black list

Idioms & Phrases

black list

A list of persons or things considered undesirable or deserving punishment, as in Japanese beetles are on my black list of garden pests. The practice of making such lists is quite old. Notorious examples include the late 19th-century black lists of union members whom employers would not hire and the black lists of persons suspected of being Communists as a result of the hearings held by Senator Joseph R. McCarthy in the early 1950s. Today the term is also used more loosely, as in the example. [Early 1600s] Also see black book, def. 1.

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