Black, Greene Vardiman, 1836-1915, American dentist, b. Scott co., Ill. Professor at Chicago College of Dental Surgery (now part of Loyola Univ.) from 1883 to 1889 and professor (from 1891) and dean (from 1897) at the Northwestern Univ. dental school, he made large contributions to dentistry as teacher, as originator of methods and instruments, and as author. His works include Formation of Poisons by Microörganisms (1884), Dental Anatomy (1891), and Operative Dentistry (1908). The Black method of preparing amalgam alloys for fillings is still in use.
Black, Hugh, 1868-1953, Scottish-American theologian and author. After serving as a pastor in Paisley and Edinburgh, he emigrated to the United States in 1906 to begin a professorship of practical theology at Union Theological Seminary, New York City. His books include Culture and Restraint (1900), Christ's Service of Love (1907), The New World (1915), The Adventure of Being Man (1929), and Christ or Caesar (1938).
Black, Hugo LaFayette, 1886-1971, Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court (1937-71), b. Harlan, Clay co., Ala. He received his law degree from the Univ. of Alabama in 1906. He practiced law and held local offices before serving (1927-37) in the U.S. Senate. As Senator he ardently supported New Deal measures, conducted Senate investigations of merchant-marine subsidies (1933) and lobbying (1935), and sponsored (1937) the Wages and Hours bill. His appointment to the Supreme Court by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt met strong opposition from the public and in the Senate because of his earlier membership in the Ku Klux Klan. Black was, however, a staunch defender of civil liberties, and he became the leader of the activists on the Supreme Court, consistently opposing congressional and state violations of free speech and due process.

See T. E. Yarbrough, Mr. Justice Black and His Critics (1989); study by V. Hamilton (1972).

Black, James, 1823-93, American temperance leader. A Pennsylvania lawyer, he was active in state and national temperance work. His plan for a National Publication House was adopted by the National Temperance Convention (1865). In 1872, as presidential nominee of the Prohibition party, he gained some 5,000 votes.
Black, Sir James, 1924-, Scottish pharmacologist, M.D. Univ. of St. Andrews, 1946. A professor at Kings College Medical School, he shared the 1988 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with George Hitchings and Gertrude Elion for his contributions to the area of drug treatment. He discovered important drugs that treat angina, gastric ulcers, hypertension, migraines, and other health problems.
Black, Jeremiah Sullivan, 1810-83, American cabinet officer, b. Somerset co., Pa. Admitted to the Pennsylvania bar in 1830, Black became a successful lawyer. As U.S. Attorney General (1857-60) under President Buchanan he hired Edwin M. Stanton, later his successor, to clear up the involved land-title cases in California. Black was less successful, however, in enforcing unpopular legislation concerning slavery. It was his opinion that although the seceding Southern states could not be coerced, federal property in the South should be protected, and measures taken to resist armed rebellion. He replaced (Dec., 1860) Lewis Cass as Secretary of State and succeeded in persuading Buchanan to send supplies to Fort Sumter; he urged that the federal government take a strong stand against secession. Buchanan appointed him to the Supreme Court in Feb., 1861, but the Senate, with both Democrats and Republicans hostile to Black, refused to confirm him.

See P. G. Auchampaugh, James Buchanan and His Cabinet on the Eve of Secession (1926); biography by W. N. Brigance (1934, repr. 1971).

Black, Joseph, 1728-99, Scottish chemist and physician, b. France. He was professor of chemistry at Glasgow (1756-66) and from 1766 at Edinburgh. He is best known for his theories of latent heat and specific heat. He also laid the foundations of chemistry as an exact science in his investigations on magnesium carbonate, during which he discovered carbon dioxide, which he called "fixed air."
Black, Max, 1909-88, American analytical philosopher, b. Baku, Russia (now Bakı, Azerbaijan), grad. Cambridge, Ph.D. Univ. of London, 1939. He taught at the Univ. of Illinois (1940-46) before going to Cornell (1946). Influenced by Ludwig Wittgenstein, he wrote A Companion to Wittgenstein's Tractatus (1964). His concern with clear language was expressed in Language and Philosophy (1949), Models and Metaphors (1962), The Labyrinth of Language (1968), and Margins of Precision: Essays in Logic and Language (1970).
Black, Shirley Temple: see Temple, Shirley.

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. Although black is sometimes described as an "achromatic", or hueless, color, 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 when 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

† various CMYK combinations
c m y k
0% 0% 0% 100% (canonical)
100% 100% 100% 0% (ideal inks, theoretical only)
100% 100% 100% 100% (registration black)

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

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


  • Black sky refers to the appearance of space as one emerges from the Earth's atmosphere.
  • 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.


Ambiguity and secrecy

  • 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.
  • Black frequently symbolizes ambiguity, secrecy, and the unknown.

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.
  • In the Maasai tribes of Kenya and Tanzania, the color black is associated with rain clouds, a symbol of life and prosperity.
  • Native Americans associated black with the life-giving soil.
  • The Hindu deity Krishna means "the black one".
  • The medieval Christian sect known as the Cathars viewed black as a color of perfection.
  • The Rastafari movement sees black as beautiful.


  • 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.
  • 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.


  • 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.

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.
  • 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.)
  • In many Hollywood Westerns, bad cowboys wear black hats while the good ones wear white.
  • Melodrama villains are dressed in black and heroines in white dresses.

Historical events


  • A black-hearted person is mean and unloving.
  • A blacklist is a list of undesirable persons or entities (to be placed on the list is to be "blacklisted").
  • Black comedy is a form of comedy dealing with morbid and serious topics.
  • A black mark against you is a bad thing.
  • A black mood is a bad one (cf Winston Churchill's clinical depression, which he called "my black dog").
  • 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 propaganda is the use of known falsehoods, partial truths, or masquerades in propaganda to confuse an opponent.
  • 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.
  • If you sink the black eight-ball in billiards before all others are out of play, you lose.
  • The black sheep of the family is the ne'er-do-well.
  • 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.


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


See also

External links

Search another word or see Blackon Dictionary | Thesaurus |Spanish
Copyright © 2015, LLC. All rights reserved.
  • Please Login or Sign Up to use the Recent Searches feature