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In western countries, black has traditionally been worn as a sign of mourning, and in figurative use the word has traditionally implied foreboding, evil, or melancholy.

Black Act a severe law passed in the early 18th century against poaching and trespassing (poachers who blackened their faces were known as blacks).

Black and Tans an armed force recruited by the British government to suppress insurrection in Ireland in 1921, so called from their wearing a mixture of black constabulary and khaki military uniforms. Their harsh methods caused an outcry in Britain and America.

Black Beauty the horse which is the central character in Anna Sewell's eponymous novel (1877); the book tells the story, in autobiographical form, of Black Beauty's (often careless or cruel) treatment by a variety of owners.

black belt a belt worn by an expert in judo, karate, and other martial arts. Also, a person qualified to wear this.

Black Bess supposedly the name of the highwayman Dick Turpin's horse, deriving from the version of Turpin's story given by Harrison Ainsworth in his novel Rookwood (1834).

black bile, in medieval science and medicine, one of the four bodily humours, believed to be associated with a melancholy temperament. Recorded in English from the late 18th century, the term is a translation of Greek melankholia ‘melancholy’, from melas, melan- ‘black’ + kholē ‘bile’, an excess of which was formerly believed to cause depression.

black book an official book bound in black; the distinctive name of various individual books of public note, sometimes referring to the colour of the binding. It is also one in which there is a record of punishments, giving rise to the figurative phrase to be in someone's black books.

black box any complex piece of equipment, typically a unit in an electronic system, with contents which are mysterious to the user; specifically now, a flight recorder in an aircraft.

black cap a cap (actually a small piece of black cloth) formerly worn by a judge when passing sentence of death.

Black Carib a language derived from Island Carib with borrowings from Spanish, English, and French, spoken in isolated parts of Central America by descendants of people transported from the Lesser Antilles.

black-coat worker a person in a clerical or professional, rather than an industrial or commercial, occupation.

Black Country a district of the Midlands with much heavy industry, traditionally regarded as blackened by the smoke and dust of the coal and iron trades.

Black Death the great epidemic of bubonic plague that killed a large proportion of the population of Europe in the mid 14th century. It originated in central Asia and China and spread rapidly through Europe, carried by the fleas of black rats, reaching England in 1348 and killing between one third and one half of the population in a matter of months. The name is modern, and was introduced in the early 19th century.

black dog a metaphorical representation of melancholy or depression, used particularly by Samuel Johnson to describe his attacks of melancholia. In the 20th century, the term has been associated with Winston Churchill, who used the phrase ‘black dog’ when alluding to his own periodic bouts of depression.


Subjects: Religion.

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