What Is Blackball? – Meaning & Origin

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Candace Osmond

Candace Osmond studied Advanced Writing & Editing Essentials at MHC. She’s been an International and USA TODAY Bestselling Author for over a decade. And she’s worked as an Editor for several mid-sized publications. Candace has a keen eye for content editing and a high degree of expertise in Fiction.

Have you ever been blackballed? Or perhaps you’ve blackballed someone else and didn’t even realize it. Before you raise an eyebrow, no, it’s not as sinister as it sounds. In fact, it’s not even about a literal black ball. Intrigued? Let’s dive right in!

Is It Black Ball or Blackball?

Well, both are correct, but they mean different things. A black ball is simply a ball that is black. On the other hand, blackball is a verb that signifies a particular action. We’ll be focusing on blackball for the duration of this piece. So, don your detective hat, and let’s unravel this!

The Blackball Meaning Explained

What Is Blackball Meaning Origin

To blackball someone means to exclude them from a group or society by a secret vote. It can also mean ostracizing or rejecting someone. I know, right? It seems pretty intense for such an unassuming term!

Is Blackball an Idiom?

In essence, blackball is a verb, not an idiom. But it does carry an idiomatic sense because its meaning isn’t clear just from the words alone. The origin has more of a literal meaning (which I’ll cover in a moment), so that’s why it’s classed as a verb.

Different Tenses to Use

Blackball behaves just like any other regular verb. Here’s how it morphs in different tenses:

  • Present: Blackball (I blackball you from the society.)
  • Past: Blackballed (I blackballed you from society.)
  • Present continuous: Blackballing (I am blackballing you from the society.)
  • Noun form: Blackballer (I am a blackballer of the society.)

Origin and Etymology of the Term Blackball

Blackball Ngram
Blackball usage trend.

The term comes from the 18th-century practice of voting with balls. A white ball signified a positive vote, while a black ball indicated a negative vote. Hence, to blackball someone meant to cast a negative vote against them. A bit of history there for you!

Synonyms for Blackball

Give your vocabulary a boost with these synonyms for blackball. If you feel your audience might miss its meaning, try something more common, like boycott or ostracize

  • Exclude
  • Ostracize
  • Shun
  • Reject
  • Boycott
  • Ban
  • Prohibit

Blackball Examples in a Sentence

What Is Blackball Meaning Origin 1

Let’s take blackball out for a spin.

  • I felt like they had blackballed me from their group after the argument.
  • John was blackballed from the club after breaking the rules.
  • The committee is blackballing applicants who don’t meet their standards.
  • Society blackballed her due to her controversial views.
  • Despite his best efforts, he was blackballed from the elite group.
  • As a blackballer, he held significant power in deciding who got to stay in the group.
  • I suspect they’re blackballing me because they haven’t invited me to a single event.

Don’t Be Blackballed From Learning New Terms!

And that’s your quick guide to the term blackball. Remember, language is filled with exciting expressions waiting to be explored. Hang around our site for your regular dose of linguistic mysteries solved, and never let your curiosity be blackballed!