adj. black·er, black·est
1. Being of the color black, producing or reflecting comparatively little light and having no predominant hue.
2. Having little or no light: a black, moonless night.
3. also Black
a. Of or belonging to a racial group having brown to black skin, especially one of African origin: the black population of South Africa.
b. Of or belonging to an American ethnic group descended from African peoples having dark skin; African American.
4. Very dark in color: rich black soil; black, wavy hair.
5. Being a trail, as for skiing, marked with a sign having a black diamond, indicating a high level of difficulty.
6. Soiled, as from soot; dirty: feet black from playing outdoors.
7. Evil; wicked: the pirates' black deeds.
8. Cheerless and depressing; gloomy: black thoughts.
9. Being or characterized by morbid or grimly satiric humor: a black comedy.
10. Marked by anger or sullenness: gave me a black look.
11. Attended with disaster; calamitous: a black day; the stock market crash on Black Friday.
12. Deserving of, indicating, or incurring censure or dishonor: “Man ... has written one of his blackest records as a destroyer on the oceanic islands” (Rachel Carson).
13. Wearing clothing of the darkest visual hue: the black knight.
14. Served without milk or cream: black coffee.
15. Appearing to emanate from a source other than the actual point of origin. Used chiefly of intelligence operations: black propaganda; black radio transmissions.
16. Disclosed, for reasons of security, only to an extremely limited number of authorized persons; very highly classified: black programs in the Defense Department; the Pentagon's black budget.
17. Chiefly British Boycotted as part of a labor union action.
a. The achromatic color value of minimum lightness or maximum darkness; the color of objects that absorb nearly all light of all visible wavelengths; one extreme of the neutral gray series, the opposite being white. Although strictly a response to zero stimulation of the retina, the perception of black appears to depend on contrast with surrounding color stimuli.
b. A pigment or dye having this color value.
2. Complete or almost complete absence of light; darkness.
3. Clothing of the darkest hue, especially such clothing worn for mourning.
4. also Black
a. A member of a racial group having brown to black skin, especially one of African origin.
b. An American descended from peoples of African origin having brown to black skin; an African American.
5. Something that is colored black.
a. The black-colored pieces, as in chess or checkers.
b. The player using these pieces.
7. The condition of making or operating at a profit: worked hard to get the business back into the black.
v. blacked, black·ing, blacks
1. To make black: blacked their faces with charcoal.
2. To apply blacking to: blacked the stove.
3. Chiefly British To boycott as part of a labor union action.
v. intr.Phrasal Verb:
To become black.
1. To lose consciousness or memory temporarily: blacked out at the podium.
2. To suppress (a fact or memory, for example) from conscious recognition: blacked out many of my wartime experiences.
3. To cover or make illegible with black marking: The names in the document had been blacked out.
4. To prohibit the dissemination of, especially by censorship: blacked out the news issuing from the rebel provinces.
5. To extinguish or conceal all lights that might help enemy aircraft find a target during an air raid.
6. To extinguish all the lights on (a stage).
7. To cause a failure of electrical power in: Storm damage blacked out much of the region.
8. To suppress the broadcast of (an event or program) from an area: blacked out the football game on local TV stations.
[Middle English blak, from Old English blæc; see bhel-1 in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.