AskDefine | Define black

Dictionary Definition

black adj
1 being of the achromatic color of maximum darkness; having little or no hue owing to absorption of almost all incident light; "black leather jackets"; "as black as coal"; "rich black soil" [syn: achromatic] [ant: white]
2 of or belonging to a racial group having dark skin especially of sub-Saharan African origin; "a great people--a black people--...injected new meaning and dignity into the veins of civilization"- Martin Luther King Jr. [ant: white]
3 marked by anger or resentment or hostility; "black looks"; "black words"
4 stemming from evil characteristics or forces; wicked or dishonorable; "black deeds"; "a black lie"; "his black heart has concocted yet another black deed"; "Darth Vader of the dark side"; "a dark purpose"; "dark undercurrents of ethnic hostility"; "the scheme of some sinister intelligence bent on punishing him"-Thomas Hardy [syn: dark, sinister]
5 offering little or no hope; "the future looked black"; "prospects were bleak"; "Life in the Aran Islands has always been bleak and difficult"- J.M.Synge; "took a dim view of things" [syn: bleak, dim]
6 (of events) having extremely unfortunate or dire consequences; bringing ruin; "the stock market crashed on Black Friday"; "a calamitous defeat"; "the battle was a disastrous end to a disastrous campaign"; "such doctrines, if true, would be absolutely fatal to my theory"- Charles Darwin; "it is fatal to enter any war without the will to win it"- Douglas MacArthur; "a fateful error" [syn: calamitous, disastrous, fatal, fateful]
7 (of the face) made black especially as with suffused blood; "a face black with fury" [syn: blackened]
8 extremely dark; "a black moonless night"; "through the pitch-black woods"; "it was pitch-dark in the celler" [syn: pitch-black, pitch-dark]
9 harshly ironic or sinister; "black humor"; "a grim joke"; "grim laughter"; "fun ranging from slapstick clowning ... to savage mordant wit" [syn: grim, mordant]
10 (of intelligence operations) deliberately misleading; "black propaganda"
11 distributed or sold illicitly; "the black economy pays no taxes" [syn: bootleg, black-market, contraband, smuggled]
12 (used of conduct or character) deserving or bringing disgrace or shame; "Man...has written one of his blackest records as a destroyer on the oceanic islands"- Rachel Carson; "an ignominious retreat"; "inglorious defeat"; "an opprobrious monument to human greed"; "a shameful display of cowardice" [syn: disgraceful, ignominious, inglorious, opprobrious, shameful]
13 (of coffee) without cream or sugar
14 dressed in black; "a black knight"; "black friars"
15 soiled with dirt or soot; "with feet black from playing outdoors"; "his shirt was black within an hour"


1 the quality or state of the achromatic color of least lightness (bearing the least resemblance to white) [syn: blackness] [ant: white]
2 total absence of light; "they fumbled around in total darkness"; "in the black of night" [syn: total darkness, lightlessness, blackness, pitch blackness]
3 British chemist who identified carbon dioxide and who formulated the concepts of specific heat and latent heat (1728-1799) [syn: Joseph Black]
4 popular child actress of the 1930's (born 1927) [syn: Shirley Temple Black, Shirley Temple]
5 a person with dark skin who comes from Africa (or whose ancestors came from Africa) [syn: Black person, blackamoor, Negro, Negroid]
6 (board games) the darker pieces [ant: white]
7 black clothing (worn as a sign of mourning); "the widow wore black" v : make or become black; "The smoke blackened the ceiling"; "The ceiling blackened" [syn: blacken, melanize, melanise, nigrify] [ant: whiten]

User Contributed Dictionary



Extensive Definition

Black is the color of objects that do not emit or reflect light in any part of the visible spectrum; they absorb all such frequencies of light. Sometimes black is described as an "achromatic color", but in practice it can be considered a color, as in expressions like "black cat" or "black paint".

