See more synonyms for black on
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.

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 formsblack·ish, adjectiveblack·ish·ly, adverbblack·ish·ness, nounnon·black, adjective, nounun·blacked, adjectivewell-blacked, adjective

Synonyms for black

See more synonyms for on

Antonyms for black

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.


  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. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for black

Contemporary Examples of black

Historical Examples of black

  • A vote was taken on the question of exile, and the black pebbles predominated.


    Lydia Maria Child

  • “Moors be not all black, neither be they all worshippers of Mahound,” replied Ambrose.

    The Armourer's Prentices

    Charlotte M. Yonge

  • No; it has two stacks; and it's not your people because the Lotus is black.

    The Spenders

    Harry Leon Wilson

  • But this slab of black basalt was different from anything that had ever been discovered.

    Ancient Man

    Hendrik Willem van Loon

  • Many of them were black, and a good share were of the female sex.

British Dictionary definitions for black


  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
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


  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


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


  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
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

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

black in Medicine


[blăk]Sir James Whyte Born 1924
  1. 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.

black in Science


[blăk]Sir James Whyte 1924-2010
  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.


Joseph 1728-1799
  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.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Idioms and Phrases with 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.