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See also: White


Six chess pieces, four white and two black.
A mountain covered in white snow.
A glass of white wine.
A white woman.
A white man.

Alternative forms


From Middle English whit, hwit, from Old English hwīt, from Proto-Germanic *hwītaz (whence also West Frisian wyt, Dutch wit, German weiß, Norwegian Bokmål hvit, Norwegian Nynorsk kvit), from Proto-Indo-European *ḱweydós, a byform of *ḱweytós (bright; shine). Compare Lithuanian šviẽsti (to gleam), šviesa (light), Old Church Slavonic свѣтъ (světŭ, light), свѣтьлъ (světĭlŭ, clear, bright), Persian سفید(sefid), Avestan 𐬯𐬞𐬀𐬉𐬙𐬀(spaēta, white), Sanskrit श्वेत (śvetá, white, bright).



white (comparative whiter, superlative whitest)

  1. Bright and colourless; reflecting equal quantities of all frequencies of visible light.
    Antonyms: black, nonwhite, unwhite
    Write in black ink on white paper.
    • (Can we date this quote by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and provide title, author's full name, and other details?)
      white as the whitest lily on a stream.
    • 1381, quoted in Hans Kurath & Sherman M. Kuhn, eds., Middle English Dictionary, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan Press, ISBN 978-0-472-01044-8, page 1242 (1961):
      dorrẹ̅, dōrī adj. & n. [] cook. glazed with a yellow substance; pome(s ~, sopes ~. [] 1381 Pegge Cook. Recipes page 114: For to make Soupys dorry. Nym onyons [] Nym wyn [] toste wyte bred and do yt in dischis, and god Almande mylk.
  2. (sometimes capitalized) Of or relating to Caucasians, people of European descent with light-coloured skin.
    • 1949, Wendell P. Alston, “The Green Book”, in The Negro Motorist Green Book, 1949 edition, New York: Victor H. Green, page 3:
      [] more white corporations cognizant of the mounting purchasing power of the Negro consumer, have Negro representatives in the field [].
    • 2004 May 9, Michael Joseph Gross, “When the Losers Ruled in Teenage Movies”, in New York Times[1]:
      Ms. Ringwald finds a few things about these films regrettable. One thing she found "significantly disturbing," she wrote, "was how white the films are."
  3. (chiefly historical) Designated for use by Caucasians.
    white drinking fountain
    white hospital
  4. Relatively light or pale in colour.
    white wine
    white grapes
    white birch
  5. Pale or pallid, as from fear, illness, etc.
    • (Can we date this quote by Lord Byron and provide title, author's full name, and other details?)
      Or whispering with white lips, "The foe! / They come! they come!"
  6. (of a person or skin) Lacking coloration (tan) from ultraviolet light; not tanned.
    Synonyms: fair, pale
    Antonym: tanned
  7. (of coffee or tea) Containing cream, milk, or creamer.
    Antonym: black
  8. (board games, chess) The standard denomination of the playing pieces of a board game deemed to belong to the white set, no matter what the actual colour.
    The white pieces in this set are in fact made of light green glass.
  9. Pertaining to an ecclesiastical order whose adherents dress in white habits; Cistercian.
    • 1485, Sir Thomas Malory, chapter ix, in Le Morte Darthur, book XIII:
      NOw rydeth Galahalt yet withouten shelde / and so rode four dayes without ony aduenture / And at the fourth day after euensonge / he came to a whyte Abbay / and there was he receyued with grete reuerence / and ledde vnto a chambre / and there was he vnarmed / And thenne was he ware of knyghtes of the table round
  10. Honourable, fair; decent.
    • (Can we date this quote by John Dryden and provide title, author's full name, and other details?)
      White as thy fame, and as thy honour clear.
    • 1737, Pope, Alexander, First Epistle of the Second Book of Horace; republished in The Complete Poetical Works of Alexander Pope, Boston, New York: Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1902, page 194:
      No whiter page than Addison's remains. / He from the taste obscene reclaims our youth, / And sets the passions on the side of Truth,
    • 1901, Hamlin Garland, Her Mountain Lover, page 51:
      “I’ll put you down at my club; and then, the governor will want to see you in the country.” / Jim had no idea of what was involved in being put down at a club, but he consented. “That ’s mighty white of you, old man, but I don’t know where I shall make down.”
    • (Can we date this quote by G. K. Chesterton and provide title, author's full name, and other details?)
      I trust Lionel. He got me out; he'll see I don't get in again. You must known Lionel. He's a white man all through, and the prison that can hold him has got to be made.
    • 1953, Raymond Chandler, The Long Goodbye, Penguin, 2010, p.12:
      ‘We've only met twice and you've been more than white to me both times.’
    • 1976, United Church of Christ, A.D., number 1, page 34:
      Even decency has been regarded as a white or Christian attribute, as is evidenced by the expression "that's very white of you"
  11. Grey, as from old age; having silvery hair; hoary.
  12. (archaic) Characterized by freedom from that which disturbs, and the like; fortunate; happy; favourable.
  13. (obsolete) Regarded with especial favour; favourite; darling.
    • (Can we date this quote by Geoffrey Chaucer and provide title, author's full name, and other details?)
      Come forth, my white spouse.
    • (Can we date this quote by John Ford (dramatist) and provide title, author's full name, and other details?)
      I am his white boy, and will not be gulled.
  14. (politics) Pertaining to constitutional or anti-revolutionary political parties or movements.
    • 1932, Duff Cooper, Talleyrand, Folio Society, 2010, p.163:
      Aimée de Coigny had always adopted with enthusiasm the political views of her ruling lover and she had thus already held nearly every shade of opinion from red republicanism to white reaction.
  15. (of tea) Made from immature leaves and shoots.
    • 2012, Mary Lou Heiss & Robert J. Heiss, The Tea Enthusiast's Handbook, →ISBN:
      Most often consisting of a budset pluck, a frost tea has the clarity and freshness of a white tea, with the richness and lingering finish of a finely crafted black tea.
  16. (typography) Not containing characters; see white space.
  17. (typography) Said of a symbol or character outline, not solid, not filled with color. Compare black (said of a character or symbol filled with color).
  18. Characterised by the presence of snow.
    a white Christmas
    a white Easter


