black (adj.) Look up black at Dictionary.com
Old English blæc "dark," from Proto-Germanic *blakaz "burned" (source also of Old Norse blakkr "dark," Old High German blah "black," Swedish bläck "ink," Dutch blaken "to burn"), from PIE *bhleg- "to burn, gleam, shine, flash" (source also of Greek phlegein "to burn, scorch," Latin flagrare "to blaze, glow, burn"), from root *bhel- (1) "to shine, flash, burn."

The same root produced Old English blac "bright, shining, glittering, pale;" the connecting notions being, perhaps, "fire" (bright) and "burned" (dark). The usual Old English word for "black" was sweart (see swart). According to OED: "In ME. it is often doubtful whether blac, blak, blake, means 'black, dark,' or 'pale, colourless, wan, livid.' " Used of dark-skinned people in Old English.

Of coffee, first attested 1796. Meaning "fierce, terrible, wicked" is late 14c. The color of sin and sorrow since at least c. 1300; sense of "with dark purposes, malignant" emerged 1580s (as in black magic). Black face in reference to a performance style originated in U.S., is from 1868. Black flag, flown (especially by pirates) as a signal of "no mercy," from 1590s. Black dog "melancholy" attested from 1826. Black belt is from 1875 in reference to districts of the U.S. South with heaviest African population; 1870 with reference to fertility of soil; 1913 in judo sense. Black power is from 1966, associated with Stokely Carmichael. Black English "English as spoken by African-Americans," is by 1969.
black box (n.) Look up black box at Dictionary.com
1947, RAF slang for "navigational instruments;" later extended to any sort of apparatus that operates in a sealed container. Especially of flight recorders from c. 1964.
black code (n.) Look up black code at Dictionary.com
local or state legal restrictions on black persons, free or slave; attested by 1840, American English, though the thing itself is much older.
black comedy (n.) Look up black comedy at Dictionary.com
first recorded 1961, from black (adj.) in a figurative sense of "morbid;" compare French pièce noire. In a racial sense, from 1921.
Black Death (n.) Look up Black Death at Dictionary.com
"bubonic/pneumonic plague epidemic of 1347-51 in Europe," a modern name, introduced in English 1823 by Elizabeth Penrose's history of England. The contemporary name for it in most languages was something like "the great dying" or simply "the plague" (or, looking back after its return, "the first pestilence"). The term "Black Death" first turns up in 16c. Swedish and Danish chronicles, but in reference to a visitation of plague in Iceland (which had been spared in the earlier outbreak) in 1402-3 that carried off much of the population there. The exact sense of "black" is not clear. The term appears in English translations of the Scandinavian works from 1750s. It was picked up in German c. 1770 and applied to the earlier outbreak, and taken from there into English in that sense.
black dwarf (n.) Look up black dwarf at Dictionary.com
in astrophysics, a kind of dead and lightless star, 1966.
black eye (n.) Look up black eye at Dictionary.com
"discoloration around the eye from injury" c. 1600, from black (adj.) + eye (n.). Figurative sense of "injury to pride, rebuff" is by 1744; that of "bad reputation" is from 1880s. In reference to dark eyes, often as a mark of beauty, from 1660s. Black-eyed, of peas, attested from 1728. The black-eyed Susan as a flower (various species) so called from 1881, for its appearance. It also was the title of a poem by John Gay (1685-1732), which led to a popular British stage play of the same name in the mid-19c.
All in the Downs the fleet was moored,
The streamers waving in the wind,
When black-eyed Susan came aboard,
"Oh! where shall I my true love find?
Tell me, ye jovial sailors, tell me true,
If my sweet William sails among the crew?"
black friar (n.) Look up black friar at Dictionary.com
"Dominican," c. 1500, so called from the color of their dress.
Black Hand (n.) Look up Black Hand at Dictionary.com
Italian immigrant secret society in U.S., 1904; earlier a Spanish anarchist society, both from the warning mark they displayed to potential victims.
Black Hills Look up Black Hills at Dictionary.com
South Dakota landform, translating Lakhota pahá-sapa; supposedly so called because their densely forested flanks look dark from a distance.
black hole (n.) Look up black hole at Dictionary.com
in astrophysics, 1968, probably with awareness of the notorious Black Hole of Calcutta, incident of June 19, 1756, in which 146 British POWs taken by the Nawab of Bengal after the capture of Ft. William, Calcutta, were held overnight in a punishment cell of the barracks (meant to hold 4 people) and all but 23 perished.
black letter Look up black letter at Dictionary.com
early 17c., from black (adj.); so called to distinguish heavy, old-style printers' types from the ones coming into use then, which are the dominant modern forms, though a style of black letter was preserved in German into 20c.
black market (n.) Look up black market at Dictionary.com
1931, from black + market.
Black Panther Look up Black Panther at Dictionary.com
1965, the movement an outgrowth of Student Nonviolent Co-ordinating Committee.
