Definition of black in English:



  • 1Of the very darkest colour owing to the absence of or complete absorption of light; the opposite of white.

    ‘black smoke’
    ‘her long black hair’
    • ‘Long wavy black hair and light blue eyes created a contrast that was breathtaking.’
    • ‘The dashboard glows red and white against its black background.’
    • ‘Smoothing the mane of her black stallion, she can hear the sigh of her friend.’
    • ‘Her hair looked almost black in the dim light, but I later found out it was just a sort of dark brown.’
    • ‘Bundles of chemical sticks lay ready to be burnt in it, some making black smoke and some white.’
    • ‘I quickly strip out of my crisp black suit and dash in the bathroom for a quick shower.’
    • ‘He had blond hair and was wearing a light coloured jacket, white trousers and black shoes.’
    • ‘These men are wearing suits or their coolest black club clothes on a cold evening in November.’
    • ‘The video showed a white truck exploding and black plumes of smoke billowing into the air.’
    • ‘There's no need for our older buildings to remain grey, black and white. Colour is good.’
    • ‘The door suddenly swung open and a tall man with short black hair and light brown eyes was staring at me.’
    • ‘He has white hair and a black suit and a watch chain across his meagre belly.’
    • ‘The first girl, with short black hair and a light, kind sounding voice scampered up to her.’
    • ‘She looked down at the black kitten, and started to pet its head, as it began to purr.’
    • ‘Some chose to outline their sketch with permanent black marker before adding the color.’
    • ‘It is coloured golden brown above and white below with a black stripe down the sides of its neck.’
    • ‘The first attacker was 6ft tall with short blond hair and was wearing black trousers and a white T-shirt.’
    • ‘I wore a white blouse and a black skirt and I pinned my hair back with a hair pin.’
    • ‘He had dark coloured hair and was wearing black jeans and white runners.’
    • ‘In a shallow depression of granite, I noticed what appeared to be a large black insect.’
    dark, pitch-black, as black as pitch, pitch-dark, jet-black, inky, coal-black, blackish
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    1. 1.1 (of the sky or night) completely dark owing to the sun, moon, or stars not being visible.
      ‘the sky was moonless and black’
      • ‘He lay suspended in the sky of a black night, a night without stars, without moon.’
      • ‘Failing that, I might turn off all the lights in the house and stand right in front of the window, staring out into the black night.’
      • ‘The sky was black as night and the waves of flames from the oceans licked at the sandy shores.’
      • ‘I knew right now that it was around noon, even though the sky was black as midnight.’
      • ‘Also, flying closely with it was a mottled vision of a bird, almost invisible against the black night sky.’
      • ‘It had gotten a lot darker and the sky was completely black except with the assortment of stars.’
      • ‘The black sky stretched out above her, its hundreds of stars twinkling beneath the wavering light.’
      • ‘The moon shone brightly overhead and millions of stars twinkled in the velvety black sky.’
      • ‘Pulling out of the office car park, the sky was black, the rain was pouring and the sun was shining.’
      • ‘Late winter snow storms had plastered the hills and the sky was black with threat.’
      • ‘I can see the stars and the sky and the moon and the black sky revolving overhead.’
      • ‘It was a drawing of the black night sky, dotted with tiny yellow stars.’
      • ‘Realization was finally beginning to dawn on him like a sunrise after an inky black night.’
      • ‘When the rain came the sky was black, there was thunder and lightning and even a brief hail storm.’
      • ‘And the image of that bright blue globe lost in black space is spinning in your mind right now, isn't it?’
      • ‘It is so very cold and pretty up here, close to space where the sky is black and I can see the stars.’
      • ‘The sky was black and moonless; the night of the new moon the most terrifying time of the month in these parts.’
      • ‘There were no trees overhead, so he was exposed to the full power of the dark clouds, barely visible in the now black sky.’
      • ‘Sasha looked up and saw a black sky spotted with stars through the spaces in between the trees.’
      • ‘In Buffalo the rain is pouring down, the sky is black and storm/flood warnings abound.’
      unlit, dark, starless, moonless, unlighted, unilluminated
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    2. 1.2 Deeply stained with dirt.
      ‘the walls were black with age and dirt’
      • ‘They tore off his dirty black garments and threw him into the bath.’
      • ‘Dirty black steps lead up to a deserted platform, blocked off somewhere behind a car repair yard.’
      • ‘The walls and ceiling of the room were perfectly black, with age and dirt.’
      • ‘I took a bung out of one of the drums and looked inside, and it was all black, and not a golden colour like it should have been.’
      • ‘The workers are black with dirt and perspiration that the four fans on the ceiling do not dry.’
