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[blak] /blæk/
adjective, blacker, blackest.
lacking hue and brightness; absorbing light without reflecting any of the rays composing it.
characterized by absence of light; enveloped in darkness:
a black night.
(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.
soiled or stained with dirt:
That shirt was black within an hour.
gloomy; pessimistic; dismal:
a black outlook.
deliberately; harmful; inexcusable:
a black lie.
boding ill; sullen or hostile; threatening:
black words; black looks.
(of coffee or tea) without milk or cream.
without any moral quality or goodness; evil; wicked:
His black heart has concocted yet another black deed.
indicating censure, disgrace, or liability to punishment:
a black mark on one's record.
marked by disaster or misfortune:
black areas of drought; Black Friday.
wearing black or dark clothing or armor:
the black prince.
based on the grotesque, morbid, or unpleasant aspects of life:
black comedy; black humor.
(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.
illegal or underground:
The black economy pays no taxes.
showing a profit; not showing any losses:
the first black quarter in two years.
deliberately false or intentionally misleading:
black propaganda.
British. boycotted, as certain goods or products by a trade union.
(of steel) in the form in which it comes from the rolling mill or forge; unfinished.
the color at one extreme end of the scale of grays, opposite to white, absorbing all light incident upon it.
Compare white (def 19).
(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.
black clothing, especially as a sign of mourning:
He wore black at the funeral.
Chess, Checkers. the dark-colored men or pieces or squares.
black pigment:
lamp black.
Slang. black beauty.
a horse or other animal that is entirely black.
verb (used with object)
to make black; put black on; blacken.
British. to boycott or ban.
to polish (shoes, boots, etc.) with blacking.
verb (used without object)
to become black; take on a black color; blacken.
(of coffee or tea) served without milk or cream.
Verb phrases
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. Theater. to extinguish all of the stage lights.
  5. to make or become inoperable:
    to black out the radio broadcasts from the U.S.
  6. Military. to obscure by concealing all light in defense against air raids.
  7. Radio and Television. to 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.
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.
black or white, completely either one way or another, without any intermediate state.
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.
Origin of black
before 900; Middle English blak, Old English blæc; cognate with Old High German blah-; akin to Old Norse blakkr black, blek ink
Related forms
blackish, adjective
blackishly, adverb
blackishness, noun
nonblack, adjective, noun
unblacked, adjective
well-blacked, adjective
1. dark, dusky; sooty, inky; swart, swarthy; sable, ebony. 4. dirty, dingy. 5. sad, depressing, somber, doleful, mournful, funereal. 7. disastrous, calamitous. 9. sinful, inhuman, fiendish, devilish, infernal, monstrous; atrocious, horrible; nefarious, treacherous, traitorous, villainous.
1. white. 4. clean. 5. hopeful, cheerful.
Usage note
3, 21. Black, colored, and Negro—words that describe or name the dark-skinned peoples of sub-Saharan Africa and their descendants—have had a complex social history in the United States. A term that was once acceptable may now be offensive, and one that was once offensive may now be acceptable. Colored, for example, first used in colonial North America, was an appropriate referential term until the 1920s, when it was supplanted by Negro. Now colored is perceived not only as old-fashioned but offensive. It survives primarily in the name of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), an organization formed when the word was not considered derogatory. Describing someone as “a person of color,” however, is not offensive. That term, an inclusive one that can refer to anyone who is not white, is frequently used by members of the African American community.
Negro remained the overwhelming term of choice until the mid-1960s. That decade saw a burgeoning civil-rights movement, which furthered a sense that Negro was contaminated by its long association with discrimination as well as its closeness to the disparaging and deeply offensive n-word. The emergence of the black power movement fostered the emergence of black as a primary descriptive term, as in “black pride.” By the mid-1970s black had become common within and outside the black community. But Negro has not entirely disappeared. It remains in the names of such organizations as the United Negro College Fund, people still refer to Negro spirituals, and some older people of color continue to identify with the term they have known since childhood. Negro then, while not offensive in established or historical contexts, is now looked upon in contemporary speech and writing as not only antiquated but highly likely to offend.
Black remains perhaps the single most widely used term today. It has outlived the briefly popular Afro-American and, when used as an adjective, is unlikely to cause negative reactions. As a noun, however, when referring to African Americans, it does often offend—perhaps because references to “the blacks” or “a black” lead easily to misguided generalizations. But note the newer term. The 1990s saw black leaders like Jesse Jackson promote African American, which he said had “cultural integrity,” in that it refers to ethnic origins rather than to skin color. While African American has not replaced black in common parlance, it works both as a noun and as an adjective.
This shifting from term to term has not been smooth or linear, and periods of change like the late 1960s were often marked by confusion as to which term was appropriate. The 1967 groundbreaking film Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, about a young interracial couple hoping that both sets of parents will accept their plans to marry, reflects the abundance of terminological choices available at the time. Various characters talk of a “colored girl,” a “colored man,” a “Negro,” and “black people.” Even the n-word appears once, used disparagingly by one black character to another. African American had not yet made it into the mix. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for black out
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • And if troubles had been black out West, they was black and blue in N'York!

