verb black-mar·ket \ ˈblak-ˈmär-kət \
|Updated on: 4 Aug 2018

Definition of black-market

black-marketed; black-marketing; black-markets
: to buy or sell goods in the black market
: to sell in the black market

black marketer

or black marketeer play \ˈblak-ˌmär-kə-ˈtir\ noun

black marketeering

play \ˈblak-ˌmär-kə-ˈtir-iŋ\ noun

First Known Use of black-market


in the meaning defined at intransitive sense

See Words from the same year
NEW! Time Traveler

black market


Definition of black market

: illicit trade in goods or commodities in violation of official regulations; also : a place where such trade is carried on

Examples of black market in a Sentence

  1. The black market in prescription drugs is thriving.

  2. They unloaded the stolen goods on the black market.

Recent Examples of black market from the Web

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

First Known Use of black market


in the meaning defined above

See Words from the same year
NEW! Time Traveler

Financial Definition of BLACK-MARKET

black market

What It Is

A black market is the illegal purchase and sale of goods and services.

How It Works

Drug dealing is one of the most prominent black markets in the United States. In this black market, people buy and sell drugs knowing that such activity is usually illegal and that possessing the products themselves is usually illegal. Regardless, the demand for drugs is high enough to trump the law, though people usually attempt to conceal their participation.

Many black markets exist beyond drugs, however, and though the products or services may be legal, the manner in which they are bought and sold may be illegal. For example, it is legal to have a cleaning lady, but it is illegal to hire a cleaning lady who is not in the United States legally.

Because regulatory constraints may increase the price of some goods and services, in some cases regulation can actually prompt the development of black markets. This was particularly the case in the early 1900s, when the United States outlawed alcohol, which created a massive black market for the production, transportation and sale of liquor.

Why It Matters

The presence of black markets all over the world is evidence that the laws of supply and demand are virtually impossible to defy. When regulation or taxation becomes too high, when supply and demand are way out of balance, or when competition has been too restricted, people will always look for a way to get goods or services cheaper, faster or more easily.

BLACK-MARKET Defined for English Language Learners

black market

Definition of black market for English Language Learners

  • : a system through which things are bought and sold illegally

Seen and Heard

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

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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


subject to rapid or unexpected change

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

The Eponym Quiz

  • rubens-painting
  • Which is the best synonym of bowdlerize?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.


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!