Definition of black in English:

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Pronunciation: /blak/


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
More example sentences
  • The first attacker was 6ft tall with short blond hair and was wearing black trousers and a white T-shirt.
  • Bundles of chemical sticks lay ready to be burnt in it, some making black smoke and some white.
  • The video showed a white truck exploding and black plumes of smoke billowing into the air.
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
More example sentences
  • I can see the stars and the sky and the moon and the black sky revolving overhead.
  • 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.
unlit, dark, starless, moonless, unlighted, unilluminated;
gloomy, dusky, dim, murky, dingy, shadowy, overcast
literary crepuscular, tenebrous
rare Stygian, Cimmerian, Tartarean, caliginous
1.2Deeply stained with dirt: the walls were black with age and dirt
More example sentences
  • The workers are black with dirt and perspiration that the four fans on the ceiling do not dry.
  • The walls and ceiling of the room were perfectly black, with age and dirt.
  • Inside the garage door the concrete was stained black with oil and a car was hoisted on a ramp.
1.3(Of a plant or animal) dark in colour as distinguished from a lighter variety: Japanese black pine
More example sentences
  • The crested black macque was called the Celebes or black ape by early scientists, because it appeared to have no tail.
  • The bees are of the old Irish black bee variety which have been revived by the group of beekeepers.
  • The County Council intends to plant black poplars along the River Lune in autumn.
1.4(Of coffee or tea) served without milk: a mug of black coffee Doyle took his coffee black
More example sentences
  • Instead, drink lots of water, a cup of skim or soy milk, or a cup of black coffee or tea.
  • Trust me, if you're really a caffeine junkie, you're drinking espressos and black coffee.
  • Small amounts of water or black coffee may be safe if taken a sufficient time before your procedure.
1.5Of or denoting the suits spades and clubs in a pack of cards.
Example sentences
  • If your stack happens to be a Male Fish, you put a black card of that rank on top (spades or clubs).
  • 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.
  • If it contains one or more wild cards, it is a mixed canasta, indicated by stacking the cards with a black card on top.
1.6(Of a ski run) of the highest level of difficulty, as indicated by black markers positioned along it.
Example sentences
  • Ski on black slopes and possibly double-black (extreme) slopes.
  • If you currently ski blue and groomed black runs this is the camp for you.
  • The Base and Run 63 are perfect for beginners, and there are also black ski runs, bumps and jumps for the more advanced.
2 (also Black) Belonging to or denoting any human group having dark-coloured skin, especially of African or Australian Aboriginal ancestry: black adolescents of Jamaican descent
More example sentences
  • Human Rights Watch says black Africans are deliberately being driven off the land.
  • The buzzer sounds and I smile out at a black African with a briefcase.
  • He set a big example for the rest of the country and for all black South Africans.
2.1Relating to black people: black culture
More example sentences
  • Anthony says mainstream culture is becoming ripe with curiosity about black culture.
  • This has very little to do with opprotunity, but a great deal to do with black culture.
  • Johnson was a banner figure for artists of the great 1960s revival in black culture.
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
More example sentences
  • Perhaps however the truth lies somewhere in between and the situation is not as black as some perceive it to be.
  • In the North East, once ships stopped being built, a black depression hung over the region.
  • 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
literary direful
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
More example sentences
  • For the past ten years, Joanne had suffered from depression and took medication to control her black moods.
  • I've had no periods of black depression about it, no waking up in cold sweats.
  • Those moments of wild inspiration have a payback time and it comes in periods of black depression.
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
informal blue, down in the mouth, down in the dumps
literary dolorous
3.2(Of humour) presenting tragic or harrowing situations in comic terms: ‘Good place to bury the bodies,’ she joked with black humour
More example sentences
  • 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.
  • She also revealed the black humour used in the surgery.
  • Well, that's going too far - but it is certainly Swiftian satire, black humour or gallows humour.
cynical, sick, macabre, weird, unhealthy, ghoulish, morbid, perverted, gruesome, sadistic, cruel, offensive
3.3Full of anger or hatred: Rory shot her a black look
More example sentences
  • She was going to set him free from all of the evil and black hatred he had brought to the world.
  • 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.
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;
threatening, menacing, unfriendly, aggressive, belligerent, hostile, antagonistic, evil, evil-intentioned, wicked, nasty, hate-filled, bitter, acrimonious, malevolent, malicious, malignant, malign, venomous, poisonous, vitriolic, vindictive
British informal shirty, stroppy, narky, ratty, eggy
literary malefic, maleficent
3.4 archaic 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
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