Color or light in science

Black can be defined as the visual impression experienced in directions from which no visible light reaches the eye. (This makes a contrast with whiteness, the impression of any combination of colors of light that equally stimulates all three types of color-sensitive visual receptors.)
Pigments that absorb light rather than reflect it back to the eye "look black". A black pigment can, however, result from a combination of several pigments that collectively absorb all colors. If appropriate proportions of three primary pigments are mixed, the result reflects so little light as to be called "black".
This provides two superficially opposite but actually complementary descriptions of black. Black is the lack of all colors of light, or an exhaustive combination of multiple colors of pigment. See also Primary colors
In physics, a black body is a perfect absorber of light, but by a rule derived by Einstein it is also, when heated, the best emitter. Thus, the best radiative cooling, out of sunlight, is by using black paint, though it is important that it be black (a nearly perfect absorber) in the infrared as well.
In elementary science, far Ultraviolet light is called "black light" because, unseen (per se), it causes many minerals and other substances to fluoresce.
On January 16, 2008, researchers from Troy, New York’s Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute announced the creation of the darkest material on the planet. The material, which reflects only .045 percent of light, was created from carbon nanotubes stood on end. It absorbs nearly 30 times more light than the current standard for blackness, and is 3 times darker than the current record holder for darkest substance. Scientists claim that the new material has great potential in the manufacturing of solar panels.

Absorption of light

In keeping with the law of conservation of energy, as a black color surface absorbs the light particles that hit it, the surface's particles are getting excited (excited particles = higher temperature). The color black attracts heat and absorbs it making the object that is black warmer, because the particles have warmed up and are moving faster.

Usage, symbolism, colloquial expressions

Neutral symbolism

Some of these can be seen as positive or negative, depending on one's stance. For example, superstitions related to black cats hold them to be bad luck in the U.S. and good luck in the UK.

Authority and seriousness

Black can be seen as the color of authority and seriousness.




  • In arguments, things can be black-and-white, meaning that the issue at hand is dichotomized (having two clear, opposing sides with no middle ground).
  • In ancient China, black was the symbol of North and Water, one of the main five colors.


Popular culture


  • The term "black hole" is applied to collapsed stars. This term is metaphorical however, because few properties of black objects or black voids apply to black holes. However, light emitted within a black hole's event horizon cannot escape, hence a black hole cannot be directly observed.
  • Black sky refers to the appearance of space as one emerges from the Earth's atmosphere.


Ambiguity and secrecy

  • Black frequently symbolizes ambiguity, secrecy, and the unknown.
  • A black box is any device whose internal workings are unknown or inexplicable. In theatre, the black box is a smaller, undecorated theater whose auditorium and stage relationship can be configured in various way.
  • A black project is a secretive project, like Enigma Decryption, other classified military programs or operations, Narcotics, or police sting operations.
  • Some organizations are called "black" when they keep a low profile, like Sociétés Anonymes and secret societies.
  • A polished black mirror is used for scrying, and is thought to help see into the paranormal world without interference or distraction.

Positive symbolism

  • Black can also be seen as the color of prestige: for example, limousines are usually in black.

Beliefs, religions and superstitions


  • To say one's accounts are "in the black" is used to mean that one is free of debt.
    • Being "in the red" is to be in debt—in traditional bookkeeping, negative amounts, such as costs, were printed in red ink, and positive amounts, like revenues, were printed in black ink, so that if the "bottom line" is printed in black, the firm is profiting.
  • Black Friday (shopping) occurs the day after Thanksgiving and is, statistically, the largest shopping day in the US. The idea is that the shopping that begins on this day can put a company into the black (i.e., make a profit) for the year.


  • In Western fashion, black is considered stylish, sexy, elegant and powerful.
  • The colloquialism "X is the new black" is a reference to the latest trend or fad that is considered a wardrobe basic for the duration of the trend, on the basis that black is always fashionable. The phrase has taken on a life of its own as a snowclone, and has been stretched and parodied as a rhetorical device and a cliche.

Negative symbolism

Black can also carry negative connotations. The reasons for this are various, but the most widely accepted explanations are that night is perceived as dangerous. Especially before electric lights, darkness was potentially threatening. A secondary reason is that stains are most visible as dark additions to pale materials. Some people associate black with evil and destruction as it naturally absorbs all light and even the Black Hole is described as 'nature's ultimate fury'.
This use of the word and its associations carries over from night and objects to people as well. In traditional class-based Western cultures, pale skin indicated genteel domestic or intellectual indoor-work as opposed to rough outdoor labor in the fields. Aspects of this black/white opposition are not unique to the West, as, for example in the Indian varna system and in Japanese geisha makeup. African, Afro-Caribbean and African-American writers, such as Frantz Fanon, Langston Hughes, Maya Angelou, and Ralph Ellison, identify a number of negative symbolisms surrounding the word "black", arguing that the good vs. bad dualism associated with white and black provide prejudiced connotations to color terminology for race.

