black sheep

See more synonyms for black sheep on Thesaurus.com
noun
  1. a sheep with black fleece.
  2. a person who causes shame or embarrassment because of deviation from the accepted standards of his or her group.

Origin of black sheep

First recorded in 1785–95
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words for black sheep

pariah, outcast, prodigal, reject, reprobate

Examples from the Web for black sheep

Contemporary Examples of black sheep

  • Clinton jokes that Barbara Bush refers to him as her “black-sheep son.”

    The Daily Beast logo
    Bush’s Hidden Legacy

    Eleanor Clift

    May 31, 2012

Historical Examples of black sheep

  • Well, perhaps he was ashamed of me, for I was the black-sheep of the flock.

    A Modern Aladdin

    Howard Pyle

  • But no matter—— There'd be intellectual conversation for the benefit of black-sheep new chums.


British Dictionary definitions for black sheep

black sheep

noun
  1. a person who is regarded as a disgrace or failure by his family or peer group
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 sheep
n.

by 1822 in figurative sense of "member of some group guilty of offensive conduct and unlike the other members," supposedly because a real black sheep had wool that could not be dyed and was thus worth less. But one black sheep in a flock was considered good luck by shepherds in Sussex, Somerset, Kent, Derbyshire. Baa Baa Black Sheep nursery rhyme's first known publication is in "Tommy Thumb's Pretty Song Book" (c.1744).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

black sheep in Culture

black sheep

A person who is considered a disgrace to a particular group, usually a family: “Uncle Jack, who was imprisoned for forgery, is the black sheep of the family.”

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Idioms and Phrases with black sheep

black sheep

The least reputable member of a group; a disgrace. For example, Uncle Fritz was the black sheep of the family; we always thought he emigrated to Argentina to avoid jail. This metaphor is based on the idea that black sheep were less valuable than white ones because it was more difficult to dye their wool different colors. Also, in the 16th century, their color was considered the devil's mark. By the 18th century the term was widely used as it is today, for the odd member of a group.

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