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Black sheep

A black sheep is a member of a family or other group who is considered a disappointment, a disgrace, or a failure to the family or group. The origin of the term black sheep may be traced to a 1535 translation of the book of Genesis in the Bible, with the passage “All blacke shepe amonge the lambes.” In sheep husbandry white wool is dominant, while black wool is recessive, and sometimes the union of a white ewe and a white ram will produce a black lamb. These black lambs are fairly rare and also unwelcome, as black wool is not as valuable since it may not be dyed in the same manner as white wool may be dyed. Because of the monetary loss, one may imagine the disappointment a shepherd feels when finding a black sheep among his flock. Black sheep may be hyphenated when used as an adjective before a noun, as in black-sheep.


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Examples

While most families have one black sheep, in this play, the eccentricities of each character are on full display. (The Monmouth Daily Review Atlas)

He was rumored to be the black-sheep member of a well-to-do Boston family, and these suspicions were fueled by his enormous knowledge of the old-line rich. (New York Magazine)

“Really, if he didn’t, we would have all made fun of him for the rest of his life because he would have been the black sheep,” Aaron teases as the brothers stand in a circle together before Jared’s Eagle Scout Court of Honor at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Kerman, where Jared received his honor. (The Herald & Review)

I’m the black sheep of our family, one of a handful, and so they’ve seated us at the “loser’s” table. (The Huffington Post)

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