black box


Definition of black box

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a usually complicated electronic device whose internal mechanism is usually hidden from or mysterious to the user broadly : anything that has mysterious or unknown internal functions or mechanisms
2 : a crashworthy device in aircraft for recording cockpit conversations and flight data
3 : a device in an automobile that records information (such as speed, temperature, or gasoline efficiency) which can be used to monitor vehicle performance or determine a cause in the event of an accident

black box


Definition of black box (Entry 2 of 2)

: being or containing a warning of a serious or life-threatening side effect (such as stroke or muscle damage) that is highlighted by a black border on a prescription drug's label or accompanying literature

Examples of black box in a Sentence

Noun The black boxes were recovered from the crash site and provided useful information about the cause of the crash.
Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective What's more, grant review is often a black box, De Berardinis says. Giorgia Guglielmi, Science | AAAS, "Can Italy’s new science funding agency overcome a thin budget and worries over political meddling?," 4 Dec. 2019 That isn’t easy; even to each other, humans are basically black boxes. Wired, "AI Researcher Anca Dragan on Helping Robots Understand Humans," 8 Nov. 2019 In aviation, the black box is a source of knowledge: a receptacle of crucial data that might help investigators understand catastrophe. Sidney Fussell, The Atlantic, "Algorithms Are People," 18 Sep. 2019 Hilcorp’s finances are a black box, said Wight, speaking Wednesday to a small group in Anchorage at an event organized by the public interest group. Alex Demarban, Anchorage Daily News, "Hilcorp wants finances kept private in Alaska deal with BP, leading to calls for transparency," 11 Nov. 2019 The project calls for a total of 1,000 seats in a main theater and a smaller black box venue as well as a 400-space parking garage. Jerry Fallstrom,, "Tavares voters to decide on $27M performing arts center, council seats," 25 Oct. 2019 Many of today’s most powerful machine-learning algorithms are black boxes. Jeremy Kahn, Fortune, "Learning to Love the Bot: Managers Need to Understand A.I. Logic Before Using It as a Business Tool," 26 Sep. 2019 People also complain that college admissions is a black box. Louis Menand, The New Yorker, "Is Meritocracy Making Everyone Miserable?," 23 Sep. 2019 On the contrary, patients who are altered, confused, or sedated are black boxes until lab values and imaging studies return to help fill in the picture of what is going on. Abraar Karan,, "The clinical value in listening," 9 Aug. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'black box.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of black box


circa 1945, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1968, in the meaning defined above

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about black box

Time Traveler for black box

Time Traveler

The first known use of black box was circa 1945

See more words from the same year

Statistics for black box

Cite this Entry

“Black box.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 15 December 2019.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for black box

black box


English Language Learners Definition of black box

: a device used in an airplane to record flight information (such as altitude or airspeed) or the voices of the pilots and crew

black box


Medical Definition of black box

: being or containing a warning of a serious or life-threatening side effect (as stroke, muscle damage, or suicidal tendencies) that is highlighted by a black border on a prescription drug's label or accompanying literature A "black box" warning is the most serious warning placed in the labeling of a prescription medication.— Johnathan D. Rockoff, The Fort Worth (Texas) Star-Telegram, 8 June 2007

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on black box

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with black box

Spanish Central: Translation of black box Encyclopedia article about black box

Comments on black box

What made you want to look up black box? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


delight or enjoyment

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Great Scrabble Words—A Quiz

  • scrabble tiles that read scrabble quiz
  • Which of the following Q-without-U words means the number five in cards or dice?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Syn City

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!