      • ‘From where Cal stands, looking down, each toe seems to smile with a devilish black arc of under nail dirt.’
      • ‘Inside the garage door the concrete was stained black with oil and a car was hoisted on a ramp.’
      • ‘The decoration on the bridge was spectacular but it was very dirty and black from pollution.’
    3. 1.3 (of a plant or animal) dark in colour as distinguished from a lighter variety.
      ‘Japanese black pine’
      • ‘The County Council intends to plant black poplars along the River Lune in autumn.’
      • ‘The crested black macque was called the Celebes or black ape by early scientists, because it appeared to have no tail.’
      • ‘The breeding pair of black eagles in the Walter Sisulu Botanical Garden are the proud parents of a new chick.’
      • ‘Gypsy moth egg hatch occurs at about the time of budburst of red and black oaks.’
      • ‘The bees are of the old Irish black bee variety which have been revived by the group of beekeepers.’
      dark, pitch-black, as black as pitch, pitch-dark, jet-black, inky, coal-black, blackish
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    4. 1.4 (of coffee or tea) served without milk.
      ‘a mug of black coffee’
      ‘Doyle took his coffee black’
      • ‘Alma stood in the kitchen and made herself a cup of coffee, black with just a pinch of sugar.’
      • ‘I went downstairs to have a black coffee and think things over.’
      • ‘Others accepted a plastic cup of black java and continued along.’
      • ‘Mom sipped a cup of black coffee and toyed with the sugar packets on the table.’
      • ‘If you drink your tea black and sugar free then it could be the death knell for teaspoons in your house.’
      • ‘I drink my tea black, but the three sisters have powdered milk although there's fresh milk in the fridge.’
      • ‘Small amounts of water or black coffee may be safe if taken a sufficient time before your procedure.’
      • ‘He drank the last of the black coffee and threw the cup in the nearest trash can.’
      • ‘That, and a giant cup of straight black coffee, is the extent of his pregame preparation.’
      • ‘Instead, drink lots of water, a cup of skim or soy milk, or a cup of black coffee or tea.’
      • ‘He took a long drink of yet another sweet black coffee and ineffectually wiped a tear from the corner of his eye.’
      • ‘It is considered essential to offer any visitor a small cup of black coffee called a tinto.’
      • ‘He whistled as he poured some rich, black coffee into a stainless cup on the counter.’
      • ‘Bitter tastes like the tastes of black coffee and beer are composed of air and ether.’
      • ‘Stoker accepted a cup of black coffee and lowered himself into one of the armchairs.’
      • ‘The young man was reading a paperback novel and sipping a steaming mug of hot, black coffee.’
      • ‘Trust me, if you're really a caffeine junkie, you're drinking espressos and black coffee.’
      • ‘He reached forward to pour himself a cup of black coffee, and fixed one for Celly as well.’
      • ‘He brewed a pot of black coffee and inhaled the beautiful aromas of real beans.’
      • ‘I look at my watch and I see that I have enough time to buy a large cup of black coffee.’
    5. 1.5 Of or denoting the suits spades and clubs in a pack of cards.
      • ‘You can never take the pile if the top card is a wild card or a black three.’
      • ‘If it contains one or more wild cards, it is a mixed canasta, indicated by stacking the cards with a black card on top.’
      • ‘A closed red or black canasta is indicated by squaring up the cards with a red or black natural card on top.’
      • ‘Usually players pick their lowest red or black card to represent their bid.’
      • ‘If it includes one or more wild cards, it is called a mixed or black canasta; it is squared up with a natural black card on top.’
      • ‘Only three cards are needed, two from a black suit, and one from a red suit.’
      • ‘Here you play any card of a red or black suit to indicate that you are strong in the other suit of the same colour.’
      • ‘If your stack happens to be a Male Fish, you put a black card of that rank on top (spades or clubs).’
      • ‘In case there are two or more claimants, the values of their red and black cards are considered separately.’
      • ‘Those who get red cards play against those who get black ones.’
      • ‘Suppose you start with an ordered deck in which all the red cards are on top and all the black cards are on the bottom.’
      • ‘The black aces are permanent trumps, independent of which suit otherwise is trumps.’
      • ‘Supervisors handed out plaques to shooters, containing red or black playing cards.’
      • ‘If the two Bennies are red and black, the one which is the same colour as the trump suit beats the other one.’
    6. 1.6 (of a ski run) of the highest level of difficulty, as indicated by black markers positioned along it.
      • ‘Ski on black slopes and possibly double-black (extreme) slopes.’
      • ‘The Base and Run 63 are perfect for beginners, and there are also black ski runs, bumps and jumps for the more advanced.’
      • ‘If you currently ski blue and groomed black runs this is the camp for you.’
  • 2Belonging to or denoting any human group having dark-coloured skin, especially of African or Australian Aboriginal ancestry.

