The lyrics are based on a home video of Bono's mother where she is wearing lemon (yellow). She died when Bono was 14. "I have very few memories of my mother because my father never talked about her after she died," Bono writes in the band bio U2 by U2. "So it was a very strange experience to receive, in the post, from a very distant relative, Super 8 footage of my mother, aged 24, younger than me, playing a game of rounders in slow motion. This beautiful, young Irish girl, with a narrow waist, curvaceous figure, dark gypsy hair. The film was early color and it looked extraordinary. It was a wedding, where she was the maid of honor in this beautiful lemon dress."
Of the lyrics Bono says, "There were two things going on at once, memory and loss, a portrait of a girl in a shimmering lemon dress that kept it sexy and playful and the pathos of a man separated from the things he loves... 'Lemon' is about leaving home, versus not leaving home."