• enPR: blăk, IPA: /blæk/
  • (British) IPA: en-uk-black.ogg

black (comparative blacker, superlative blackest)

  1. (of an object) Absorbing all light and reflecting none; dark and hueless.
  2. (of a place, etc) Without light.
  3. (sometimes capitalized) Of or relating to any of various ethnic groups having dark pigmentation of the skin.
  4. (chiefly, historical) Designated for use by those ethnic groups which have dark pigmentation of the skin.
    black drinking fountain; black hospital
  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. Bad; evil; ill-omened.
    • 1655, Benjamin Needler, Expository notes, with practical observations; towards the opening of the five first chapters of the first book of Moses called Genesis. London: N. Webb and W. Grantham, page 168.
      ...what a black day would that be, when the Ordinances of Jesus Christ should as it were be excommunicated, and cast out of the Church of Christ.
  7. Expressing menace, or discontent; threatening; sullen.
    He shot her a black look.
  8. (of objects, markets, etc) Illegitimate, illegal or disgraced.
    • 1866, The Contemporary Review, London: A. Strahan, page 338.
      Foodstuffs were rationed and, as in other countries in a similar situation, the black market was flourishing.
  9. (Ireland, informal) Overcrowded.
  10. (of coffee or tea) Without any cream, milk or creamer.
    Jim drinks his coffee black, but Ellen prefers it with creamer.
  11. (board games, chess) Of or relating to the playing pieces of a board game deemed to belong to the "black" set (in chess the set used by the player who moves second) (often regardless of the pieces' actual colour).
    The black pieces in this chess set are made of dark blue glass.
  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").
  13. (politics) Related to the Christian Democratic Union (Germany) of Germany.
    After the election, the parties united in a black-yellow alliance.
  14. 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.
    black operations/black ops, black room, black site
  15. Occult; relating to something (such as mystical or magical knowledge) which is unknown to or kept secret from the general public.
    • 2014, J.R.R. Tolkien, Beowulf: A Translation and Commentary, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (ISBN 9780544442795), page 168:
      But a hel-rúne was one who knew secret black knowledge – and the association of hell with the dead shows that the gloss in O.H.G. 'necromancia' is very close.
  16. (Ireland, now, pejorative) Protestant, often with the implication of being militantly pro-British or anti-Catholic
    Originally "the Black North" meant west Ulster, then Protestant east Ulster. Compare also blackmouth ["Presbyterian"] and the Royal Black Institution.
    • 1914 May 27, [;view=1up;seq=584 "Review of The North Afire by W. Douglas Newton"], The Sketch: A Journal of Art and Actuality, volume 86, page t:
      Now April's brother, once also holding a commission in that regiment, was an Ulster Volunteer, her father a staunch, black Protestant, her family tremulously "loyal" to the country whose Parliament was turning them out of its councils.
    • 1985 April, J. A. Weaver, "John Henry Biggart 1905-1979 — A portrait in respect and affection" ↗, Ulster Medical Journal, volume 54, number 1, page 1:
      He [Sir John Henry Biggart] was personally amused at having once been called "a black bastard".
    • 2007 September 6, Fintan O'Toole, "Diary" ↗, London Review of Books volume 29, number 17, page 35:
      He had been playing Gaelic football for Lisnaskea Emmets, his local team in County Fermanagh, against a team from nearby Brookeborough, when someone from the opposing team called him a ‘black cunt’. ‘Black’, in this case, was a reference not to the colour of his skin but to his religion. It is short for ‘Black Protestant’, a long-standing term of sectarian abuse.
  17. Having one or more features (hair, fur, armour, 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
    the black knight, black bile
  18. Foul; dirty.
Synonyms Antonyms Noun


  1. (countable and uncountable) The colour/color perceived in the absence of light, but also when no light is reflected, but rather absorbed.
    • c. 1595–1596, William Shakespeare, “Loues Labour’s Lost”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies: Published According to the True Originall Copies (First Folio), London: Printed by Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, OCLC 606515358 ↗, [Act IV, scene iii]:
      Black is the badge of hell, / The hue of dungeons, and the suit of night.
  2. (countable and uncountable) A black dye or pigment.
  3. (countable) A pen, pencil, crayon, etc., made of black pigment.
  4. (in the plural) Black cloth hung up at funerals.
    • 1625, Francis Bacon, "Of Death", Essays:
      Groans, and convulsions, and a discolored face, and friends weeping, and blacks, and obsequies, and the like, show death terrible.
  5. (sometimes capitalised, countable) A person of African, Aborigine, or Maori descent; a dark-skinned person.
  6. (billiards, snooker, pool, countable) The black ball.
  7. (baseball, countable) The edge of home plate.
  8. (British, countable) A type of firecracker that is really more dark brown in colour.
  9. (informal, countable) Blackcurrant syrup (in mixed drinks, e.g. snakebite and black, cider and black).
  10. (in chess and similar games, countable) The person playing with the black set of pieces.
    At this point black makes a disastrous move.
  11. (countable) Something, or a part of a thing, which is black.
    • the black or sight of the eye
  12. (obsolete, countable) A stain; a spot.
    • defiling her white lawn of chastity with ugly blacks of lust
  13. A dark smut fungus, harmful to wheat.
Synonyms Antonyms Verb

black (blacks, present participle blacking; past and past participle blacked)

  1. (transitive) To make black; to blacken.
    • 1859, Oliver Optic, Poor and Proud; or, The Fortunes of Katy Redburn, a Story for Young Folks []
      "I don't want to fight; but you are a mean, dirty blackguard, or you wouldn't have treated a girl like that," replied Tommy, standing as stiff as a stake before the bully.
      "Say that again, and I'll black your eye for you."
    • 1911, Edna Ferber, Buttered Side Down []
      Ted, you can black your face, and dye your hair, and squint, and some fine day, sooner or later, somebody'll come along and blab the whole thing.
    • 1922, John Galsworthy, A Family Man: In Three Acts
      I saw red, and instead of a cab I fetched that policeman. Of course father did black his eye.
  2. (transitive) To apply blacking to (something).
    • 1853, Harriet Beecher Stowe, The Key to Uncle Tom's Cabin []
      […] he must catch, curry, and saddle his own horse; he must black his own brogans (for he will not be able to buy boots).
    • 1861, George William Curtis, Trumps: A Novel []
      But in a moment he went to Greenidge's bedside, and said, shyly, in a low voice, "Shall I black your boots for you?"
    • 1911, Max Beerbohm, Zuleika Dobson []
      Loving you, I could conceive no life sweeter than hers — to be always near you; to black your boots, carry up your coals, scrub your doorstep; always to be working for you, hard and humbly and without thanks.
  3. (British, transitive) To boycott, usually as part of an industrial dispute.
Proper noun
  1. Surname

black (not comparable)

  1. Alternative letter-case form of black (“of or relating to any of various ethnic groups having dark pigmentation of the skin”)

black (plural blacks)

  1. Alternative letter-case form of black (“person having dark pigmentation of the skin”)

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