    ‘black adolescents of Jamaican descent’
    • ‘He argued that if a few black people get into high profile positions every black person benefits.’
    • ‘Few black miners held leadership positions at the level of president of the union local.’
    • ‘He set a big example for the rest of the country and for all black South Africans.’
    • ‘This question must be answered by the institutions that are now spending million of pounds in support of black artists.’
    • ‘The buzzer sounds and I smile out at a black African with a briefcase.’
    • ‘He falls into this culture and falls in love with a lovely black girl.’
    • ‘In the pole vault, he became the first black American to win a major title in the event.’
    • ‘When we enter the airport, a black man in a suit motions for us to come to him.’
    • ‘Even if black people are run out of the area, the culture will live through our music and our voice.’
    • ‘Many black Americans take great pride in their African ancestry.’
    • ‘He was with a black man aged 18-20 of a similar height, wearing dark clothing and glasses.’
    • ‘We go back in time to trace the tensions between Sudanese, Arabs and black Africans.’
    • ‘Islam has been seen as a significant part of the African heritage of black Americans.’
    • ‘Many black writers and professionals live in a similar cultural purgatory today.’
    • ‘He is part of a new generation of black artists who are bringing their eclectic cultural experiences to dance.’
    • ‘Less than half of all black citizens think that parliament is interested in what they think.’
    • ‘Affirmative action programs aim to provide more black doctors to serve black patients.’
    • ‘The next enrolled participant is a black woman aged 52, who is a non-smoker.’
    • ‘But I find black people are always open to letting other cultures into their music.’
    • ‘Human Rights Watch says black Africans are deliberately being driven off the land.’
    1. 2.1 Relating to black people.
      ‘black culture’
      • ‘He is an author of various books on black empowerment and the Zulu culture.’
      • ‘The tour included visiting newly elected members of the African National Congress and black townships.’
      • ‘He said politicians were not being held to account by the black African, Caribbean and Asian communities.’
      • ‘Its use is often associated with black youth culture, Rastafarianism, and reggae.’
      • ‘They borrow from Jamaican culture and immerse themselves in a club culture that owes everything to its black origins.’
      • ‘This has very little to do with opprotunity, but a great deal to do with black culture.’
      • ‘It also had a thriving black culture rooted in the blues, gospel and jazz.’
      • ‘Persons of all faiths and of no faith should support black church outreach efforts.’
      • ‘But they are shocked by the fact that almost all the victims belong to the black underclass.’
      • ‘He is staging a celebration of black history and culture later this month.’
      • ‘Haiti's emergence meant much more than a major black victory over whites and the creation of a black state.’
      • ‘This was the African American artistic movement of the 1920s which celebrated black life and culture.’
      • ‘It is a documentary film about a dance culture born in the poor black districts of Los Angeles.’
      • ‘They identified more with black and Latino American culture than white American culture.’
      • ‘Johnson was a banner figure for artists of the great 1960s revival in black culture.’
      • ‘He thought we were stealing black African music, the Lagos sound.’
      • ‘Anthony says mainstream culture is becoming ripe with curiosity about black culture.’
      • ‘The other cultural influence was the post-war history of black America.’
      • ‘Her strong ties to her black culture and oral tradition create a rich foundation for her novels.’
      • ‘The language of democracy, black advancement, and human rights was more strongly emphasized.’
  • 3Characterized by tragic or disastrous events; causing despair or pessimism.

