Word of the Day

black hole

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1. an area in outer space where the force of gravity is so strong that light and everything else around it is pulled into it

2.  a situation in which large amounts of money are spent without bringing any benefits

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.

Origin and usage

The term black hole was first used to refer to the astronomical phenomenon in the 1960s, although the noun had been around for a few centuries with different meanings. The figurative meaning was first recorded in 1980.


Last week scientists released the first ever image of a black hole using a network of telescopes placed around the world. The black hole is in a galaxy called Messier 87 and is 55 million light years away from earth. The image is the result of the work of more than 200 scientists in 18 countries across every continent. The term black hole was originally used to refer to a place where people were confined as a punishment, most notoriously in the case of the Black Hole of Calcutta. The noun is often used figuratively to refer to a situation in which money is poured into a project without any discernible benefit.


“The internet to me is kind of like a black hole, and I never really go on it.”
(Jennifer Lawrence)

“It’s a pity that nobody has found an exploding black hole. If they had, I would have won a Nobel prize.”
(Stephen Hawking)

Related words

red giant, supernova, white dwarf

Browse related words in the Macmillan Thesaurus.

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