1 [mass noun] Black colour or pigment: a tray decorated in black and green
More example sentences
  • Other colours include midnight black, ocean blue, rose pink and olive green.
  • The classroom, painted in its sober colours of beige and black, is half-full.
  • The finished article was painted in glossy black, the colour of the original vehicle, to make it look new.
1.1Black clothes or material, typically worn as a sign of mourning: only one or two of the mourners were in black
More example sentences
  • Her last wishes state that there should be no mourning and that no black is to be worn to the service.
  • She was startled and looked up to see that the man was dressed in all black with a hood on his face.
  • Guns were aimed at him from the men dressed in all black, masks covering their faces.
1.2Darkness, especially of night or an overcast sky: the only thing visible in the black was the light of the torch
More example sentences
  • The cold black of night is penetrated by an alien tone, played upon an inhuman scale.
  • My spot in the grass disappeared and I was left with just darkness and total black.
  • All about her was either the black of night and shadows or the orange of flame.
1.3 (Black) The player of the black pieces in chess or draughts: Black’s king’s defences are somewhat weakened
More example sentences
  • 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.
  • Tha was a very precise move which forces Black to make a passive recapture with the bishop.
1.4 [count noun] A black thing, in particular the black ball in snooker.
Example sentences
  • I was so angry that I missed an easy black being careless - I actually hate myself for it.
  • 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.
  • He potted 13 reds and 12 blacks before losing position on the colour.
2 (also Black) A member of a dark-skinned people, especially one of African or Australian Aboriginal ancestry: they tend to identify strongly with other blacks
More example sentences
  • In Brazil, the African Brazilian population comprises blacks and mulattos.
  • 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.
  • The company recruited battle-hardened and disciplined South Africans and Zimbabweans, blacks as well as whites.
3 (the black) The 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
More example sentences
  • Also, you've learned that staying out of the red and keeping in the black gives you more money to save and invest.
  • To the markets now, the big stocks were back in the black today, making up all of yesterday's losses.
  • Invest wisely in IT and you'll keep your eternal balance sheet 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
rare unindebted
4British informal Blackcurrant cordial: a rum and black


[with object]
1Make (something) black, especially with polish: the steps of the house were neatly blacked
More example sentences
  • Guilt is the great disguiser, blacking the white of the sun.
  • This stuff doesn't just black the buildings, it causes asthma and stunts the development of children's lungs.
  • I lighted the fires and blacked the grates.
1.1Make (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
More example sentences
  • The theme was ‘colonials and natives’ and some of the guests had blacked their faces.
  • She said that on May 1, last year, he blacked his face, put on camouflage clothing and went to the site.
  • 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.
2British dated Refuse to handle (goods), undertake (work), or have dealings with (a person or business) as a way of taking industrial action: the printers blacked firms trying to employ women
More example sentences
  • Their defiance sparked a huge wave of international solidarity that saw English dockers blacking Irish goods and collections taken in workplaces across Britain.
  • 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.
  • 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.
boycott, embargo, put/place an embargo on, blacklist, ban, bar, proscribe


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: a woman capable of blacking the eye of any guest who wanted to slip out before the end
More example sentences
  • She told how when she said she was leaving, he put a pillow over her face and then punched her, blacking her eye.
  • She said he had grabbed her by the throat and blacked her eye by hurling her on to the settee.
  • 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.
bruise, contuse;
hit, punch, injure;
make black, discolour

in someone's black books

informal In disfavour with someone.
Example sentences
  • Jake, our Shetland ram, is in my black books at the moment because, true to type, he will keep ramming Molly's goat hut.
  • I have to stay in her black books as far as this question is concerned.
  • 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.

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
More example sentences
  • We bankers are a conservative lot, we tend to look on the black side.
  • But, notwithstanding my determination to look on the black side of things, life isn't uniformly bad.
  • You shouldn't always look on the black side if you haven't heard from someone for a while though.

men in black

Pronunciation: /ˌmɛn ɪn ˈblak/
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
More example sentences
  • 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 new black

A 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
More example sentences
  • Green goes mainstream: Last year, coming in at No. 3, was "Green is the new black" being green was trendy.
  • Let me enlighten you, dear: Orange is the new black. "
  • Or maybe white has always been the new black.
5.1Something which is suddenly extremely popular or fashionable: retro sci-fi is the new black
More example sentences
  • Seems to me like sex industry blogging is the new black.
  • Middle Aged women baring breasts are the new black.
  • Like I said earlier, knitting is the new black.