    ‘five thousand men were killed on the blackest day of the war’
    ‘the future looks black’
    • ‘In the North East, once ships stopped being built, a black depression hung over the region.’
    • ‘But the worst was an old bird who shouted at me about the poll tax and blamed me for Black Wednesday.’
    • ‘While he might feel he stands under a black cloud at present, that flash of light you can see is a silver lining for York.’
    • ‘Without tempting fate, no young lives have been lost in road accidents since that black day last year.’
    • ‘Perhaps however the truth lies somewhere in between and the situation is not as black as some perceive it to be.’
    • ‘There is evidently much that is right, or even outstanding, about France, so one should not paint too black a picture.’
    • ‘This poll is the conclusion of a very black week in this country's politics.’
    • ‘It was a black mood at a black moment, a spasm that sentient Americans prefer to forget.’
    tragic, disastrous, calamitous, catastrophic, cataclysmic, ruinous, devastating, fatal, fateful, wretched, woeful, grievous, lamentable, miserable, dire, unfortunate, awful, terrible
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    1. 3.1 (of a person's state of mind) full of gloom or misery; very depressed.
      ‘Jean had disappeared and Mary was in a black mood’
      • ‘Those moments of wild inspiration have a payback time and it comes in periods of black depression.’
      • ‘I've had no periods of black depression about it, no waking up in cold sweats.’
      • ‘But then young Master Thomas had gone up to Cambridge, and Elsie's black mood had descended.’
      • ‘Could it be that this week's black mood is seeping out through my pores?’
      • ‘For the past ten years, Joanne had suffered from depression and took medication to control her black moods.’
      • ‘I've been in a black mood since September 2001, it's hanging over me like a penumbra.’
      • ‘This tarnishes the enjoyment somehow or is that just my own black mood at the moment?’
      • ‘Eighteen months later, his black moods returned suddenly and led to his near-suicide attempt just days later.’
      • ‘It was only last month that his mood got black enough to merit drowning himself in spirits again.’
      • ‘Despite my overall black mood, an occurrence did send me into a fit of raucous laughter.’
      • ‘After this incident, Philip seemed friendlier, although he would still have his black moods.’
      • ‘There had to be something someone could do to get him out of this black mood he was in!’
      • ‘Luckily I can spot the signs so I tend to avoid people when I'm starting to feel low just in case it turns into a black mood.’
      • ‘It's cognitive distortions or faulty thought patterns that often plunge us into black moods.’
      miserable, unhappy, sad, wretched, broken-hearted, heartbroken, grief-stricken, grieving, sorrowful, sorrowing, mourning, anguished, distressed, desolate, devastated, despairing, inconsolable, disconsolate, downcast, down, downhearted, dejected, crestfallen, cheerless, depressed, pessimistic, melancholy, morose, gloomy, glum, mournful, funereal, doleful, dismal, forlorn, woeful, woebegone, abject, low-spirited, long-faced
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    2. 3.2 (of humour) presenting tragic or harrowing situations in comic terms.
      ‘‘Good place to bury the bodies,’ she joked with black humour’
      • ‘The performances are flawless, the story laced with black humour.’
      • ‘What ensues is a battle of opinions, highly charged action and black humor.’
      • ‘Transport links were reopening and black humour was resurfacing as well.’
      • ‘Over the years I have come to believe that fate either hates me, or has one hell of a black sense of humor.’
      • ‘She also revealed the black humour used in the surgery.’
      • ‘Vindici exclaims at one point in this, the first British black comedy.’
      • ‘For those with a black sense of humour, it was a laughable suggestion.’
      • ‘But even the black humour that laced the episodes seemed to get blacker and less humorous as the series went by.’
      • ‘These people are also kind of childish, and if confronted by the world directly seem to only be able to understand it in terms of black humour.’
      • ‘His black humour and satirical wit are cultural as well as personal traits.’
      • ‘These days whole web sites are devoted to this kind of black humour.’
      • ‘The phrases are sharp, uncluttered, often loaded with an understated black humour.’
      • ‘The book is fully documented, and written in a vigorous style with touches of black humour.’
      • ‘She's got a black sense of humour and she's great company, but you have to be with her on her terms.’
      • ‘These relationship films found black comedy in the anger of a soured love.’
      • ‘In these works the humour is black, the barbs sharp, but there is also a sense of fellow humanity.’
      • ‘The film is both a moving coming of age story and a black comedy, said to be as relevant today as when it was written.’
      • ‘Well, that's going too far - but it is certainly Swiftian satire, black humour or gallows humour.’
      • ‘He is not the first director to realise that the playwright's famous study of marital hatred is really a black comedy.’
      • ‘He said the tradition of black humour was unlikely to die out altogether.’
      cynical, sick, macabre, weird, unhealthy, ghoulish, morbid, perverted, gruesome, sadistic, cruel, offensive
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    3. 3.3 Full of anger or hatred.
      ‘Rory shot her a black look’
      • ‘Love may not find them if they continue throughout the teen years with a black streak in their minds.’
      • ‘Or should they rebut the Democrats' black smear campaign with the evidence at hand?’
      • ‘I felt a surge of hatred pass through me, black vicious hatred that I had never felt before.’
      • ‘He had never lied to her a full black lie; but merely a few small white ones that did no damage at all.’
      • ‘She was going to set him free from all of the evil and black hatred he had brought to the world.’
      angry, cross, annoyed, irate, vexed, irritated, exasperated, indignant, aggrieved, irked, piqued, displeased, provoked, galled, resentful, irascible, bad-tempered, tetchy, testy, crabby, waspish, dark, dirty, filthy, furious, outraged
      View synonyms
    4. 3.4archaic Very evil or wicked.
      ‘my soul is steeped in the blackest sin’
  • 4Denoting a covert military procedure.