Black Sea Look up Black Sea at Dictionary.com
see Euxine.
black sheep (n.) Look up black sheep at Dictionary.com
by 1822 in figurative sense of "member of some group guilty of offensive conduct and unlike the other members," supposedly because a real black sheep had wool that could not be dyed and was thus worth less. But one black sheep in a flock was considered good luck by shepherds in Sussex, Somerset, Kent, Derbyshire. Baa Baa Black Sheep nursery rhyme's first known publication is in "Tommy Thumb's Pretty Song Book" (c. 1744).
Black Shirt Look up Black Shirt at Dictionary.com
1922, member of Fasci di Combattimento, Italian paramilitary unit founded 1919 by Mussolini; so called for their uniforms.
black widow (n.) Look up black widow at Dictionary.com
type of poisonous spider (Latrodectus mactans) in U.S. South, 1904, so called from its color and from the female's supposed habit of eating the male after mating (they are cannibalistic, but this particular behavior is rare in the wild). Sometimes also known as shoe-button spider. The name black widow is attested earlier (1830s) as a translation of a name of the "scorpion spider" of Central Asia.
Blackamoor (n.) Look up Blackamoor at Dictionary.com
"dark-skinned person," 1540s, from black (adj.) + Moor, with connecting element.
blackball (v.) Look up blackball at Dictionary.com
also black-ball, "to exclude from a club by adverse votes," 1770, from black (adj.) + ball (n.1). Black balls of wood or ivory dropped into an urn during secret ballots.
blackberry (n.) Look up blackberry at Dictionary.com
early 12c., from Old English blaceberian, from black (adj.) + berry. Also in Old English as bremelberie, bremelæppel (from bramble). The wireless handheld device of the same name introduced 1999.
blackbird (n.) Look up blackbird at Dictionary.com
late 15c. (late 13c. as a surname), from black (adj.) + bird (n.1). OED says so called for being the only "black" (really dark brown) bird among the songbirds, reflecting an older sense of bird that did not include rooks, crows, ravens.
blackboard (n.) Look up blackboard at Dictionary.com
1823, from black + board (n.1). Blackboard jungle "inner-city school rife with juvenile delinquency" is from Evan Hunter's novel title (1954).
blacken (v.) Look up blacken at Dictionary.com
c. 1200, "become black or dark;" early 14c., "make black, darken, dye (hair);" see black + -en (1). Figurative sense of "to besmirch" (with dishonor, etc.) is from early 15c. Related: Blackened; blackening.
blackguard (n.) Look up blackguard at Dictionary.com
1530s, scullion, kitchen knave. Perhaps once an actual military or guard unit; more likely originally a mock-military reference to scullions and kitchen-knaves of noble households, of black-liveried personal guards, and of shoeblacks. By 1736, sense had emerged of "one of the criminal class." Hence the adjectival use (1784), "of low or worthless character."
blackhead (n.) Look up blackhead at Dictionary.com
"comedo," 1837, from black (adj.) + head (n.). So called for its appearance.
blackie (n.) Look up blackie at Dictionary.com
also blacky, "a black person," 1815, from black (adj.) + -y (3).
blacking (n.) Look up blacking at Dictionary.com
"thing which makes (something else) black," 1570s; as "action of making black," c. 1600, verbal noun from black (v.).
blackish (adj.) Look up blackish at Dictionary.com
mid-15c., from black (adj.) + -ish.
blackjack (n.) Look up blackjack at Dictionary.com
used in many senses since 16c., earliest is possibly "tar-coated leather jug for beer" (1590s), from black (adj.) + jack in any of its many slang senses. The weapon so called from 1889; the card game by 1900.
blackleg (n.) Look up blackleg at Dictionary.com
"swindler," especially in equestrian events, 1771, from black (adj.) + leg (n.), but the exact signification is uncertain.
blacklist (n.) Look up blacklist at Dictionary.com
also black-list, black list, "list of persons who have incurred suspicion," 1610s, from black (adj.), here indicative of disgrace, censure, punishment (attested from 1590s, in black book) + list (n.1). Specifically of employers' list of workers considered troublesome (usually for union activity) is from 1888. As a verb, from 1718. Related: Blacklisted; blacklisting.
blackly (adv.) Look up blackly at Dictionary.com
1560s, from black (adj.) + -ly (2).
blackmail (v.) Look up blackmail at Dictionary.com
1852, from blackmail (n.). Related: Blackmailed; blackmailing.
blackmail (n.) Look up blackmail at Dictionary.com
1550s, from black (adj.) + Middle English male "rent, tribute," from Old English mal "lawsuit, terms, bargaining, agreement," from Old Norse mal "speech, agreement;" related to Old English mæðel "meeting, council," mæl "speech," Gothic maþl "meeting place," from Proto-Germanic *mathla-, from PIE *mod- "to meet, assemble" (see meet (v.)). From the practice of freebooting clan chieftains who ran protection rackets against Scottish farmers. Black from the evil of the practice. Expanded c. 1826 to any type of extortion money. Compare silver mail "rent paid in money" (1590s); buttock-mail (Scottish, 1530s) "fine imposed for fornication."
