Origin of "seeing red"?

I didn’t see this answered over at The Word Detective and my Google search has so far proven fruitless, so let me ask here: What is the history of the phrase “seeing red” to denote anger?

One guess I have is that it refers to the myth that bulls become enraged at the sight of red (I say “myth” because bulls are, I believe, color-blind and are simply reacting to the motion of the bullfighter’s cape, which just so happens to traditionally be red).

Another guess is that it means that somebody is so mad that they are boiling (i.e., “red”) hot.

Of course, another guess is simply that when people are truly angry, perhaps they really do have red vision (I wouldn’t know, since I’ve never gotten that angry).

Anybody know the straight dope?


Yes, when one gets angry enough, one’s vision does turn red. Been there. Why? For the same reason one’s face turns red with anger, I guess. Blood suffusing the tissues.

Well, one of the origins I’m aware of can be seen here..
Hope that helps! :wink:

It might also refer to the person being angry enough to envision the blood of the one that angered them spilled everywhere…

get upset enough and blood rushes to your face, even your eyes… you ‘see red’