adjective, black·er, black·est.
- pertaining or belonging to any of the various populations characterized by dark skin pigmentation, specifically the dark-skinned peoples of Africa, Oceania, and Australia.
- African American.
- a member of any of various dark-skinned peoples, especially those of Africa, Oceania, and Australia.
- Often Offensive.African American.
verb (used with object)
verb (used without object)
- to lose consciousness: He blacked out at the sight of blood.
- to erase, obliterate, or suppress: News reports were blacked out.
- to forget everything relating to a particular event, person, etc.: When it came to his war experiences he blacked out completely.
- Theater.to extinguish all of the stage lights.
- to make or become inoperable: to black out the radio broadcasts from the U.S.
- Military.to obscure by concealing all light in defense against air raids.
- Radio and Television.to impose a broadcast blackout on (an area).
- 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.
- print or writing: I want that agreement in black and white.
- a monochromatic picture done with black and white only.
- a chocolate soda containing vanilla ice cream.
- Slang.a highly recognizable police car, used to patrol a community.
Origin of black
Synonyms for black
Antonyms for black
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.
Related Words for black outdarken, faint, erase, extinguish, batten, conceal, eclipse, eradicate, obfuscate, quash, shade, smother, squash, squelch, stifle, suppress, swoon, collapse
- wicked or harmfula black lie
- (in combination)black-hearted
- a black or dark-coloured piece or square
- (usually capital)the player playing with such pieces
Word Origin for black
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.
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]
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]
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
- dirty (black) look
- in the red (black)
- look black
- paint black
- pot calling the kettle black