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
More example sentences
  • 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
More example sentences
  • He could feel his consciousness shutting down, blacking out…
  • The sound of the report still echoed in his ears, and with this as his lullaby, he finally lost consciousness and blacked 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
informal flake out, conk out, go out
literary swoon

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 (as adjective blacked out) a stretch limo with blacked-out windows
More example sentences
  • She did not have to worry about someone seeing the lights from outside because the windows were blacked out.
  • 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.
  • 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.
darken, make dark/darker, shade, turn off the lights in;
keep the light out of
1.1Subject a place to an electricity failure: Chicago was blacked out yesterday after a freak flood
More example sentences
  • His readers learnt that when gigantic portraits of Stalin were illuminated by electricity entire apartment blocks were blacked out.
  • At midnight, all the city is blacked out, but the giant bronze statue on Chanamsan Hill remains illuminated brilliantly with a spotlight.
  • Then all the lights went out and the building was blacked out.
2Obscure something completely so that it cannot be read or seen: the number plate had been blacked out with masking tape
More example sentences
  • The draft report on the wrongful detention of the resident can't be read in it's entirety because sections have been blacked out.
  • The website set up by the company is still online but the freephone number has been blacked out.
  • 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.
2.1(Of a television company) decide not to broadcast a disputed or controversial programme: they blacked out the women’s final
More example sentences
  • One web site apparently blocked commentary and a broadcast on the assault was blacked out.
  • 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.
  • Local games were blacked out by the NFL at the time.
censor, suppress, redact, withhold, cover up, hide, conceal, obscure, veil, draw/pull a veil over, hush up, sweep under the carpet, whitewash



Pronunciation: /ˈblakɪʃ/
Example sentences
  • It has a thin, black bill, dark gray to blackish legs, dark patches on either side of the upper breast, and dark ear patches.
  • At 11 p.m., it looked like a blackish dark gray B - 2 bomber, but then it shot sharply forward only to slow down and stop.
  • Her wings turned from silver bright to blackish dark.


Pronunciation: /ˈblakli/
Example sentences
  • Of the film, he says, ‘You can either make it more like a horror [film], or you can make it blackly comic.’
  • There's even a visceral and blackly humorous moment where the actors demonstrate exactly what's going to happen to the planet using a lighter, a peach and a can of air freshener.
  • There is a smaller room that shows Goya's pinturas negras, blackly painted at the end of his life, when the artist was suffering from depression and slowly going mad.


Old English blæc, of Germanic origin.

  • Since the Middle Ages the word black has had connotations of gloom, foreboding, and anger, and since Shakespeare's time it has been associated with wickedness. It is also a perennially stylish colour, and the little black dress has been a byword of fashion from the very beginning of the 20th century. The car manufacturer Henry Ford was not motivated by any of these associations when he said of his Model T Ford, ‘Any customer can have a car painted any colour that he wants so long as it is black’—nor was he trying to impose uniformity. Black simply dried quicker than any other paint. To blackball (late 18th century) derives from the practice of registering an adverse vote by placing a black ball in a ballot box. Black sheep (late 18th century) comes from the proverb there is a black sheep in every flock. Blackguard (early 16th century) was originally a two-word phrase for a body of attendants or servants, especially menials who were responsible for the kitchen utensils, but the exact significance of the epithet ‘black’ is uncertain. The sense ‘scoundrel, villain’ dates from the mid 18th century, and was formerly considered highly offensive.

    To be in someone's black books is to be out of favour. Since the 15th century various types of official book were known as black books, especially those used to note down misdemeanours and punishments. The relevant books here are probably the black-bound books in which Henry VIII's commissioners recorded accounts of scandals and corruption within the English monasteries in the 1530s. These books provided the evidence to support Henry's plan of breaking with the Pope and the Church of Rome, allowing him to dissolve the monasteries.

    Not all things called black are black in colour. An aircraft's black box, its flight recorder, for instance, is not. Black here refers to the mystifying nature of the device to anyone but an aeronautical engineer. The first use of black box is as RAF slang for a navigational instrument in an aircraft which allowed the pilot and crew to locate bombing targets in poor visibility. See also plague

Words that rhyme with black

aback, alack, attack, back, brack, clack, claque, crack, Dirac, drack, flack, flak, hack, jack, Kazakh, knack, lack, lakh, mac, mach, Nagorno-Karabakh, pack, pitchblack, plaque, quack, rack, sac, sack, shack, shellac, slack, smack, snack, stack, tach, tack, thwack, track, vac, wack, whack, wrack, yak, Zack

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: black

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