black

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See also: Black and bläck

English[edit]

A cup of black coffee.
A black man.

Alternative forms[edit]

Pronunciation[edit]

Etymology[edit]

From Middle English blak, black, blake, from Old English blæc (black, dark", also "ink), from Proto-West Germanic *blak, from Proto-Germanic *blakaz (burnt) (compare Dutch blaken (to burn), Low German blak, black (blackness, black paint, (black) ink)[1], Old High German blah (black)), possibly from Proto-Indo-European *bʰleg- (to burn, shine) (compare Latin flagrāre (to burn), Ancient Greek φλόξ (phlóx, flame), Sanskrit भर्ग (bharga, radiance)). More at bleach.

Adjective[edit]

black (comparative blacker or more black, superlative blackest or most black)

  1. (of an object) Absorbing all light and reflecting none; dark and hueless.
  2. (of a place, etc) Without light.
  3. (sometimes capitalized) Belonging to or descended from any of various (African, Aboriginal, etc) ethnic groups which typically have dark pigmentation of the skin. (See usage notes below.)
    • 1975 May, Terry Hodges, in Ebony, page 10:
      I am a young, light-skinned black woman, and truer words were never written of the problem we light-skinned blacks have had to live with. The article explains in-depth what it's like.
    • 2012 November 7, Matt Bai, “Winning a Second Term, Obama Will Confront Familiar Headwinds”, in New York Times[3]:
      The country’s first black president, and its first president to reach adulthood after the Vietnam War and Watergate, Mr. Obama seemed like a digital-age leader who could at last dislodge the stalemate between those who clung to the government of the Great Society, on the one hand, and those who disdained the very idea of government, on the other.
  4. (chiefly historical) Designated for use by those ethnic groups.
    black drinking fountain; black hospital
  5. (card games, of a card) Of the spades or clubs suits. Compare red (of the hearts or diamonds suit)
    I was dealt two red queens, and he got one of the black queens.
  6. Bad; evil; ill-omened.
    • 1655, Benjamin Needler, Expository notes, with practical observations; towards the opening of the five first chapters of the first book of Moses called Genesis. London: N. Webb and W. Grantham, page 168.
      ...what a black day would that be, when the Ordinances of Jesus Christ should as it were be excommunicated, and cast out of the Church of Christ.
    • 1749, Henry Fielding, The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling:
      Nor were there wanting some, who, after the departure of Jenny, insinuated that she was spirited away with a design too black to be mentioned, and who gave frequent hints that a legal inquiry ought to be made into the whole matter, and that some people should be forced to produce the girl.
  7. Expressing menace, or discontent; threatening; sullen.
    He shot her a black look.
    • 1902, John Buchan, The Outgoing of the Tide
      The lassie had grace given her to refuse, but with a woeful heart, and Heriotside rode off in black discontent, leaving poor Ailie to sigh her love. He came back the next day and the next, but aye he got the same answer.
  8. (of objects, markets, etc) Illegitimate, illegal or disgraced.
    • 1866, The Contemporary Review, London: A. Strahan, page 338.
      Foodstuffs were rationed and, as in other countries in a similar situation, the black market was flourishing.
  9. (Ireland, informal) Overcrowded.
  10. (of coffee or tea) Without any cream, milk, or creamer.
    Jim drinks his coffee black, but Ellen prefers it with creamer.
  11. (board games, chess) Of or relating to the playing pieces of a board game deemed to belong to the "black" set (in chess the set used by the player who moves second) (often regardless of the pieces' actual colour).
    The black pieces in this chess set are made of dark blue glass.
