The origin of…Black

“A woman needs just three things; a black dress, a black sweater, and, on her arm, a man she loves.” Coco Chanel

Post 54 Black

Black is the color associated with formality, power, elegance, evil, death, mystery and the unknown. It is the result of the absorption of all color and the absence of light and is the darkest color we know.

In Ancient Egypt black was the color of the rich black soil flooded by the Nile. It was also the color of Anubis, a black jackal and the god of the underworld.
In Ancient Greece black was also associated with the underworld. The water of the river Acheron, which separated the world of the living and the underworld, was black. The color was used in great amounts by Ancient Greek artists, who made black-figure pottery.
During Roman times craftsmen and artisans wore the color black and it was the color of death and mourning. The Romans had different words for black: ater and niger. Ater was a dull, flat black, while niger was a brilliant, saturated black (ater is the root of the English word atrocity).
During the Middle Ages black was worn by monks as a sign of humility and penitence, while red was the color of the nobility. Black being a fashionable color began with the arrival of high-quality black dyes in the 14th century. Magistrates and government officials started to wear black robes, as a sign of the significance and earnestness of their positions. Wealthy bankers and merchants in northern Italy also started to wear black clothing, following laws stating that only nobility was allowed to wear clothes of certain colors (like scarlet and peacock blue). Nobility and kings in Italy, and later on in France and Spain, rapidly followed the fashion of wearing black clothes.

Up and until this day, black has never really gone out of fashion, with items such as the little black dress (LBD), a simple black dress that was made ubiquitous by Coco Chanel in 1926 when the American Vogue published a drawing made by her of a black dress.


  1. having the very dark color of coal or the night sky
  2. very dark because there is no light
  3. of or relating to a race of people who have dark skin and who come originally from Africa (source: Merriam Webster).

The English black comes from Old English blæc, dark, from Proto-Germanic *blakaz, burned, from Proto Indo European *bhleg-, to burn/gleam/shine/flash, from the root *bhel-, to shine/flash/burn.
Dutch zwart derives from Old High German swarz, from Old English swaert, from Old Norse svartr, black, from Latin sordes, filth/dirt.
Spanish negro and Italian nero come from Latin niger, black/dark.

Black in other languages:
Dutch: zwart
Spanish: negro
Italian: nero


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