adjective, black·er, black·est.

  1. lacking hue and brightness; absorbing light without reflecting any of the rays composing it.
  2. characterized by absence of light; enveloped in darkness: a black night.
  3. (sometimes initial capital letter)
    1. pertaining or belonging to any of the various populations characterized by dark skin pigmentation, specifically the dark-skinned peoples of Africa, Oceania, and Australia.
    2. African American.
  4. soiled or stained with dirt: That shirt was black within an hour.
  5. gloomy; pessimistic; dismal: a black outlook.
  6. deliberately; harmful; inexcusable: a black lie.
  7. boding ill; sullen or hostile; threatening: black words; black looks.
  8. (of coffee or tea) without milk or cream.
  9. without any moral quality or goodness; evil; wicked: His black heart has concocted yet another black deed.
  10. indicating censure, disgrace, or liability to punishment: a black mark on one’s record.
  11. marked by disaster or misfortune: black areas of drought; Black Friday.
  12. wearing black or dark clothing or armor: the black prince.
  13. based on the grotesque, morbid, or unpleasant aspects of life: black comedy; black humor.
  14. (of a check mark, flag, etc.) done or written in black to indicate, as on a list, that which is undesirable, substandard, potentially dangerous, etc.: Pilots put a black flag next to the ten most dangerous airports.
  15. illegal or underground: The black economy pays no taxes.
  16. showing a profit; not showing any losses: the first black quarter in two years.
  17. deliberately false or intentionally misleading: black propaganda.
  18. British. boycotted, as certain goods or products by a trade union.
  19. (of steel) in the form in which it comes from the rolling mill or forge; unfinished.


  1. the color at one extreme end of the scale of grays, opposite to white, absorbing all light incident upon it.Compare white(def 19).
  2. (sometimes initial capital letter)
    1. a member of any of various dark-skinned peoples, especially those of Africa, Oceania, and Australia.
    2. Often Offensive.African American.
  3. black clothing, especially as a sign of mourning: He wore black at the funeral.
  4. Chess, Checkers. the dark-colored men or pieces or squares.
  5. black pigment: lamp black.
  6. Slang. black beauty.
  7. a horse or other animal that is entirely black.

verb (used with object)

  1. to make black; put black on; blacken.
  2. British. to boycott or ban.
  3. to polish (shoes, boots, etc.) with blacking.

verb (used without object)

  1. to become black; take on a black color; blacken


  1. (of coffee or tea) served without milk or cream.

Verb Phrases

  1. black out,
    1. to lose consciousness: He blacked out at the sight of blood.
    2. to erase, obliterate, or suppress: News reports were blacked out.
    3. to forget everything relating to a particular event, person, etc.: When it came to his war experiences he blacked out completely.
    4. extinguish all of the stage lights.
    5. to make or become inoperable: to black out the radio broadcasts from the U.S.
    6. obscure by concealing all light in defense against air raids.
    7. Radio and impose a broadcast blackout on (an area).
    8. to withdraw or cancel (a special fare, sale, discount, etc.) for a designated period: The special air fare discount will be blacked out by the airlines over the holiday weekend.
  1. black and white,
    1. print or writing: I want that agreement in black and white.
    2. a monochromatic picture done with black and white only.
    3. a chocolate soda containing vanilla ice cream.
    4. Slang.a highly recognizable police car, used to patrol a community.
  2. black or white, completely either one way or another, without any intermediate state.
  3. in the black, operating at a profit or being out of debt (opposed to in the red): New production methods put the company in the black.


  1. Hugo Lafayette,1886–1971, U.S. political official: associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court 1937–71.
  2. (Sir) James Whyte [hwahyt, wahyt] /ʰwaɪt, waɪt/, 1924–2010, English pharmacologist: Nobel prize 1988.
  3. Joseph,1728–99, Scottish physician and chemist.
  4. Shirley Temple. Temple, Shirley.


