black sheep

black sheep

noun
1.
a sheep with black fleece.
2.
a person who causes shame or embarrassment because of deviation from the accepted standards of his or her group.

Origin:
1785–95

Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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Collins
World English Dictionary
black sheep
 
n
a person who is regarded as a disgrace or failure by his family or peer group

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
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Etymonline
Word Origin & History

black sheep
figurative use (by 1843) is supposedly because a real black sheep had wool that could not be dyed and was thus worthless. But one black sheep in a flock was considered good luck by shepherds in Sussex, Somerset, Kent, Derbyshire. Baa Baa Black Sheep nursery rhyme's first known publication is in "Tommy
Thumb's Pretty Song Book" (c.1744).
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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American Heritage
Cultural Dictionary

black sheep definition


A person who is considered a disgrace to a particular group, usually a family: “Uncle Jack, who was imprisoned for forgery, is the black sheep of the family.”

The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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American Heritage
Idioms & Phrases

black sheep

The least reputable member of a group; a disgrace. For example, Uncle Fritz was the black sheep of the family; we always thought he emigrated to Argentina to avoid jail. This metaphor is based on the idea that black sheep were less valuable than white ones because it was more difficult to dye their wool different colors. Also, in the 16th century, their color was considered the devil's mark. By the 18th century the term was widely used as it is today, for the odd member of a group.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
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