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verb (used with object)
  1. to vote against (a candidate, applicant, etc.).
  2. to exclude socially; ostracize: The whole town blackballed them.
  3. to reject (a candidate) by placing a blackball in the ballot box.
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  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.
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Origin of blackball

First recorded in 1760–70; black + ball1
Related formsblack·ball·er, noun


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

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British Dictionary definitions for blackball


  1. a negative vote or veto
  2. a black wooden ball used to indicate disapproval or to veto in a vote
  3. NZ a hard boiled sweet with black-and-white stripes
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verb (tr)
  1. to vote against in a ballot
  2. to exclude (someone) from a group, profession, etc; ostracize
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Word Origin

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

Word Origin and History for blackball


also black-ball, "to exclude from a club by adverse votes," 1770, from black (adj.) + ball (n.1). Black balls of wood or ivory dropped into an urn during secret ballots.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

blackball in Culture


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.

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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.