  12. (typography) Said of a symbol or character that is solid, filled with color. Compare white (said of a character or symbol outline, not filled with color).
    Compare two Unicode symbols: = "WHITE RIGHT POINTING INDEX"; = BLACK RIGHT POINTING INDEX
  13. (politics) Related to the Christian Democratic Union of Germany.
    After the election, the parties united in a black-yellow alliance.
  14. Clandestine; relating to a political, military, or espionage operation or site, the existence or details of which is withheld from the general public.
    5 percent of the Defense Department funding will go to black projects.
    black operations/black ops, black room, black site
  15. Occult; relating to something (such as mystical or magical knowledge) which is unknown to or kept secret from the general public.
    • 1936, Rollo Ahmed, The Black Art, London: Long, page 105:
      Pope Joan, who once occupied the throne of the Vatican, was reputed to be the blackest sorcerer of them all.
    • 2014, J.R.R. Tolkien, Beowulf: A Translation and Commentary, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (→ISBN), page 168:
      But a hel-rúne was one who knew secret black knowledge – and the association of hell with the dead shows that the gloss in O.H.G. 'necromancia' is very close.
  16. (Ireland, now derogatory) Protestant, often with the implication of being militantly pro-British or anti-Catholic. (Compare blackmouth ("Presbyterian").[2])
    the Black North (Ulster)
    the Royal Black Institution
    • 1812, Edward Wakefield, An Account of Ireland, Statistical and Political Vol. 2, p. 737:
      There is a district, comprehending Donegal, the interior of the county of Derry, and the western side of Tyrone, which is emphatically called by the people "the Black North," an expression not meant, as I conceive, to mark its greater exposure to the westerly winds, but rather its dreary aspect.
    • 1841 March 20, "Intelligence; Catholicity in Ulster" Catholic Herald (Bengal), Vol. 2 No. 1, p. 27:
      Even in the "black North"—in " Protestant Ulster"—Catholicity is progressing at a rate that must strike terror into its enemies, and impart pride and hope to the professors of the faith of our sainted forefathers.
    • 1886 Thomas Power O'Connor, The Parnell Movement: With a Sketch of Irish Parties from 1843, page 520:
      To the southern Nationalist the north was chiefly known as the home of the most rabid religious and political intolerance perhaps in the whole Christian world; it was designated by the comprehensive title of the 'Black North.'
    • 1914 May 27, "Review of The North Afire by W. Douglas Newton", The Sketch: A Journal of Art and Actuality, volume 86, page t:
      Now April's brother, once also holding a commission in that regiment, was an Ulster Volunteer, her father a staunch, black Protestant, her family tremulously "loyal" to the country whose Parliament was turning them out of its councils.
    • 1985 April, J. A. Weaver, "John Henry Biggart 1905-1979 — A portrait in respect and affection", Ulster Medical Journal, volume 54, number 1, page 1:
      He [Sir John Henry Biggart] was personally amused at having once been called "a black bastard".
    • 2007 September 6, Fintan O'Toole, "Diary", London Review of Books volume 29, number 17, page 35:
      He had been playing Gaelic football for Lisnaskea Emmets, his local team in County Fermanagh, against a team from nearby Brookeborough, when someone from the opposing team called him a ‘black cunt’. ‘Black’, in this case, was a reference not to the colour of his skin but to his religion. It is short for ‘Black Protestant’, a long-standing term of sectarian abuse.
  17. Having one or more features (hair, fur, armour, clothes, bark, etc) that is dark (or black); in taxonomy, especially: dark in comparison to another species with the same base name.
    black birch, black locust, black rhino
    the black knight, black bile
  18. Foul; dirty.

