What are some words that mean "black"?


Common synonyms for black include sooty, swart, swarthy, jet and ebony. Many of these words are derived from black objects found in nature, such as jet, which is a form of coal, and ebony, which is a naturally occurring black wood. Onyx and obsidian, two naturally black stones, can be used as synonyms for black, though this usage is not common.

Swart and swarthy derive from the German word "schwartze," meaning black. The French word for black, "noir," is sometimes used in English to refer to a work of art with a dark or sinister mood, such as "film noir" or "noir fiction." Other words are often used in similes to express total blackness, such as "black as pitch," "black as night," or "black as coal." Many words, though not literally meaning black, are used to connote darkness, such as murky, somber, bleak and dismal.

The association of blackness with evil has deep roots in many cultures, possibly stemming from the primal fear of darkness early humans might have experienced. As a result, many of the words connoting darkness also have connotations of depression or foreboding. An untrustworthy person may be referred to as shady. The word "obscure," meaning uncertain or unknown, derives from the Latin word "obscurus," meaning dark.

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