    ‘clearance for black operations came from the highest political level’
    secret, furtive, clandestine, surreptitious, stealthy, cloak-and-dagger, hole-and-corner, hole-in-the-corner, closet, behind-the-scenes, backstairs, back-alley, under-the-table, hugger-mugger, concealed, hidden, private
    View synonyms
  • 5British dated (of goods or work) not to be handled or undertaken by trade union members, especially so as to express support for an industrial dispute elsewhere.

    ‘the union declared the ship black’


  • 1mass noun Black colour or pigment.

    ‘a tray decorated in black and green’
    • ‘It was decorated in oranges, yellows and blacks.’
    • ‘The colours are predominantly warm, green on black, black on gold, rich browns and deep reds.’
    • ‘Of all the colours found in the garden, black must be the most underused and the least understood.’
    • ‘Light brown, navy and black are the colours Joseph has in mind for the suits.’
    • ‘The sponsor was printed in black on one side and the player in gold on the other.’
    • ‘Splashed with brilliant golds, oranges, reds, and blacks, it was an amazing sight to behold.’
    • ‘They come in white, beige or black, with a low-wedge rubber sole to insulate against the icy floor.’
    • ‘I was very pleased with my eye make-up, and I only used two colours this time - black and gold.’
    • ‘If I had to make a painting of my life it would only consist of the colour black.’
    • ‘The classroom, painted in its sober colours of beige and black, is half-full.’
    • ‘He said the two things they most wanted in our flag was the silver fern and the colour black.’
    • ‘Like with most of your wardrobe's basic elements, black should be the color of choice.’
    • ‘The finished article was painted in glossy black, the colour of the original vehicle, to make it look new.’
    • ‘Coffee and black are the special colours of Coppelia's collection this season.’
    • ‘Again, the predominant colours are black and grey and the lighting plot is superb.’
    • ‘It gives a great contrast between the orange colour of the motherboard and the shining black of the internal panels.’
    • ‘This piece of art comes in two colours, natural basket and classic black.’
    • ‘Perhaps we can do this by appealing to Europeans' attitudes toward the colour black.’
    • ‘Her back was arched and her pale skin stood out starkly against the silky black of her gown.’
    • ‘Other colours include midnight black, ocean blue, rose pink and olive green.’
    1. 1.1 Black clothes or material, typically worn as a sign of mourning.
      ‘only one or two of the mourners were in black’
      • ‘He was slightly tan and wore all black with a long cape that reached the ground.’
      • ‘Wear an embellished belt or glitzy cuffs with a plain knit or skirt, and use black to counterbalance an opulent shoe or bag.’
      • ‘He was wearing all black, his shirt clinging onto his body showing of muscles.’
      • ‘The two men approached, dressed the same as before, all in black with the ski masks on.’
      • ‘Ten years ago they had worn black, as did so many of the women working and shopping around Lygon Street.’
      • ‘Also doctors should be banned from wearing all black, with purple doc martins.’
      • ‘The boy wore gray and black, his hair had been shaven, and he stood still, like a statue.’
      • ‘I was wearing black for the ceremony as was the custom at the time, and changed into a white satin dress for the reception.’
      • ‘She was in her light blue skirt and white jacket, he dressed in all black as usual.’
      • ‘There stood a woman dressed in flowing black, with a pale complexion and sharp features.’
      • ‘Her last wishes state that there should be no mourning and that no black is to be worn to the service.’
      • ‘She was dressed entirely in loose, rippling black with a neckline so low it must have ended at the bottom of her ribs.’
      • ‘He was dressed in all black with the exception of a blue topaz that hung around his neck on a silver chain.’
      • ‘She was startled and looked up to see that the man was dressed in all black with a hood on his face.’
      • ‘First, she changed into all black, including a cap, so she would blend in with the night.’
      • ‘I think your rules, such as not wearing black and colour, are totally artificial, I say.’
      • ‘As she opened her door, a white robe lay on her bed and Torn stood across the room dressed in solid black.’
      • ‘When you're pressed for time and need to look stylish, black will always save the day.’
      • ‘Guns were aimed at him from the men dressed in all black, masks covering their faces.’
      • ‘He remains in regulation black, from the leather jacket to the silk jersey and the chinos he sits in when I meet him.’
      black clothes
      View synonyms
    2. 1.2 Darkness, especially of night or an overcast sky.
      ‘the only thing visible in the black was the light of the torch’
      • ‘My spot in the grass disappeared and I was left with just darkness and total black.’
      • ‘Parties went on into the black of the night and ended the next morning, before the sun had woken up.’
      • ‘All about her was either the black of night and shadows or the orange of flame.’
      • ‘The cold black of night is penetrated by an alien tone, played upon an inhuman scale.’
      • ‘You could see the black of night in between the shafts and it lit up the whole grove.’
      • ‘One star to guide us through the black of night, as gray shadows blanket our every move.’
      • ‘A darkness was soon filling him and only black could be seen as he closed his eyes.’
      • ‘Turning her attention to the dark night, she peered through the window and saw only black.’
    3. 1.3 The player of the black pieces in chess or draughts.
      ‘Black's king's defences are somewhat weakened’
      • ‘Now Black has two rooks covering his back rank, so one of them can be freed up for central duty.’
      • ‘The move chosen in the game gives Black a slight edge without giving up a pawn.’
      • ‘While Black's Queen is busy snacking on pawns, White rushes to bring out all his pieces.’
      • ‘I have a previous game on record from this position which shows a more violent treatment from Black.’
      • ‘Tha was a very precise move which forces Black to make a passive recapture with the bishop.’
    4. 1.4count noun A black thing, in particular the black ball in snooker.
      • ‘An attempt to extract the black resulted in a pocketed colour off the black.’
      • ‘The 1992 UK champion potted the first 12 reds and blacks, but in potting the 13 th red into the middle he over-screwed the cueball.’
      • ‘I was so angry that I missed an easy black being careless - I actually hate myself for it.’
      • ‘After a close fought frame it was Steve who potted the final black to win 50-42.’
      • ‘He potted 13 reds and 12 blacks before losing position on the colour.’
  • 2A member of a dark-skinned people, especially one of African or Australian Aboriginal ancestry.

    ‘they tend to identify strongly with other blacks’
    • ‘We did change the way that we talked about blacks and Aboriginal people.’
    • ‘These categories are a product of his mind - here, we never refer to people as whites and blacks.’
    • ‘In Brazil, the African Brazilian population comprises blacks and mulattos.’
    • ‘They set up a special signal to alert members as to whether whites or blacks were in approaching cars.’
    • ‘The 16-member panel includes eight blacks and eight whites from the business and public sectors.’
    • ‘For this reason, he says, many young Mexicans ‘prefer to imitate blacks than white people.’’
    • ‘The company recruited battle-hardened and disciplined South Africans and Zimbabweans, blacks as well as whites.’
    • ‘The living conditions for South African whites and blacks were extremely divergent.’
    • ‘Now most South African blacks were then and still are enthusiastic Christians.’
    • ‘I have just put up a paper here that gives the detailed results of a survey of what South African whites thought of blacks during the Apartheid era.’
    • ‘There would be an outcry and lawsuits if any American city tried such tactics against blacks or gays or members of other minority groups.’
    • ‘Thus, blacks and whites are members of a temporarily ‘Integrated’ community.’
    • ‘South of the river you tend to get whites, Carribean blacks, African blacks, Indians, and Pakistanis all mixed together.’
    • ‘This was the first time that whites or blacks had taught black people not to work as a form of civil rights.’
    • ‘The remarkable speech galvanized the civil rights movement when discrimination between whites and blacks had been strongly dominant.’
    • ‘He is accused of inciting white youth gang members to attack blacks and providing them with ammunition.’
    • ‘He has also lambasted the European Union and declared verbal war on whites who tell blacks in Africa how to run free and fair elections.’
    • ‘Cystic fibrosis is more common in whites than in blacks, and prostate cancer in people of African descent.’
    • ‘Germans don whiteface for Carnival, while urban African blacks paint their faces white in rites of passage.’
    • ‘Copy the solution of South Africa where blacks and whites come together and elect a president and become one state.’
  • 3the blackThe situation of not owing money to a bank or of making a profit in a business operation.

