Lizards display structural and pigment-based colorations, and their visual system is sensitive to wavelengths of 300–700 nm. However, few studies in squamate reptiles have quantified interindividual colour variation that includes the structural ultraviolet (UV) component (300–400 nm). In the present study, we investigated variability of a ventral UV/yellow–red ornamentation in the common lizard Zootoca vivipara, including an analysis of spatial distribution, as well as sex and age differences. We also investigated whether the expression of coloration is related to body size and condition. Our analyses revealed two distinct patches: a gular patch with a strong UV reflectance and a belly patch with a dominant yellow–red reflectance. Males displayed a less saturated throat coloration with higher UV chroma and UV hue, and had a redder but duller belly coloration than females. Yearlings had less elaborate ornaments than adults, although they already displayed a yellow–red sexual dichromatism on the belly. UV sexual dichromatism was only apparent in adults as a result of a weaker UV reflectance in females, suggesting potential fitness costs of a bright UV coloration in that sex. Different colour traits were related to body size in both sexes, as well as to body condition in males. We discuss the potential evolutionary scenarios leading to the maintenance of this ornament in common lizards. © 2013 The Linnean Society of London, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2013, 110, 128–141.