origin In the example below, two friends are discussing what to do for the evening.

Ted: Do you want to do something together tonight?

Rufio: Sure! It’s Saturday, so of course I want to do something really fun. What do you want to do?

Ted: I was thinking that we could do a puzzle.

Rufio: Are you serious? A puzzle doesn’t sound that fun. I think we should go out.

Ted: Okay. We could go out and have dinner. Then we could come back and watch a movie on TV.

Rufio: No, no, no. That’s boring. You never do anything exciting. Tonight, we’re painting the town red. We’re going to go to a few bars, get drunk, then go out to nightclubs, and then we’ll see where the night takes us! Let’s get wild! We’ll party until dawn!

what does it mean to paint the town red This dialogue shows two friends talking together about an old memory they have of their days in university.

Zayna: Do you remember when we used to go out and paint the town red every weekend, back when we were in college?

Ben: Of course I do! How could I forget?

Zayna: We used to gamble recklessly in casinos, meet strangers and go on adventures with them, and drink until we were way too drunk. Do you ever miss those days?

Ben: Yeah. Sometimes. But I’m older now, and I like having more relaxed weekends.

Zayna: Yeah, me too.

More Examples

The excerpt below is about how to enjoy a night out for cheap.

  • Manhattan may seem like the most expensive place in America — you could make $10,000 disappear in a weekend if you really wanted — but it can also be cheap. Even with just $100, you can paint the town red without going into the red. –New York Times

This excerpt explains that violence is more likely when people are acting wildly. The article gives examples about nightclub stabbings.

  • More stabbings occur when city residents paint the town red, cops said Tuesday. –New York Daily News

Summary

The saying paint the town red means to go out, usually to bars, and have a night of debauchery.