Usage notes[edit]

  • In the United States, black typically refers to people of African descent, including indirect African descent via the Caribbean, including those with light skin. In the United Kingdom, black often includes dark-skinned Asians. In Australian, Aboriginal Australians are often referred to as or identify as black. In New Zealand, Maoris are sometimes referred to as or identify as black.[3][4][5][6]
  • Some style guides recommend capitalizing Black in reference to the racial group,[7][8] while others advise using lowercase (black);[9] lowercase is more common.[10]

Synonyms[edit]

Antonyms[edit]

Derived terms[edit]

(taxonomy: having dark features):

(other senses):

Related terms[edit]

Descendants[edit]

  • Bislama: blak
  • Tok Pisin: blak
  • Torres Strait Creole: blaik
  • Dutch: black
  • French: black
  • Greek: μπλάκης (blákis)

Translations[edit]

See black/translations § Adjective.

Noun[edit]

black (countable and uncountable, plural blacks)

  1. (countable and uncountable) The colour/color perceived in the absence of light, but also when no light is reflected, but rather absorbed.
    black:  
  2. (countable and uncountable) A black dye or pigment.
  3. (countable) A pen, pencil, crayon, etc., made of black pigment.
  4. (in the plural) Black cloth hung up at funerals.
    • 1625, Francis Bacon, "Of Death", Essays:
      Groans, and convulsions, and a discolored face, and friends weeping, and blacks, and obsequies, and the like, show death terrible.
  5. (sometimes capitalised, countable, often offensive) A member of descendant of any of various (African, Aboriginal, etc) ethnic groups which typically have dark pigmentation of the skin. (See usage notes.)
    • 1863, James Fenimore Cooper, chapter XXIV, in Miles Wallingford[4]:
      "How! They surely cannot pretend that the black is an Englishman?" "There are all kinds of Englishmen, black and white, when seamen grow scarce. [] "
    • 1863, Charles Reade, Hard Cash[5]:
      But presently the negro seized the Hindoo by the throat; the Hindoo just pricked him in the arm with his knife, and the next moment his own head was driven against the side of the cabin with a stunning crack [] The cabin was now full, and Sharpe was for putting both the blacks in irons.
    • 2004, Anthony Joseph Paul Cortese, Provocateur: Images of Women and Minorities in Advertising, page 108:
      Prize-winning books continue a trend toward increased representation of blacks, accounting for most of the books with exclusively black characters.
  6. (informal) Blackness, the condition of belonging to or being descended from one of these ethnic groups.
  7. (billiards, snooker, pool, countable) The black ball.
  8. (baseball, countable) The edge of home plate.
  9. (Britain, countable) A type of firecracker that is really more dark brown in colour.
  10. (informal, countable) Blackcurrant syrup (in mixed drinks, e.g. snakebite and black, cider and black).
  11. (in chess and similar games, countable) The person playing with the black set of pieces.
    At this point black makes a disastrous move.
  12. (countable) Something, or a part of a thing, which is black.
    • 1644, Kenelm Digby, Two Treatises
      the black or sight of the eye
  13. (obsolete, countable) A stain; a spot.
    • 1619, William Rowley, All's Lost by Lust
      defiling her white lawn of chastity with ugly blacks of lust
  14. A dark smut fungus, harmful to wheat.
  15. (US, slang) Marijuana.

Usage notes[edit]

  • Use of the noun black to refer to a person is often considered offensive, especially in the singular, and several guides and dictionaries recommend against its usage.[11][12][13][14] It is more appropriate to use "a Black person" or "Black people" in the place of "a Black" or "the Blacks", respectively.
  • See the usage notes in the adjective section regarding the capitalization and scope of the term.

Synonyms[edit]

Antonyms[edit]

  • (colour, dye, pen): white

Derived terms[edit]

Descendants[edit]

Translations[edit]

See black/translations § Noun.

Verb[edit]

black (third-person singular simple present blacks, present participle blacking, simple past and past participle blacked)

  1. (transitive) To make black; to blacken.
    • 1859, Oliver Optic, Poor and Proud; or, The Fortunes of Katy Redburn, a Story for Young Folks [6]
      "I don't want to fight; but you are a mean, dirty blackguard, or you wouldn't have treated a girl like that," replied Tommy, standing as stiff as a stake before the bully.
      "Say that again, and I'll black your eye for you."
    • 1911, Edna Ferber, Buttered Side Down [7]
      Ted, you can black your face, and dye your hair, and squint, and some fine day, sooner or later, somebody'll come along and blab the whole thing.
    • 1922, John Galsworthy, A Family Man: In Three Acts [8]
      I saw red, and instead of a cab I fetched that policeman. Of course father did black his eye.
  2. (transitive) To apply blacking to (something).
    • 1853, Harriet Beecher Stowe, The Key to Uncle Tom's Cabin [9]
      [] he must catch, curry, and saddle his own horse; he must black his own brogans (for he will not be able to buy boots).
    • 1861, George William Curtis, Trumps: A Novel [10]
      But in a moment he went to Greenidge's bedside, and said, shyly, in a low voice, "Shall I black your boots for you?"
    • 1911, Max Beerbohm, Zuleika Dobson [11]
      Loving you, I could conceive no life sweeter than hers — to be always near you; to black your boots, carry up your coals, scrub your doorstep; always to be working for you, hard and humbly and without thanks.
  3. (Britain, transitive) To boycott, usually as part of an industrial dispute.
    • 2003, Alun Howkins, The Death of Rural England (page 175)
      The plants were blacked by the Transport and General Workers' Union and a consumer boycott was organised; both activities contributed to what the union saw as a victory.

