black·ball | \ ˈblak-ˌbȯl \
blackballed; blackballing; blackballs

Definition of blackball 

(Entry 1 of 2)

transitive verb

1 : to vote against especially : to exclude from membership by casting a negative vote

2a : to exclude socially : ostracize

b : boycott



Definition of blackball (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : a small black ball for use as a negative vote in a ballot box

2 : an adverse vote especially against admitting someone to membership in an organization

Keep scrolling for more

Synonyms & Antonyms for blackball

Synonyms: Verb

down, kill, negative, nix, shoot down, veto

Antonyms: Verb

confirm, ratify

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

Examples of blackball in a Sentence


the club secretly blackballs applicants who belong to that religion

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Kaepernick, who was an unsigned free agent for all of last season, has accused the league of blackballing him for his political views. Andrew Beaton, WSJ, "NFL Adopts New Anthem Policy to Quell Player Protests," 23 May 2018 More players joined in participation across the league last season despite the fact that Kaepernick remained unemployed, seemingly blackballed by the owners. Mike Jones, USA TODAY, "NFL owners still seeking answers on national anthem policy," 22 May 2018 Sports media personalities back the NFL for blackballing him. Marcos Bretón, sacbee, "Kaepernick's story remains the same. What that says about us. | The Sacramento Bee," 13 Apr. 2018 Regardless of the outcome, it’s widely believed among players that owners have blackballed Reid and Kaepernick. Mike Jones, USA TODAY, "Former 49er Eric Reid would have an NFL job ... if league owners had learned anything," 2 May 2018 In 2016, two officers who alleged they were blackballed for trying to expose Watts' corruption years ago won a $2 million settlement to their whistleblower lawsuit. Jason Meisner,, "Two men framed by corrupt ex-Chicago police Sgt. Ronald Watts charged with dealing heroin," 11 Apr. 2018 No one has been fired for kneeling, but teams have used more subtle means to retaliate against protesting athletes: Former NFL players Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid have accused owners of blackballing them for their political advocacy. Matt Ford, The New Republic, "The NFL will now punish teams if players protest racism and police brutality.," 23 May 2018 Eric Reid, the San Francisco 49ers safety who has knelt during the national anthem at games for the past two seasons, filed a grievance against the N.F.L., saying the league had blackballed him because of his actions. Victor Mather, New York Times, "Eric Reid Files Grievance Against N.F.L., Saying Owners Are Keeping Him Out," 2 May 2018 In 1976 the now-defunct D.U. club, founded in 1880, punched two women, but they were ultimately blackballed under pressure from the club's alumni board of overseers. William Stadiem, Town & Country, "Can Harvard's Storied Final Clubs Resist the Tides of Change?," 2 Aug. 2016

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Supporters of the proposed law say letting landlords blackball people who qualify for federal vouchers is partly responsible for San Diego’s stark racial segregation, with minorities dominating southern areas and whites dominant in northern areas. David Garrick,, "Proposed San Diego law would prohibit landlord bias against people with federal housing vouchers," 2 July 2018 Pay college players, blackball Colin Kaepernick, baseball is too slow. Paul Daugherty,, "Doc: Cincinnati sports are as blah as the weather," 24 Apr. 2018 Even with Kaepernick grayballed (blackball-lite?), the trickle of protesters became a torrent, thanks to the president. Scott Ostler, San Francisco Chronicle, "Forgettable anniversary for Colin Kaepernick," 3 Mar. 2018 There is a reason why fashionable members clubs admit freelance graphic designers who live hand to mouth and blackball superstar bankers. Janan Ganesh, Town & Country, "The Bonfire of the Vanities," 8 Dec. 2017 But the idea that this situation is anything but a blackball is ridiculous. Paul Daugherty,, "Doc: Bengals vs. Bills crucial for team, maybe Marvin Lewis," 5 Oct. 2017 When there are too many swimmers for safe surfing, the blackball flag serves as a warning. Julia Herbst, Los Angeles Magazine, "5 Things You Didn’t Know about L.A.’s Iconic Lifeguard Towers," 13 July 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'blackball.' 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 blackball


1550, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1763, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about blackball

Statistics for blackball

Last Updated

4 Sep 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for blackball

The first known use of blackball was in 1550

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for blackball



English Language Learners Definition of blackball

: to prevent (someone) from joining a group, club, etc., by voting against him or her

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on blackball

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


to make amends

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Musical Words Quiz

  • gramophone
  • Which word describes a musical performance marked by the absence of instrumental accompaniment?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?


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!