Definition: Black

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From Middle English blak, black, blake, from Old English blæc (black, dark, 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), Old High German blah (black)), possibly from Proto-Indo-European *bʰleg- (to burn, shine) (compare Latin flagrāre (to burn), Ancient Greek φλόξ or phlóx (flame), Sanskrit भर्ग or bharga (radiance)).


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

  1. (of an object) Absorbing all light and reflecting none; dark and hueless.
    I often wear my black sweatshirt in the winter.
  2. (of a place, etc) Without light.
    The cave was pitch black.
  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.)
    1. Belonging to or descended from any of various sub-Saharan African ethnic groups which typically have dark pigmentation of the skin.
  4. (historical) Designated for use by those ethnic groups (as described above).
    In the days of racial segregation, there were separate white and black schools.
  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. Expressing menace, or discontent; threatening; sullen.
    He shot her a black look.
  7. (of objects, markets, etc) Illegitimate, illegal or disgraced.
    I know a lot of people who refuse to use Bitcoin simply because it has been used in black market purchases. Well, so has more traditional currency!
  8. Foul; dirty, soiled.
  9. (of coffee or tea) Without any cream, milk or creamer.
    Jim drinks his coffee black, but Ellen prefers it with creamer.
  10. (chess) Of or relating to the playing pieces of a board game deemed to belong to the "black" set; the set used by the player who moves second (often regardless of the pieces' actual color).
    The black pieces in this chess set are made of dark blue glass.
  11. (politics) Anarchist; of or pertaining to anarchism.
  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).


  1. (politics) Related to the Christian Democratic Union of Germany.
    After the election, the parties united in a black-yellow alliance.
  2. 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.
  3. Occult; relating to something (such as mystical or magical knowledge) which is unknown to or kept secret from the general public.
    She secretly practices black magic.
  4. Having one or more features (hair, fur, armor, 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.

Usage notes

In the United States, black typically refers to people of African descent, including indirect African descent via the Caribbean, and including those with light skin. In Australia, Aboriginal Australians are often referred to as or identify as black. In New Zealand, Maori people are sometimes referred to as or identify as black.

Some style guides recommend capitalizing Black in reference to the racial group, while others advise using lowercase (black); lowercase is more common.

Derived terms

  • American black bear
  • Asian black bear
  • black abalone
  • black and blue
  • black and white
  • black and white warbler
  • Black Angus
  • black ash
  • black bean
  • black bear
  • black beetle
  • black belt
  • blackboard
  • black box
  • black caiman
  • black caraway
  • black cardamom
  • black carp
  • black cat
  • black cherry
  • Black Country
  • black coral
  • black cumin
  • blackcurrant
  • Black Death
  • black eye
  • black-eyed bean
  • black-eyed pea
  • black-eyed Susan
  • black fax
  • blackfly
  • Black Forest
  • Black Friday
  • black garlic
  • black goose
  • blackgrass
  • black grouse
  • blackhead
  • black hole
  • black horse
  • black house spider
  • blackjack
  • blacklist
  • black locust
  • blackmail
  • black maple
  • black market
  • black moss
  • black moth
  • black-necked crane
  • black nightshade
  • black oak
  • black olive
  • black panther
  • black pepper
  • black pine
  • black poplar
  • black radish
  • black raspberry
  • black rat
  • black rhinoceros
  • black rice
  • black sage
  • black salmon
  • black slug
  • blacksmith
  • black snake
  • black spruce
  • black swan
  • black walnut
  • black widow
  • black willow
  • blackwood
  • code black
  • pitch black

Related terms


black (countable and uncountable, plural blacks)

  1. The color perceived in the absence of light, but also when no light is reflected, but rather absorbed.
    I picked black from the list of colors, and my colleague picked blue, so we held a vote on what color to make the text of the website.
  2. A black dye or pigment.
  3. A pen, pencil, crayon, etc., made of black pigment.
  4. (in the plural) Black cloth hung up at funerals.
  5. (billiards, snooker, pool) The black ball.
  6. (baseball) The edge of home plate.
  7. (in chess and similar games) The person playing with the black set of pieces.
    At this point black makes a disastrous move.
  8. Something, or a part of a thing, which is black.
  9. A dark smut fungus, harmful to wheat.


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

  1. To make black; to blacken.
  2. To apply blacking to (something).

Derived terms

  • black out
  • blackout


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