black·​ball | \ ˈblak-ˌbȯl How to pronounce blackball (audio) \
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

Zhu posted a copy of the email from state director Laurie DeJack and said she was being blackballed for refusing to try on a hijab in 2018. Nick Givas, Fox News, "Former Miss Michigan: 'They said I was racist,' took title away without specifying 'big issue' with Twitter post," 23 July 2019 But the stench from the incident was such that the NFL, hardly known as the playground of the pure and virtuous, all but blackballed an All-Pro-caliber player in the aftermath. Dave Doyle, MMA Junkie, "Greg Hardy can keep winning, but we can't move on from his past just yet | Opinion," 21 July 2019 Most business school professors would probably advise against getting blackballed by your own party right out of the gate when starting a political consulting firm. NBC News, "'Blacklisted' political consultants profit from Democrats' civil war," 7 July 2019 In the bigger picture, the battle between labor and capital rages through these pages: strikes, intimidation, blackballing, anti-union propaganda and violence punctuate the plot. Katherine A. Powers, WSJ, "‘Deep River’ Review: In the Heart of the Forest Primeval," 28 June 2019 His grievance alleged that the NFL and its 32 teams had effectively blackballed him because of his role creating the protest movement. Andrew Beaton, WSJ, "Colin Kaepernick, Eric Reid Resolve Collusion Grievances With NFL," 15 Feb. 2019 The Post notes that several players, including Torrey Smith, Malcolm Jenkins and Devin McCourty, have noted that Reid is being blackballed. Stephen A. Crockett Jr., The Root, "NFL Safety Eric Reid Met With the Cincinnati Bengals and Everything Was Going Great Until They Got to the Protests," 11 Apr. 2018 Some executives who fell out of favor with him said they were blackballed in the entertainment business. Joe Flint, WSJ, "CBS’s Handling of Les Moonves Accusations Hampered by Battle for Control," 11 Sep. 2018 Afterward, the student says, he was blackballed from applying for a job in the department. Ben Guarino, The Verge, "An academic reported sexual harassment. Her university allegedly retaliated," 12 Nov. 2018

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

7 Aug 2019

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

More from Merriam-Webster on blackball

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with blackball

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for blackball

Spanish Central: Translation of blackball

Nglish: Translation of blackball for Spanish Speakers

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).


a period when something is suspended

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Summer 2019 Words of the Day Quiz

  • a-bowl-of-peach-sorbet-with-cut-peaches-next-to-it
  • Which is a synonym of desideratum?
True or False

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

Dictionary Devil

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!