Represent someone or something as evil or harmful. This idiom is most often used in a negative context, as in He's not so black as he's been painted. [Late 1500s]
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The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.