See white/translations § Adjective.


An egg yolk surrounded by the egg white.
a cabbage white, a Pieris butterfly.

white (countable and uncountable, plural whites)

  1. The color/colour of snow or milk; the colour of light containing equal amounts of all visible wavelengths.
    • 2012, Andrew Martin, Underground Overground: A passenger's history of the Tube, Profile Books, →ISBN, page 117:
      Not only were the platforms tiled in white, the tunnels were painted white too - to prettify them, and make them less claustrophobic - and the Central proudly issued a postcard of its tunnel-whitening machine.
  2. A person of European descent with light-coloured skin.
    • 2012, Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow, →ISBN, page 54:
      The War on Drugs proved popular among key white voters, particularly whites who remained resentful of black progress, civil rights enforcement, and affirmative action.
  3. Any butterfly of the family Pieridae.
  4. (countable and uncountable) White wine.
  5. (countable) Any object or substance that is of the color white.
    1. The albumen of bird eggs (egg white).
    2. (anatomy) The sclera, white of the eye.
    3. (sports, billiards, snooker, pool) The cue ball in cue games.
    4. (slang, US) Cocaine
      • 2004, Kanye West (music), “On The Run”, Atlantic, performed by Bump J (featuring Rick James):
        I've got to hit the streets; I've got to move this white.
    5. The snow- or ice-covered "green" in snow golf.
    6. A white pigment.
      Venice white
  6. (archery) The central part of the butt, which was formerly painted white; the centre of a mark at which a missile is shot.
  7. The enclosed part of a letter of the alphabet, especially when handwritten.
    • 1594, Hugh Plat, The Jewell House of Art and Nature, London, Chapter 38, p. 42,[2]
      Also it giueth a great grace to your writing, if the whites of certeine letters bee made of one equall bignesse with the o. supposing the same were all round, as the white of the b. of the a. p. y. v. w. x. q. d. g. and s.
    • 1677, Hannah Woolley, The Compleat Servant-Maid, London: T. Passinger, p. 18,[3]
      [] the a. b. d. g. o. p. q. &c. [] must be made with equal whites.
    • 1931, Margery Allingham, Police at the Funeral, Penguin, 1939, Chapter 14, p. 157,[4]
      She copied the whole alphabet like that, as though only the inside whites of the letters registered on her mind.


Derived terms


white (third-person singular simple present whites, present participle whiting, simple past and past participle whited)

  1. (transitive) To make white; to whiten; to bleach.
    • Bible, Matthew xxiii. 27
      whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of [] uncleanness
    • Bible, Mark ix. 3
      so as no fuller on earth can white them

See also

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

Further reading


Middle English



  1. inflection of whit:
    1. weak singular
    2. strong/weak plural
  2. Alternative form of whit