    ‘it is hoped the club will be back in the black by the end of the season’
    ‘I managed to break even in the first six months—quite a short time for a small business to get into the black’
    ‘an insurance company operating in the black will be able to pay for further growth’
    • ‘He spent the next two years scraping and clawing his way back into the black.’
    • ‘The club is in the black, albeit modestly so; its bankers should be amenable.’
    • ‘Invest wisely in IT and you'll keep your eternal balance sheet in the black.’
    • ‘He submits that the formula is working, to the extent that the company moved into the black in January, according to its CEO.’
    • ‘It seems odd therefore, that while some clearly remain in the black, others are massively in the red.’
    • ‘Coupled to a national lottery, the VAT tax could put the government back in the black.’
    • ‘To the markets now, the big stocks were back in the black today, making up all of yesterday's losses.’
    • ‘Also, you've learned that staying out of the red and keeping in the black gives you more money to save and invest.’
    • ‘When markets bounce back, they bounce back fast, wiping out past losses, and everyone is back in the black.’
    • ‘The cash is a welcome boost to its coffers, which are in the black for the first time in four years.’
    • ‘During his speech, he pledged to keep the federal books in the black.’
    • ‘Many City analysts believe the deal will allow the company to move into the black within six to 12 months,.’
    • ‘We should demand that all bank charges are dropped while accounts are in the black.’
    in credit, in funds, debt-free, out of debt, solvent, financially sound, able to pay one's debts, creditworthy, of good financial standing, solid, secure, profit-making, profitable
    View synonyms
  • 4British informal Blackcurrant cordial.

    ‘a rum and black’


[with object]
  • 1Make (something) black, especially with polish.

    ‘the steps of the house were neatly blacked’
    • ‘This stuff doesn't just black the buildings, it causes asthma and stunts the development of children's lungs.’
    • ‘Guilt is the great disguiser, blacking the white of the sun.’
    • ‘I lighted the fires and blacked the grates.’
    • ‘We rounded a turn and came upon all at once the tumbled ruins of a cottar's hut, blacked by fire, and trampled down as if by horse's hooves.’
    • ‘His costumed is blacked and smoking places, and his hair is standing on end.’
    blacken, darken
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1 Make (one's face and other visible parts) black with polish or make-up so as not to be seen at night or to play the role of a black person in a play or film.
      ‘white extras blacking up their faces to play Ethiopians’
      • ‘The theme was ‘colonials and natives’ and some of the guests had blacked their faces.’
      • ‘So I blacked myself up - it wouldn't be allowed now - but I forgot the legs.’
      • ‘I was a little uncomfortable to say the least when I saw members of the cast were blacked up but I assumed they must have been given permission to do so.’
      • ‘She said that on May 1, last year, he blacked his face, put on camouflage clothing and went to the site.’
      • ‘After blacking out my two front teeth, I shaved my head, slapped a giant self-adhesive spider web tattoo across my neck and walked boldly up to the police vehicle.’
  • 2British dated Refuse to handle (goods), undertake (work), or have dealings with (a person or business) as a way of taking industrial action.

    ‘the union blacked the film because overtime was not being paid’
    • ‘By 20 January the cabinet was so desperate to crush the miners it considered sending in troops to move the coal which had been blacked by other workers.’
    • ‘Their defiance sparked a huge wave of international solidarity that saw English dockers blacking Irish goods and collections taken in workplaces across Britain.’
    • ‘The cabinet was horrified when dockers blacked the jets destined for the military rulers.’
    • ‘The union decided to vent its frustrations on the radio station's abolishing such institutions as the orchestra during a cost cutting exercise by blacking its music programmes for ten weeks in 1980.’
    • ‘I am surprised that dockers have not done something about blacking these products, which I am sure are exported through some docks in the country.’
    boycott, embargo, place an embargo on, put an embargo on, blacklist, ban, bar, proscribe
    View synonyms


Black has been used to refer to African peoples and their descendants since at least the late 14th century. Although the word has been in continuous use ever since, other terms have enjoyed prominence too: in the US coloured was the term adopted in preference by emancipated slaves following the American Civil War, and coloured was itself superseded in the US in the early 20th century by Negro as the term preferred by prominent black American campaigners such as Booker T. Washington. In Britain, on the other hand, coloured was the most widely used and accepted term in the 1950s and early 1960s. With the civil rights and Black Power movements of the 1960s, black was adopted by Americans of African origin to signify a sense of racial pride, and it remains the most widely used and generally accepted term in Britain today. In the US African American replaced black in many contexts during the 1980s, but both are now generally acceptable


  • black someone's eye

    • Hit someone in the eye so as to cause bruising.

      ‘I don't remember him ever blacking anyone's eye’
      • ‘He said the one man had severely beaten the other, who was several inches shorter than him, blacking both his eyes and cutting his face.’
      • ‘She told how when she said she was leaving, he put a pillow over her face and then punched her, blacking her eye.’
      • ‘The most recently documented incident was on 24 April 2004, where the [Claimant] blacked a staff member's eye.’
      • ‘These men kicked him, knocked him down, broke his nose, chipped his tooth, blacked both eyes and smashed a glass into his head.’
      • ‘She said he had grabbed her by the throat and blacked her eye by hurling her on to the settee.’
      • ‘‘That eye should be blacked up nicely,’ muses Corky.’
      • ‘The logic of the chorus has both eyes blacked each time, and it is no surprise that verse three finds the young man recommending non-engagement, or at least discretion.’
      bruise, contuse
      View synonyms
  • in someone's black books

    • informal In disfavour with someone.