Beliefs, religions and superstitions

  • Black is a symbol of mourning and bereavement in Western societies, especially at funerals and memorial services. In some traditional societies, within for example Greece and Italy, widows wear black for the rest of their lives. In contrast, across much of Africa and parts of Asia, white is a color of mourning and is worn during funerals.
  • In English heraldry, black means darkness, doubt, ignorance, and uncertainty.

Symbolic dualism with white

  • Black magic is a destructive or evil form of magic, often connected with death, as opposed to white magic. This was already apparent during Ancient Egypt when the Cush Tribe invaded Egyptian plantations along the Nile River.
  • Evil witches are stereotypically dressed in black and good fairies in white.
  • Melodrama villains are dressed in black and heroines in white dresses.
  • In many Hollywood Westerns, bad cowboys wear black hats while the good ones wear white.
  • In computer security, a blackhat is an attacker with evil intentions, while a whitehat bears no such ill will. (This is derived from the Western movie convention.)

Historical events

  • The Black Death, also known as the Black Plague, was a pandemic in Europe which killed tens of millions of people.
  • The Black Hole of Calcutta was the overcrowding of an impromptu prison cell in which many died.


  • The black market is used to denote the trade of illegal goods, or alternatively the illegal trade of otherwise legal items at considerably higher prices, e.g. to evade rationing.
  • Black comedy is a form of comedy dealing with morbid and serious topics.
  • A blacklist is a list of undesirable persons or entities (to be placed on the list is to be "blacklisted").
  • To blackball someone is to block their entry into a club or some such institution. In the traditional English gentlemen's club, current members vote on the admission of a candidate by secretly placing a white or black ball in a hat. If upon the completion of voting, there was even one black ball amongst the white, the candidate would be denied membership, and he would never know who had "blackballed" him.
  • Blackmail is the act of threatening to reveal information about a person unless the threatened party fulfills certain demands. This information is usually of an embarrassing or socially damaging nature. Ordinarily, such a threat is illegal.
  • The black sheep of the family is the ne'er-do-well.
  • A black mood is a bad one (cf Winston Churchill's clinical depression, which he called "my black dog").
  • If you sink the black eight-ball in billiards before all others are out of play, you lose. (The ball with which you sink all others is the white cue ball).
  • A black mark against you is a bad thing.
  • A black-hearted person is mean and unloving.
  • Black propaganda is the use of known falsehoods, partial truths, or masquerades in propaganda to confuse an opponent.


Black pigments include carbon black, ivory black, ebony, onyx and charcoal black.


External links

black in Arabic: أسود
black in Official Aramaic (700-300 BCE): ܐܘܟܡܐ
black in Guarani: Hũ
black in Aymara: Ch'iyara
black in Azerbaijani: Qara
black in Min Nan: O͘-sek
black in Bosnian: Crna
black in Catalan: Negre
black in Czech: Černá
black in Chamorro: Áttilong
black in Welsh: Du
black in Danish: Sort
black in German: Schwarz
black in Estonian: Must
black in Modern Greek (1453-): Μαύρο
black in Emiliano-Romagnolo: Negher
black in Spanish: Negro (color)
black in Esperanto: Nigro
black in Basque: Beltz
black in Persian: سیاه
black in French: Noir
black in Friulian: Neri
black in Galician: Negro (cor)
black in Classical Chinese: 黑
black in Korean: 검정
black in Hindi: काला
black in Croatian: Crna
black in Indonesian: Hitam
black in Icelandic: Svartur
black in Italian: Nero
black in Hebrew: שחור
black in Kurdish: Reş
black in Latin: Niger (color)
black in Lithuanian: Juoda
black in Lingala: Moíndo
black in Hungarian: Fekete
black in Malayalam: കറുപ്പ്
black in Maltese: Iswed
black in Malay (macrolanguage): Hitam
black in Dutch: Zwart
black in Japanese: 黒
black in Chechen: Iаьржа
black in Norwegian: Svart
black in Norwegian Nynorsk: Svart
black in Narom: Nièr
black in Polish: Barwa czarna
black in Portuguese: Preto
black in Kölsch: Schwaz (Färv)
black in Romanian: Negru
black in Quechua: Yana
black in Russian: Чёрный цвет
black in Sicilian: Nìuru
black in Simple English: Black
black in Slovak: Čierna
black in Slovenian: Črna
black in Serbian: Црно
black in Finnish: Musta
black in Swedish: Svart
black in Tamil: கருப்பு
black in Telugu: నలుపు
black in Thai: สีดำ
black in Vietnamese: Đen
black in Tajik: Сиёҳ
black in Turkish: Kara
black in Buginese: Lotong
black in Ukrainian: Чорний колір
black in Yiddish: שווארץ
black in Chinese: 黑色

