Definition of black and white in English:

Share this entry

black and white


1(Of a photograph, film, television programme, etc.) in black, white, shades of grey, and no other colour: old black-and-white movies
More example sentences
  • The first photograph was a black-and-white wedding photo, slightly yellowed with age.
  • It was painted from an old black-and-white photograph somebody had lent her: she added the colours herself.
  • My class is taught to develop their own film and produce black-and-white photos.
2(Of a situation or debate) involving clearly defined opposing principles or issues: it was all grey areas; no black-and-white certainties
More example sentences
  • The only problem, of course, is that neither situation is a black-and-white issue.
  • Your question appears to raise an issue that is fairly black-and-white.
  • Is potential failure assessment a black-and-white issue or does it depend on who is asking the questions and when?
simplistic, shallow, pat, glib, jejune, naive


US informal
A police car: a couple of black and whites zipped up and cops jumped out
More example sentences
  • I just got back from the class and noticed quite a few agencies have gone to black & whites.
  • Nothing says "Police" like a black & white.
  • Saw the Jefferson CSO (CO) Dodge Charger black and white with LEDS on a traffic stop today.


in black and white

1In writing or print: she had abandoned all hope of getting her contract down in black and white
More example sentences
  • Of course, the charts were printed right there in black and white, and they were always dominated by stuff like this.
  • It's all there in black and white, in leaked European Union documents which are now published on the Internet.
  • Though this dependence was glossed over, it was there in black and white for anyone who chose to read the paper carefully enough.
in print, printed, written down, set down, on paper, committed to paper, recorded, on record, documented, clearly/plainly/explicitly defined
2In terms of clearly defined opposing principles or issues: children think in black and white, good and bad
More example sentences
  • They crave books which confirm mythical notions of a magnificent past, in which villains and heroes are clearly drawn in black and white.
  • You cannot see everything in this world in black and white terms.
  • Doping in sport tends to be presented in black and white terms, but this case illustrated that it is not always so simple.
in absolute terms, unequivocally, without shades of grey, categorically, uncompromisingly, unconditionally, unambiguously, clearly, positively, straightforwardly, definitely, definitively;

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: black and white

Share this entry

What do you find interesting about this word or phrase?

Comments that don't adhere to our Community Guidelines may be moderated or removed.