Synonyms[edit]

Derived terms[edit]

Translations[edit]

See also[edit]


Colors in English · colors, colours (layout · text)
     white      gray, grey      black
             red; crimson              orange; brown              yellow; cream
             lime              green              mint
             cyan; teal              azure, sky blue              blue
             violet; indigo              magenta; purple              pink

References[edit]

  • black at OneLook Dictionary Search
  • black in Keywords for Today: A 21st Century Vocabulary, edited by The Keywords Project, Colin MacCabe, Holly Yanacek, 2018.
  • black in The Century Dictionary, New York, N.Y.: The Century Co., 1911.
  1. ^ https://www.koeblergerhard.de/mnd/mnd_b.html
  2. ^ Baraniuk, Carol (2015). James Orr, Poet and Irish Radical. Routledge. p. 128. →ISBN; Barkley, John Monteith (1959) A Short History of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland p.36
  3. ^ Mark Williams, "Ethnicity and Authenticity", in Comparative Literary Dimensions: Essays in Honor of Melvin J. Friedman, edited by Melvin J. Friedman, Jay L. Halio, Ben Siegel, University of Delaware Press (2000, →ISBN), page 194: "'Black' means very different things in different places. In America the word black usually means descended from Africa; East Indians are not generally defined as black there. In Britain, however, Asians often designate themselves as black. In New Zealand, Maori radicals sometimes use the world because it points to their difference from the dominant white culture in terms conveniently binary. Even vaguer uses of the word can be seen, such as the expression "Black Irish," which refers to Irish people supposedly descended from Spanish sailors, or " Black Maoris," who are believed by other Maoris to be descended from black sailors who jumped ship in the northern parts of New Zealand in the early contact period."
  4. ^ Carolyn Whitzman, The Handbook of Community Safety Gender and Violence Prevention: Practical Planning Tools, Routledge (2012, →ISBN), page 46:"the term 'black' refers to many different groups, depending upon the country where it is used. In the US, black means African-Americans, usually descendants of slaves, although there are a growing number of recent black migrants from the Caribbean and Africa. In Canada, black means people of African origin as well, usually first- or second-generation migrants from the Caribbean, although there is a smaller, more established, community descended from refugees from slavery in th US. In the UK, black usually means people of South Asian descent, who may be new migrants or who may be second- or third-generation citizens. In Australia, black means the indigenous people or Aboriginal Australians, who are descendants of inhabitants who predated European settlement by over 40,000 years. In South Africa, black means the indigenous peoples as well [] "
  5. ^ US Census Bureau definitions of racial groups; PBS article on American use
  6. ^ See Citations:black.
  7. ^ “AP changes writing style to capitalize ″b″ in Black”, in The Associated Press[1], 2020-06-20
  8. ^ Nancy Coleman (2020-07-05), “Why We’re Capitalizing Black”, in New York Times[2]
  9. ^ Columbia Journalism Review, referring also to the Chicago Manual of Style
  10. ^ Ngrams
  11. ^ black”, in Merriam–Webster Online Dictionary. "Use of the noun Black in the singular to refer to a person is considered offensive. The plural form Blacks is still commonly used by Black people and others to refer to Black people as a group or community, but the plural form too is increasingly considered offensive, and most style guides advise writers to use Black people rather than Blacks when practical."
  12. ^ black” in Oxford Learner's Dictionaries: "Using the noun black to refer to people with dark skin can be offensive, so it is better to use the adjective: black people • a black man/woman . It is especially offensive to use the noun with the definite article (‘the blacks’)"
  13. ^ black” in Dictionary.com Unabridged, Dictionary.com, LLC, 1995–present. "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 especially likely to offend (The small business proprietor is a Black ). Use the adjective instead: Black homeowners, Black voters, a Black business proprietor."
  14. ^ AP Stylebook: "Do not use [black] as a singular noun."

Further reading[edit]


French[edit]

Etymology[edit]

Borrowed from English black.

Pronunciation[edit]

  • IPA(key): /blak/
  • (file)

Adjective[edit]

black (plural blacks)

  1. relating to a black person or culture
    Synonym: noir

Noun[edit]

black m or f (plural blacks)

  1. black person
    Synonym: noir
    • 2015, Ilham Maad, Noir, pas black[12]:
      C’est qu’en France, les blancs n’existent pas et par contre la façon de parler des nonblancs existe et évolue avec le temps. Parce qu’effectivement, d’abord on était sur des termes purement et simplement racistes avec « bamboula, negro, nègre, bicot, bougnoule » et puis après ça a évolué et on est arrivé à « black, beur »… Donc je sais pas quand est-ce que ça a commencé exactement, moi je marque ça aux années 80, le hip hop, voilà, la black music…
      In France, there are no Whites, but names for non-Whites are constantly evolving. First we had terms that were purely and simply racist, like jigaboo, negro, nigger, coon, sambo... That evolved until we got to Black, Brownie... I'm not sure when that came in, but I guess it was the 1980s, with hip-hop and "Black music."

Middle English[edit]

Adjective[edit]

black

  1. Alternative form of blak