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.
  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
Related formsblack·ball·er, noun

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

Related Words for blackballed

blacklist, ostracize, oust, veto, debar, repudiate, snub, reject, ban, exclude

Examples from the Web for blackballed

Contemporary Examples of blackballed

Historical Examples of blackballed

British Dictionary definitions for blackballed


  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
verb (tr)
  1. to vote against in a ballot
  2. to exclude (someone) from a group, profession, etc; ostracize

Word Origin for 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

Word Origin and History for blackballed



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.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

blackballed 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.


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.