black·​fish·​ing ˈblak-ˌfi-shiŋ How to pronounce blackfishing (audio)
variants or less commonly Blackfishing
: the practice of trying to give the impression that one is of Black ancestry when one is not (as by altering one's appearance or speech)
Some have accused Ariana Grande of blackfishing—the intentional use of hairstyling, makeup, tanning, and in some cases the use of AAVE to make oneself appear either Black or racially ambiguous.John Wolfe
Blackfishing, a term partly coined by hip-hop journalist Wanna Thompson, describes the phenomenon of non-Black influencers and public figures using bronzer, tanning, Photoshop, or even cosmetic surgery to change their looks to appear Black or mixed race.Taylyn Washington-Harmon
However, today examples of white people appropriating Blackness abound, from Rachel Dolezal's claiming to be "transracial" and posing as a Black woman for decades to Instagram stars' overzealously tanning, wearing traditionally known Black hairstyles, like box braids, and mimicking the latest African American vernacular. … The lived realities of being Black in America have made instances of "Blackfishing" even more upsetting, rightfully triggering backlash.Elizabeth Leiba

Word History


black entry 1 + catfishing, gerund of catfish entry 2

First Known Use

2015, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of blackfishing was in 2015

Dictionary Entries Near blackfishing

Cite this Entry

“Blackfishing.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 15 Jun. 2024.

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