      • ‘I have to stay in her black books as far as this question is concerned.’
      • ‘That was the first of many misdemeanors which got me in his black books.’
      • ‘Needless to say his comments did not go well with the administrators and from then on he was in their black books.’
      • ‘After having been in my black books I tried them for a year, and wrote some good volume biz… alas, they are sooooo back in the bad books.’
      • ‘Jake, our Shetland ram, is in my black books at the moment because, true to type, he will keep ramming Molly's goat hut.’
      • ‘But if I reported the call, and it was genuine, then the spooks would have me in their black books forever, as someone whom the Soviets had at some time felt they had good reason to deal with.’
      • ‘Asked whether he believes that such businessmen were good role models, he takes the diplomatic route: ‘I'm very nervous to name their names, because I'm already in their black books.’’
  • look on the black side

    • informal View a situation from a pessimistic angle.

      ‘I was looking on the black side and thought I would get a sentence of five years’
      • ‘My advice to anyone who has kidney failure is not to be pessimistic and don't look on the black side.’
      • ‘Try not to be depressed or look on the black side of things, because that might affect your personal well-being.’
      • ‘Are you troubled by negative thoughts - do you feel down a lot of the time - does your mind always look on the black side for the future?’
      • ‘But, notwithstanding my determination to look on the black side of things, life isn't uniformly bad.’
      • ‘Roland points out that she's looking on the black side again; Shane could also be better by tomorrow.’
      • ‘We bankers are a conservative lot, we tend to look on the black side.’
      • ‘You shouldn't always look on the black side if you haven't heard from someone for a while though.’
      • ‘A suspicious mind always looks on the black side of things.’
      • ‘Then I saw that I was only looking on the black side and started thinking of the fact that escape is always possible.’
      • ‘You tend to look on the black side of everything, see the worst in yourself, in your life and your future.’
      pessimistic, depressing, downbeat, looking on the black side, disheartening, disappointing, dispiriting, unpromising, unfavourable, bleak, bad, dark, black, sombre, melancholy, saddening, distressing, grim, cheerless, comfortless, hopeless
      View synonyms
  • men in black

    • informal Anonymous dark-clothed men who supposedly visit people who have reported an encounter with a UFO or an alien in order to prevent them publicizing it.

      ‘men in black suddenly appear on a UFO witness's doorstep’
      • ‘Thousand of everyday people worldwide have had experiences with men in black after witnessing UFO related events since the beginning of history.’
      • ‘Men in black usually travel in groups of three. However, groups of four, two and one have been reported.’
      • ‘A professor of humanities and folklore at New York's Julliard School didn't tell anybody about his encounter with the Men in Black for years -- for fear of how people would react.’
      • ‘The modern era of men in black goes back to at least the early 1950s when a man allegedly saw a UFO in Bridgeport, Conn., and was later frightened by a visitation from three men in black.’
  • the new black

    • 1A colour that is currently so popular that it rivals the traditional status of black as the most reliably fashionable colour.

      ‘brown is the new black this season’
      • ‘Or maybe white has always been the new black.’
      • ‘White, it seems, is the new black.’
      • ‘Much like "red is the new black," this season look for two more trends to stand out on the credit catwalk.’
      • ‘Green goes mainstream: Last year, coming in at No. 3, was "Green is the new black" being green was trendy.’
      • ‘Where I lived, black was the new black every season.’
      • ‘Listen to me, Megan: brown was the new black like, four years ago.’
      • ‘He says this holiday season green is the new black.’
      • ‘I guess its true what they say: pink is the new black.’
      • ‘Let me enlighten you, dear: Orange is the new black. "’
      • ‘You heard it here first: silver is the new black.’
      1. 1.1Something which is suddenly extremely popular or fashionable.
        ‘retro sci-fi is the new black’
        • ‘Like I said earlier, knitting is the new black.’
        • ‘They are sick to death of liberals telling them that gay is the new black.’
        • ‘Shopping, it seems, is the new black.’
        • ‘Simply put, choice has become the most important word in British politics; it is the new black.’
        • ‘Chick peas are the new black, you know.’
        • ‘Seems to me like sex industry blogging is the new black.’
        • ‘Complaining to blog owners is the new black.’
        • ‘Scary films about aeroplanes are the new black.’
        • ‘Middle Aged women baring breasts are the new black.’
        • ‘Spread betting is the new black in the betting world.’
  • not as black as one is painted

    • informal Not as bad as one is said to be.

      ‘Robert's character could surely not be as black as Dawn had painted’
      • ‘Probably the real Bertran was not as black as he is painted by Dante.’
      • ‘But in an overall rating and in the face of adversities - natural and manmade - her government is not as black as it is painted to be.’

Phrasal Verbs

  • black out

    • Undergo a sudden and temporary loss of consciousness.

