[ blak-ing ]
/ ˈblæk ɪŋ /


any preparation for producing a black coating or finish, as on shoes or stoves.



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Origin of blacking

First recorded in 1590–1600; black + -ing1

Definition for blacking (2 of 2)

Origin of black

First recorded before 900; Middle English blak, Old English blæc; cognate with Old High German blah-; akin to Old Norse blakkr “black,” blek “ink”

usage note for black

2, 21. Black is sometimes capitalized when used in reference to people. It is considered a sign of respect to capitalize the initial letter (Black) in this context, which is especially important in the language of identity. The case for capitalizing Black is supported by the fact that the names of many other ethnic groups and nationalities use initial capital letters, e.g. Hispanic.
Black as an adjective referring to a person or people is unlikely to cause negative reactions. As a noun, however, it does often offend. The use of the plural noun without an article is somewhat more accepted (home ownership among Blacks ); however, the plural noun with an article is more likely to offend (political issues affecting the Blacks ), and the singular noun is always strongly dispreferred (the small business proprietor is a Black ). Use the adjective instead: Black homeowners, Black voters, a Black business proprietor. 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.
In the United States, there is a complex social history for words that name or describe the dark-skinned peoples of sub-Saharan Africa and their descendants. 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 usually offensive. That term, an inclusive one that can refer to anyone who is not white, is frequently used by members of the Black community. Using “of color” can emphasize commonalities in nonwhite lives. However, when referring to a group of people who are all Black it is more appropriate to be specific. Failure to explicitly reference blackness when it is exclusively appropriate, generalizing “Black” to “of color,” can be a form of erasure.
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 Black people continue to identify with the term they have known since childhood. So Negro , 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.
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.” The N-word appears once, used disparagingly by one Black character to another. African American had not yet made it into the mix.

historical usage of black

See urban.

OTHER WORDS FROM black Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2020

Example sentences from the Web for blacking

British Dictionary definitions for blacking (1 of 4)

/ (ˈblækɪŋ) /


any preparation, esp one containing lampblack, for giving a black finish to shoes, metals, etc

British Dictionary definitions for blacking (2 of 4)

/ (blæk) /




See also blackout

Derived forms of black

blackish, adjectiveblackishly, adverbblackly, adverbblackness, noun

Word Origin for black

Old English blæc; related to Old Saxon blak ink, Old High German blakra to blink

British Dictionary definitions for blacking (3 of 4)

/ (blæk) /


a member of a human population having dark pigmentation of the skin


of or relating to a Black person or Black peoplea Black neighbourhood

usage for Black

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

British Dictionary definitions for blacking (4 of 4)

/ (blæk) /


Sir James (Whyte). 1924–2010, British biochemist. He discovered beta-blockers and drugs for peptic ulcers: Nobel prize for physiology or medicine 1988
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

Medical definitions for blacking

[ blăk ]
Sir James Whyte Born 1924

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.

Scientific definitions for blacking

[ blăk ]
Sir James Whyte 1924-2010

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

Idioms and Phrases with blacking


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