[ blak-bawl ]
See synonyms for: blackballblackballedblackballing on

verb (used with object)
  1. to vote against (a candidate, applicant, etc.).

  2. to exclude socially; ostracize: The whole town blackballed them.

  1. to reject (a candidate) by placing a blackball in the ballot box.

  1. a negative vote, especially in deciding on an applicant or candidate.

  2. a black ball placed in a ballot box signifying a negative vote.

Origin of blackball

First recorded in 1760–70; black + ball1

Other words for blackball

Other words from blackball

  • blackballer, noun

Words Nearby blackball Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2024

How to use blackball in a sentence

  • A radio executive said the Bush White House told them explicitly who they were expected to blackball from their airwaves.

    Karl Rove's Flameout | Matt Latimer | October 22, 2010 | THE DAILY BEAST
  • Citi, however, is setting the standard, as epitomized by its Mike Mayo blackball.

    Do Banks Still Play Us for Fools? | Charlie Gasparino | September 13, 2010 | THE DAILY BEAST
  • How had he, a useless old fogy, dared to blackball a man like Iver?

    Tristram of Blent | Anthony Hope
  • Do not they abuse you behind your back, and blackball you at societies where they have had the honour to propose you?

    Tancred | Benjamin Disraeli
  • You may be sure some of the proud people and most of the parvenus of the Club were ready to blackball him.

    The Book of Snobs | William Makepeace Thackeray

British Dictionary definitions for blackball


/ (ˈblækˌbɔːl) /

  1. a negative vote or veto

  2. a black wooden ball used to indicate disapproval or to veto in a vote

  1. NZ a hard boiled sweet with black-and-white stripes

  1. to vote against in a ballot

  2. to exclude (someone) from a group, profession, etc; ostracize

Origin of blackball

C18: see sense 2

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

Cultural definitions for blackball


A rejection of an applicant's membership in a private organization, such as a club or fraternity. The term is derived from the traditional practice of members voting anonymously on admitting new members, using either a white marble (acceptance) or a black marble (denial). Acceptance must be unanimous; therefore, one black marble in the ballot box is enough to keep the applicant out of the organization.

Notes for blackball

The term is now applied generally to efforts — especially unreasonable or vengeful actions — to keep a people or groups out of organizations they wish to join.

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.