Word of the Day


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Origin of the word

From 1590 to around 1610, the adjective black could be used to indicate ‘disgrace, punishment and general censure’ when used in a certain way, for example in the term black book.

Indicating ‘a written record of names in a column or a row’, list as used circa 1600 was derived from Middle English and Old French ‘liste’ in the 13th century. The Middle English meaning ‘band, border, strip, edging’ is now obsolete.

Around 1718, blacklist was in use to indicate a list of people thought to be ‘objectionable, suspicious or in need of regular punishment’. The word blacklist related to an employer’s record of workers who were considered to be troublemakers, often as a result of their involvement in union activity, and was in use in 1844.


It is possible to use blacklist as a noun, as in this first extract from a newspaper article, as well as a verb as in the article’s title:

“Kim [Jong-un, North Korean leader] would be added to a UN sanctions blacklist that would subject him to a global travel ban, along with four other senior North Korean officials, according to the draft.” Telegraph. 6th September 2017: US asks UN to cut off oil to North Korea, blacklist Kim Jong-un. (2)

Even when there is a slight change of definition, the noun is sometimes favoured:

“The EU vowed to draw up a blacklist of tax havens following the revelations in the Panama Papers, an unprecedented leak of 11.5 million files from the database of the world’s fourth-biggest offshore law firm, Mossack Fonseca. Brussels pledged to throw light on the shady ‘treasure islands’ that help multinationals and wealthy clients avoid paying tax.” Guardian. 7th November 2016: Treasury tries to thwart EU plans for tax haven blacklist. (1)


1. to keep a record of someone you do not approve of and prevent them from making progress in some way
2. to say that particular products should not be bought, especially as part of a political protest.

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.

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