    Vision House C. N. Williamson
  • But there was no easing of the pain that threatened to make him black out at any second.

    The Sky Is Falling Lester del Rey
  • When they reached that point, yelling, Barry raced his black out of range of all except the wildest chance shot.

    The Seventh Man Max Brand
  • Take my penny an go buy an oyster,thatll help get the black out.

    In Wild Rose Time Amanda M. Douglas
  • Then black out, and gallery green focus for dance, changing to ruby at cue, and white floods at chord off.

    Nights in London

    Thomas Burke
  • A lumber boat, with two very tall masts, was emerging gaunt and black out of the fog.

    Song of the Lark Willa Cather
  • The fire was black out, and the mill still grinding away at nothing in particular.

    Cats W. Gordon Stables
  • The fire was black out, and somehow things wore a more cheerless look than I had expected to find.

British Dictionary definitions for black out


of the colour of jet or carbon black, having no hue due to the absorption of all or nearly all incident light Compare white (sense 1)
without light; completely dark
without hope or alleviation; gloomy: the future looked black
very dirty or soiled: black factory chimneys
angry or resentful: she gave him black looks
(of a play or other work) dealing with the unpleasant realities of life, esp in a pessimistic or macabre manner: black comedy
(of coffee or tea) without milk or cream
causing, resulting from, or showing great misfortune: black areas of unemployment
  1. wicked or harmful: a black lie
  2. (in combination): black-hearted
causing or deserving dishonour or censure: a black crime
(of the face) purple, as from suffocation
(Brit) (of goods, jobs, works, etc) being subject to boycott by trade unionists, esp in support of industrial action elsewhere
a black colour
a dye or pigment of or producing this colour
black clothing, worn esp as a sign of mourning
(chess, draughts)
  1. a black or dark-coloured piece or square
  2. (usually capital) the player playing with such pieces
complete darkness: the black of the night
a black ball in snooker, etc
(in roulette and other gambling games) one of two colours on which players may place even bets, the other being red
in the black, in credit or without debt
(archery) a black ring on a target, between the outer and the blue, scoring three points
another word for blacken
(transitive) to polish (shoes, etc) with blacking
(transitive) to bruise so as to make black: he blacked her eye
(transitive) (Brit & Austral, NZ) (of trade unionists) to organize a boycott of (specified goods, jobs, work, etc), esp in support of industrial action elsewhere
See also blackout
Derived Forms
blackish, adjective
blackishly, adverb
blackly, adverb
blackness, noun
Word Origin
Old English blæc; related to Old Saxon blak ink, Old High German blakra to blink


a member of a human population having dark pigmentation of the skin
of or relating to a Black person or Black people: a Black neighbourhood
Usage note
Talking about a Black or Blacks is considered offensive and it is better to talk about a Black person, Black people


Sir James (Whyte). 1924–2010, British biochemist. He discovered beta-blockers and drugs for peptic ulcers: Nobel prize for physiology or medicine 1988
Joseph. 1728–99, Scottish physician and chemist, noted for his pioneering work on carbon dioxide and heat
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for black out



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]

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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black out in Medicine

Black (blāk), Sir James Whyte. Born 1924.

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

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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black out in Science
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.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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Slang definitions & phrases for black out

black out

verb phrase

  1. To faint; lose consciousness: He slugged me with something and I blacked out (1930s+ fr Aviation)
  2. To lose one's memory of something: He totally blacked out that evening (1930s+)
  3. To exclude an area from television coverage, esp of a sports event: The whole region was blacked out for the final game (1980s+)



  1. Secret: The plans for the Stealth bomber were kept in the military's black budget (1960s+)
  2. Of coffee, without cream or milk

Related Terms

in the black

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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Idioms and Phrases with black out

black out

Obliterate with black, as in crossing out words on a page or print on a screen. For example, They have blacked out all the obscene words in the subtitles to make this movie suitable for youngsters. This usage may be derived from an earlier meaning, “to stain or defame,” which dates from the 15th century (and probably alludes to “blackening” a person's reputation). [ Mid-1800s ]
Extinguish all lights. For example, The whole town was asleep, as blacked out as London during the war. In the early 1900s this expression alluded to the lights in a theater, but from about 1940 on it meant darkening an entire city to hide it from enemy bombers.
Lose consciousness, faint; also, experience a temporary loss of memory. For example, I couldn't remember a single note of the music; I blacked out completely, or The accused man claims he blacked out after his first drink. This usage is thought to have originated with pilots, who sometimes fainted briefly when pulling out of a power dive. It soon was transferred to other losses of consciousness or memory. [ c. 1940 ]
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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