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

American Indian, Amerind, Australian aborigine, Brunswick black, Bushman, Caucasian, Indian, Malayan, Mister Charley, Mongolian, Negrillo, Negrito, Negro, Oriental, Red Indian, Stygian, WASP, abominable, absolute, angry, aniline black, apocalyptic, arrant, asperse, atramentous, atrocious, awful, bad, bad-tempered, baleful, ban, baneful, base, beamless, beetle-browed, black as coal, black as ebony, black as ink, black as midnight, black as night, black man, black race, black-browed, black-skinned, blacken, blackfellow, blackguardly, blackish, blacklist, blackness, blamable, blameworthy, bleak, blue black, bodeful, boding, bone black, boy, boycott, brown man, brunet, burrhead, calamitous, caliginous, calumniate, carbon black, cataclysmal, cataclysmic, catastrophic, charcoal, chrome black, clouded, coal, coal-black, coaly, colored, colored person, complete, contuse, coon, corbeau, crape, criminal, crow, cypress, cypress lawn, damnable, dark, dark as night, dark as pitch, dark-complexioned, dark-skinned, darkling, darkness, darksome, darky, dastardly, deadly, deathly, deep black, deep mourning, defame, dejected, depressing, depressive, destructive, diabolical, dire, disastrous, disgraceful, dismal, dispiriting, doomful, dour, downright, drear, drearisome, dreary, drop black, dumpish, dusky, ebon, ebony, eclipsed, embargo, evil, evil-starred, execrable, fatal, fateful, felonious, filthy, flagitious, flagrant, foreboding, foul, frowning, funebrial, funereal, furious, gloomy, glowering, glum, gook, grave, gray, grievous, grim, grubby, grum, hateful, heinous, hellish, honky, hyacinthine, ill, ill-boding, ill-fated, ill-omened, ill-starred, improper, impure, inaccurate, inauspicious, inexpedient, infamous, inferior, infernal, iniquitous, ink, ink-black, inkiness, inky, insidious, interdict, invalid, ivory black, japan, jet, jetty, jigaboo, jungle bunny, knavish, lampblack, libel, low, lowering, malevolent, malicious, malignant, melancholy, melanian, melanic, melanism, melanistic, melano, melanotic, melanous, menacing, midnight, monstrous, moodish, moody, mopey, moping, mopish, morose, mourning, mourning band, mumpish, nasty, naughty, nefarious, nigger, niggra, night, night-black, night-clad, night-cloaked, night-dark, night-enshrouded, night-filled, night-mantled, night-veiled, nigrescence, nigritude, nigrous, obfuscated, obscure, obscured, occulted, of evil portent, ofay, ominous, onyx, oppressive, out-and-out, outrageous, outright, paleface, peccant, perfect, perfidious, pitch, pitch-black, pitch-dark, pitchy, portending, portentous, positive, pygmy, rank, raven, raven-black, rayless, red man, redskin, regular, reprehensible, reprobate, resentful, ruinous, sable, sackcloth, sackcloth and ashes, saturnine, scandalous, scowling, scurvy, shameful, sinful, sinister, slander, slant-eye, slate, sloe, sloe-black, sloe-colored, slur, smear, smoke, smut, soily, solemn, somber, sombrous, soot, sooty, spade, squalid, starless, sulky, sullen, sunless, surly, swart, swarthy, tar, tar-black, tarry, tenebrious, tenebrose, tenebrous, the Man, thoroughgoing, threatening, throw mud at, traduce, tragic, treacherous, triste, unclean, uncleanly, unconscionable, unfavorable, unforgivable, unfortunate, unhealthy, unilluminated, unkind, unlighted, unlit, unlucky, unpardonable, unpleasant, unprincipled, unpromising, unpropitious, unscrupulous, unskillful, unspeakable, untoward, unworthy, vicious, vile, vilify, villainous, weariful, wearisome, weary, weeds, white, white man, whitey, wicked, wrathful, wreckful, wrong, yellow man, yew
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