Nearby words

  1. bl lac object,
  2. bl.,
  3. blab,
  4. blabber,
  5. blabbermouth,
  6. black acacia,
  7. black alder,
  8. black and blue,
  9. black and tan,
  10. black and tan coonhound

Idioms

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

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.

Black

[ blak ]
/ blæk /

noun

Hugo Lafayette,1886–1971, U.S. political official: associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court 1937–71.
(Sir) James Whyte [hwahyt, wahyt] /ʰwaɪt, waɪt/, 1924–2010, English pharmacologist: Nobel prize 1988.
Joseph,1728–99, Scottish physician and chemist.
Shirley Temple. Temple, Shirley.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for black


British Dictionary definitions for black

black

/ (blæk) /

adjective

noun

verb

See also blackout

Derived Formsblackish, adjectiveblackishly, adverbblackly, adverbblackness, noun

Word Origin for black

Old English blæc; related to Old Saxon blak ink, Old High German blakra to blink

Black

1
/ (blæk) /

noun

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

adjective

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

usage

Talking about a Black or Blacks is considered offensive and it is better to talk about a Black person, Black people

Black

2
/ (blæk) /

noun

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

Word Origin and History for black
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Medicine definitions for black

Black

[ blăk ]
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.

Science definitions for black

Black

[ blăk ]
Sir James Whyte 1924-2010

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.

Black

Joseph 1728-1799

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.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Idioms and Phrases with black

black

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
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.