blackness (n.) Look up blackness at Dictionary.com
late 14c., from black (adj.) + -ness.
blackout (n.) Look up blackout at Dictionary.com
also black-out, 1908 in the theatrical sense of a darkened stage, from black + out. Figurative sense of "loss of memory" is 1934 (verb and noun); as a dousing of lights as an air raid precaution, it is recorded from 1935. Verbal phrase black out, in reference to printed or written matter deemed objectionable and covered in black ink, is attested from 1888.
blacksmith (n.) Look up blacksmith at Dictionary.com
late 15c. (mid-13c. as a surname), from black + smith (n.). Listed in royal ordinance (along with bladesmiths, spurriers, and goldbeaters); blacksmiths worked in heated, heavy metals as opposed to those who beat gold, tin, or pewter (the material of a whitesmith).
blacktop (n.) Look up blacktop at Dictionary.com
road resurfacing material, 1931, American English, from black (adj.) + top (n.1).
bladder (n.) Look up bladder at Dictionary.com
Old English blædre (West Saxon), bledre (Anglian) "(urinary) bladder," also "blister, pimple," from Proto-Germanic *blodram "something blown up" (source also of Old Norse blaðra, Old Saxon bladara, Old High German blattara, German Blatter, Dutch blaar), from PIE root *bhle- "to blow." Extended senses from early 13c. from animal bladders used for buoyancy, storage, etc.
blade (n.) Look up blade at Dictionary.com
Old English blæd "a leaf," but also "a leaf-like part" (of spade, oar, etc.), from Proto-Germanic *bladaz (source also of Old Frisian bled "leaf," German Blatt, Old Saxon, Danish, Dutch blad, Old Norse blað), from PIE *bhle-to-, suffixed form (past participle) of root *bhel- (3) "to thrive, bloom."

Extended in Middle English to shoulders (c. 1300) and swords (early 14c.). The modern use in reference to grass may be a Middle English revival, by influence of Old French bled "corn, wheat" (11c., perhaps from Germanic). The cognate in German, Blatt, is the general word for "leaf;" Laub is used collectively as "foliage." Old Norse blað was used of herbs and plants, lauf in reference to trees. This might have been the original distinction in Old English, too. Of men from 1590s; in later use often a reference to 18c. gallants, but the original exact sense, and thus signification, is uncertain.
blah (n.) Look up blah at Dictionary.com
"idle, meaningless talk," 1918, probably echoic; the adjective meaning "bland, dull" is from 1919, perhaps influenced by French blasé "bored, indifferent." The blahs "depression" is attested by 1966.
blain (n.) Look up blain at Dictionary.com
Old English blegen "a sore," from Proto-Germanic *blajinon "a swelling" (source also of Danish blegn, Dutch blein), from PIE *bhlei- "to swell," from root *bhel- (2) "to blow, swell."
blaise Look up blaise at Dictionary.com
Scottish variant of blaze.
blame (n.) Look up blame at Dictionary.com
early 13c., from Old French blasme "blame, reproach; condemnation," a back-formation from blasmer (see blame (v.)).
blame (v.) Look up blame at Dictionary.com
c. 1200, "find fault with;" c. 1300, "lay blame on," from Old French blasmer (12c., Modern French blâmer) "to rebuke, reprimand, condemn, criticize," from Vulgar Latin *blastemare, from Late Latin blasphemare "revile, reproach" (see blaspheme). Replaced Old English witan with long "i." Related: Blamed; blaming.
blamed (adv.) Look up blamed at Dictionary.com
"confoundedly" 1833, later also as an adjective, from past participle of blame (v.), as a "euphemistic evasion of the horrible word damn." [Bartlett, "Dictionary of Americanisms," 1848].
This adjective 'blamed' is the virtuous oath by which simple people, who are improving their habits, cure themselves of a stronger epithet. [Edward Everett Hale, "If, Yes, and Perhaps," 1868]
Compare also blamenation (1837) as an expletive. The imprecation blame me is attested from 1830.
blameless (adj.) Look up blameless at Dictionary.com
late 14c., from blame (n.) + -less. Related: Blamelessly; blamelessness. Seldom-used blameful is recorded from late 14c.
blameworthy (adj.) Look up blameworthy at Dictionary.com
also blame-worthy, late 14c., from blame (n.) + worthy (adj.). Related: Blameworthiness.
blanch (v.1) Look up blanch at Dictionary.com
c. 1400, transitive, "to make white, turn pale," from Old French blanchir "to whiten, wash," from blanc "white" (11c.; see blank (adj.)). Originally "to remove the hull of (almonds, etc.) by soaking." Intransitive sense of "to turn white" is from 1768. Related: Blanched; blanching.