white (wīt, hwīt)
1. The achromatic color of maximum lightness; the color of objects that reflect nearly all light of all visible wavelengths; the complement or antagonist of black, the other extreme of the neutral gray series. Although typically a response to maximum stimulation of the retina, the perception of white appears always to depend on contrast.
2. The white or nearly white part, as:
a. The albumen of an egg.
b. The white part of an eyeball.
c. A blank or unprinted area, as of an advertisement.
3. One that is white or nearly white, as:
a. whites Pieces of laundry having a white or nearly white color.
b. whites White pants or a white outfit of a special nature: tennis whites.
c. whites The white dress uniform of the US Navy or Coast Guard.
d. A white wine.
e. A white pigment.
f. A white breed, species, or variety of animal.
g. Any of various butterflies of the subfamily Pierinae, characteristically having chiefly white wings often with black markings.
h. also White A member of a racial group having light-colored skin, especially when of European origin and in some classifications also when of Middle Eastern or North African origin.
i. often whites Products of a white color, such as flour, salt, and sugar.
a. The white or light-colored pieces, as in chess.
b. The player using these pieces.
a. The outermost ring of an archery target.
b. A hit in this ring.
6. whites Medicine Leukorrhea.
7. White A member of a conservative or counterrevolutionary faction, especially one opposing the Bolsheviks in the Russian civil war.
adj. whit·er, whit·est
1. Being of the color white; devoid of hue, as new snow.
2. Approaching the color white, as:
a. Weakly colored; almost colorless; pale: white wine.
b. Pale gray; silvery and lustrous: white hair.
c. Bloodless; blanched.
3. Light or whitish in color or having light or whitish parts. Used with animal and plant names.
4. also White Of or belonging to a racial group of people having light-colored skin, especially when of European origin, and in some classifications also when of Middle Eastern or North African origin: voting patterns within the white population.
5. Habited in white: white nuns.
6. Accompanied by or mantled with snow: a white Christmas.
a. Incandescent: white flames.
b. Intensely heated; impassioned: white with fury.
8. White Of or relating to a conservative or counterrevolutionary faction, especially one opposing the Bolsheviks in the Russian civil war.
9. With milk added. Used of tea or coffee.
10. Archaic Unsullied; pure.
tr.v. whit·ed, whit·ing, whites
Printing To cover or make illegible with white coloring. Often used with out.
[Middle English, from Old English hwīt; see kweit- 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.