adjective, black·er, black·est.
- pertaining or belonging to any of the various populations characterized by dark skin pigmentation, specifically the dark-skinned peoples of Africa, Oceania, and Australia.
- African American:The exhibit featured the work of young Black artists from New York.
- a member of any of various dark-skinned peoples, especially those of Africa, Oceania, and Australia.
- African American.
verb (used with object)
verb (used without object)
- to lose consciousness: He blacked out at the sight of blood.
- to erase, obliterate, or suppress: News reports were blacked out.
- to forget everything relating to a particular event, person, etc.: When it came to his war experiences he blacked out completely.
- Theater. to extinguish all of the stage lights.
- to make or become inoperable: to black out the radio broadcasts from the U.S.
- Military. to obscure by concealing all light in defense against air raids.
- Radio and Television. to impose a broadcast blackout on (an area).
- to withdraw or cancel (a special fare, sale, discount, etc.) for a designated period: The special airfare discount will be blacked out by the airlines over the holiday weekend.
- print or writing: I want that agreement in black and white.
- a monochromatic picture done with black and white only.
- a chocolate soda containing vanilla ice cream.
- Slang. a highly recognizable police car, used to patrol a community.
Origin of black
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.
British Dictionary definitions for in the black (1 of 3)
- wicked or harmfula black lie
- (in combination)black-hearted
- a black or dark-coloured piece or square
- (usually capital) the player playing with such pieces
Word Origin for black
British Dictionary definitions for in the black (2 of 3)
British Dictionary definitions for in the black (3 of 3)
Word Origin and History for in the black (1 of 3)
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.
Word Origin and History for in the black (1 of 3)
Word Origin and History for in the black (2 of 3)
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]
Medicine definitions for in the black
Science definitions for in the black
Idioms and Phrases with in the black (1 of 2)
in the black
see under in the red.
Idioms and Phrases with in the black (2 of 2)
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
- dirty (black) look
- in the red (black)
- look black
- paint black
- pot calling the kettle black