      ‘they knocked me around and I blacked out’
      • ‘He felt something warm splash him just before he gave up his hold on consciousness and blacked out.’
      • ‘He was about to take his first step into the desert when all of a sudden he blacked out.’
      • ‘The sound of the report still echoed in his ears, and with this as his lullaby, he finally lost consciousness and blacked out.’
      • ‘For a second, the world began to spin, and she was afraid she might black out, but that passed.’
      • ‘He believes he blacked out at least five times before he regained consciousness in the shallows by the river bank.’
      • ‘His agent, who is planning a controversial exhibit of the photos Alex took just prior to blacking out underwater, is pressuring him to attend the show's opening.’
      • ‘This sort of thing happens to her all the time - and the cure will be more drink, until she blacks out again.’
      • ‘Shirley's breathing became so distorted that by the time he faded to just six breaths per minute and then lost consciousness, Shirley was also on the verge of blacking out.’
      • ‘He could feel his consciousness shutting down, blacking out…’
      • ‘The last thing she heard before she blacked out was a sudden increase in noise and panic.’
      faint, lose consciousness, pass out, collapse, keel over
      View synonyms
  • black something out

    • 1Extinguish all lights or completely cover windows, especially for protection against an air attack.

      ‘the bombers began to come nightly and the city was blacked out’
      ‘a stretch limo with blacked-out windows’
      • ‘I don't know why but it was not blacked out so you could see in the compartment.’
      • ‘The police could not confirm the number of attackers involved because the getaway vehicle's windows were blacked out.’
      • ‘The boats were blacked out and you weren't allowed to shine a light.’
      • ‘She did not have to worry about someone seeing the lights from outside because the windows were blacked out.’
      • ‘The windows have been blacked out and in place of the flimsy trade-show stands we have modular screens, creating the feeling of separate rooms.’
      • ‘The floodlights will be switched on for afternoon games and the dressing-room windows will be blacked out as his team launch a desperate attempt to avoid relegation.’
      • ‘‘I walked in and the lights had been blacked out,’ he says.’
      • ‘Its rear windows have been blacked out and the rear box is higher than the cab, which is of normal car size.’
      • ‘Inside the windows are blacked out; the destination unknown.’
      • ‘By then, the windows had been blacked out and the doors were sealed.’
      darken, make dark, make darker, shade, turn off the lights in
      View synonyms
      1. 1.1Subject a place to an electricity failure.
        ‘Chicago was blacked out yesterday after a freak flood’
        • ‘Utilities refused to disclose which areas were blacked out, but the effects were obvious - traffic lights went out for a second day across the San Francisco Bay area.’
        • ‘At midnight, all the city is blacked out, but the giant bronze statue on Chanamsan Hill remains illuminated brilliantly with a spotlight.’
        • ‘Your house is blacked out too; your mom says trees are falling in the streets and she doesn't want you driving.’
        • ‘It was so dark the whole of the city was blacked out, and the only light was from the fire.’
        • ‘Then all the lights went out and the building was blacked out.’
        • ‘Just by sheer luck the uniforms had been ironed minutes before the house was blacked out.’
        • ‘Both compartments were blacked out from 1600 h until 0800 h each day so that plants in the two compartments received a similar light integral.’
        • ‘His readers learnt that when gigantic portraits of Stalin were illuminated by electricity entire apartment blocks were blacked out.’
    • 2Obscure something completely so that it cannot be read or seen.

      ‘the number plate had been blacked out with masking tape’
      • ‘The fact that the names were blacked out, so that he could not immediately tell whose record he was reading, does not seem sufficient to justify allowing him to review the data and still call the study double-blind.’
      • ‘We can only tell that the informant was a women because there's a 3 letter pronoun that's often mentioned and they black it out and of course if it's a 3 letter pronoun it's a she.’
      • ‘But their faces and names were blacked out on ABC stations owned by Sinclair Broadcasting.’
      • ‘The mayor's office released several documents related to the lease, but the names and addresses of the city employees involved in the transactions were blacked out.’
      • ‘Most of the report is blacked out, and the unclassified parts raise questions about the director without providing answers.’
      • ‘The draft report on the wrongful detention of the resident can't be read in it's entirety because sections have been blacked out.’
      • ‘In fact, whole sections of these papers are blacked out.’
      • ‘The website set up by the company is still online but the freephone number has been blacked out.’
      • ‘His name evidently appears in the file because he died in 1987; the names of other informants or agents are blacked out.’
      • ‘However, it was heavily redacted: nearly half of the report was blacked out.’
      darken, make dark, make darker, shade, turn off the lights in
      View synonyms
      1. 2.1(of a television company) decide not to broadcast a disputed or controversial programme.
        ‘they blacked out the women's final’
        • ‘Although a well-attended press conference took place with reporters from both the American and international press corps, it was blacked out by the US news media.’
        • ‘The NFL, meanwhile, is concerned that a user could send a copy of a game to someone in another time zone, where the game is blacked out.’
        • ‘Local games were blacked out by the NFL at the time.’
        • ‘One web site apparently blocked commentary and a broadcast on the assault was blacked out.’
        • ‘Radio advertisements and a press release leading up to the event had declared the fight would be blacked out unless all seats were sold.’
        censor, suppress, redact, withhold, cover up, hide, conceal, obscure, veil, draw a veil over, pull a veil over, hush up, sweep under the carpet, whitewash
        View synonyms


Old English blæc, of Germanic origin.