  1. of the colour of jet or carbon black, having no hue due to the absorption of all or nearly all incident lightCompare white (def. 1)
  2. without light; completely dark
  3. without hope or alleviation; gloomythe future looked black
  4. very dirty or soiledblack factory chimneys
  5. angry or resentfulshe gave him black looks
  6. (of a play or other work) dealing with the unpleasant realities of life, esp in a pessimistic or macabre mannerblack comedy
  7. (of coffee or tea) without milk or cream
  8. causing, resulting from, or showing great misfortuneblack areas of unemployment
    1. wicked or harmfula black lie
    2. (in combination)black-hearted
  9. causing or deserving dishonour or censurea black crime
  10. (of the face) purple, as from suffocation
  11. British (of goods, jobs, works, etc) being subject to boycott by trade unionists, esp in support of industrial action elsewhere


  1. a black colour
  2. a dye or pigment of or producing this colour
  3. black clothing, worn esp as a sign of mourning
  4. chess draughts
    1. a black or dark-coloured piece or square
    2. (usually capital)the player playing with such pieces
  5. complete darknessthe black of the night
  6. a black ball in snooker, etc
  7. (in roulette and other gambling games) one of two colours on which players may place even bets, the other being red
  8. in the black in credit or without debt
  9. archery a black ring on a target, between the outer and the blue, scoring three points


  1. another word for blacken
  2. (tr) to polish (shoes, etc) with blacking
  3. (tr) to bruise so as to make blackhe blacked her eye
  4. (tr) British, Australian and NZ (of trade unionists) to organize a boycott of (specified goods, jobs, work, etc), esp in support of industrial action elsewhere


  1. a member of a human population having dark pigmentation of the skin


  1. of or relating to a Black person or Black peoplea Black neighbourhood


  1. Sir James (Whyte). 1924–2010, British biochemist. He discovered beta-blockers and drugs for peptic ulcers: Nobel prize for physiology or medicine 1988
  2. Joseph . 1728–99, Scottish physician and chemist, noted for his pioneering work on carbon dioxide and heat

Old English blæc “dark,” from Proto-Germanic *blakaz “burned” (cf. Old Norse blakkr “dark,” Old High German blah “black,” Swedish bläck “ink,” Dutch blaken “to burn”), from PIE *bhleg- “to burn, gleam, shine, flash” (cf. Greek phlegein “to burn, scorch,” Latin flagrare “to blaze, glow, burn”), from root *bhel- (1) “to shine, flash, burn;” see bleach (v.).

The same root produced Old English blac “bright, shining, glittering, pale;” the connecting notions being, perhaps, “fire” (bright) and “burned” (dark). The usual Old English word for “black” was sweart (see swart). According to OED: “In ME. it is often doubtful whether blac, blak, blake, means ‘black, dark,’ or ‘pale, colourless, wan, livid.’ ” Used of dark-skinned people in Old English.

Of coffee, first attested 1796. Meaning “fierce, terrible, wicked” is late 14c. The color of sin and sorrow since at least c.1300; sense of “with dark purposes, malignant” emerged 1580s (e.g. black magic). Black face in reference to a performance style originated in U.S., is from 1868. Black flag, flown (especially by pirates) as a signal of “no mercy,” from 1590s. Black dog “melancholy” attested from 1826. Black belt is from 1875 in reference to districts of the U.S. South with heaviest African population; 1870 with reference to fertility of soil; 1913 in judo sense. Black power is from 1966, associated with Stokely Carmichael.


c.1200, “to become black;” early 14c., “to make black, darken;” from black (adj.). Related: Blacked; blacking.


Old English blæc “the color black,” also “ink,” from noun use of black (adj.). From late 14c. as “dark spot in the pupil of the eye.” The meaning “black person, African” is from 1620s (perhaps late 13c., and blackamoor is from 1540s). To be in the black (1922) is from the accounting practice of recording credits and balances in black ink.

For years it has been a common practice to use red ink instead of black in showing a loss or deficit on corporate books, but not until the heavy losses of 1921 did the contrast in colors come to have a widely understood meaning. [“Saturday Evening Post,” July 22, 1922]

  1. British pharmacologist. He shared a 1988 Nobel Prize for developing drugs to treat heart disease and stomach and duodenal ulcers.

  1. British pharmacologist who discovered the first beta-blocker, which led to the development of safer and more effective drugs to treat high blood pressure and heart disease. Black also developed a blocker for gastric acid production that revolutionized the treatment of stomach ulcers. He shared with Gertrude Elion and George Hitchings the 1988 Nobel Prize for physiology or medicine.

  1. British chemist who in 1756 discovered carbon dioxide, which he called “fixed air.” In addition to further studies of carbon dioxide, Black formulated the concepts of latent heat and heat capacity.

In addition to the idioms beginning with black

  • black and blue
  • black and white
  • black as night
  • black book
  • black eye
  • black hole
  • black list
  • black look
  • black mark
  • black out
  • black sheep

also see:

  • dirty (black) look
  • in the red (black)
  • look black
  • paint black
  • pot calling the kettle black

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