black·​face ˈblak-ˌfās How to pronounce blackface (audio)
often attributive
: dark makeup worn to mimic the appearance of a Black person and especially to mock or ridicule Black people

Note: The wearing of blackface by white performers was, from the early 19th through the mid-20th centuries, a prominent feature of minstrel shows (see minstrel sense 3a) and similar forms of entertainment featuring exaggerated and inaccurate caricatures of Black people. The use of blackface is considered deeply offensive.

plural blackfaces : a performer wearing blackface : minstrel sense 3a

Examples of blackface in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web The spat occurred after Aquaria initially responded to Pearl's apology post, addressing the image of a drag character that drew accusations of blackface from both fans and fellow show alums like Aquaria's season 10 sister The Vixen. Joey Nolfi,, 11 Aug. 2023 One exemplifies post-racial America—a Black professor, his white wife, and their biracial daughter—and the other is a troupe of caricatures in blackface. Julian Lucas, The New Yorker, 8 Jan. 2024 Some of his older videos include racist imagery like blackface that later resurfaced and that Dawson apologized for, something that mainstream comedians like Jimmy Kimmel and Jimmy Fallon have done as well. Kalhan Rosenblatt, NBC News, 14 Dec. 2023 Others criticized the contestant for needing to speak with a DEI consultant to understand that defending blackface is racist. Elizabeth Wagmeister, Variety, 14 Mar. 2023 Shown on two back-to-back screens in a capacious room, the work finds McQueen training his artistic vision on the history of blackface in Hollywood. Degen Pener, The Hollywood Reporter, 28 Oct. 2023 People in media have used practices like blackface, brownface, and yellowface—in which White actors wear makeup to change their skin color—largely to depict offensive caricatures of non-White characters.3 Whitewashing has continued to be prevalent in pop culture. Claire Gillespie, Health, 26 May 2023 Aldean — who in the past has courted controversy by wearing a t-shirt featuring a confederate flag and dressing in blackface as Lil Wayne for Halloween — has repeatedly denied that the song had any ill intent. Gil Kaufman, Billboard, 18 Oct. 2023 In fact, both Silverman and Baddiel have blackface episodes in their past: Baddiel wore blackface and fake dreadlocks in a 1995 impression of the soccer player Jason Lee; in 2007, Silverman blacked up for a sketch on her Comedy Central show. Jody Rosen, The New Yorker, 7 Oct. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'blackface.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

1847, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of blackface was in 1847

Dictionary Entries Near blackface

Cite this Entry

“Blackface.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 Feb. 2024.

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