white·​ness | \ ˈ(h)wīt-nəs How to pronounce whiteness (audio) \

Definition of whiteness

1 : the quality or state of being white: such as
a : white color The whiteness of a diamond is the most important factor, unless you're buying a fancy color like yellow or pink.The New York Times Style Magazine
b : pallor, paleness … watching the way … his stomach hung pregnant over his belt, the whiteness of his skin, the blueness of his veins …— Zadie Smith
c : freedom from stain : cleanness During the day, housewives pegged out billowing sheets, knowing that here in the tough North they were judged on clean linen and the whiteness of the front doorstep …— Paul West
2 : something (such as an area or a substance) that is white in color … this widening in the river, a place indistinguishable in winter from the surrounding whiteness— John Hildebrand The curtains were being drawn across the aeroplane windows; a screen was lowered at the head of the cabin; images flickered on the whiteness ahead.— Shashi Tharoor This is a gelid whiteness, studded with a few bits of … fruit and altogether devoid of discernible flavor or sweetness.— Jay Jacobs
3 : the fact or state of belonging to a population group that has light pigmentation of the skin : the fact or state of being white (see white entry 1 sense 2a) Racial or color categories communicate the long-standing color scale in which lightness/whiteness is more desirable and more socially valued than darkness/blackness.— Nadine Fernandez Did I yearn to convert to whiteness? As a child, if it had been a matter of pushing a button, there were times when I would have pushed it as idly and insistently as a man waiting for an elevator.— Kenji Yoshino The proposition that whiteness, as such, has no content but is rather a negation, the identity of not-being-black, is a shocking revelation to most white Americans, who continue to imagine that there is a nonracist way of defining their whiteness in positive terms, although they are tongue-tied when asked to say what it is.— Orlando Patterson

Examples of whiteness in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Plus, the works in question feel prescient, probing the nature of identity — including the signifiers of whiteness — and the ways in which narratives about history are established. Los Angeles Times, "Essential Arts: How Paul Pescador uses cartoons to explore intimate and civic spaces," 8 May 2021 There’s a fascinating scene where Betty makes a big speech to the community that’s essentially a call to arms in defence of whiteness. Anne Cohen, refinery29.com, "Them‘s Alison Pill On Her Most Controversial Role Yet," 9 Apr. 2021 First, Black and Indigenous people need to have conversations outside of the gaze of whiteness. Lisa Deaderick, San Diego Union-Tribune, "Descendants of enslaved Black people have right to Indigenous citizenship," 14 Mar. 2021 My proximity to whiteness, my small dose of melanin deflects racists' bullets. Michaela Angela Davis, Allure, "How Colorism Shapes Black Girlhood," 28 Apr. 2021 Racial melancholia also turns our attention to how having a proximity to whiteness has levied the unrecognizability of Asian pain and injury. Tim Chan, Rolling Stone, "Screw the ‘Model Minority’ Myth: Why It’s Time for Asians to Fight Back," 23 Apr. 2021 The Biden Presidency seemed, conversely, like an opportunity to bring back the notion of an anodyne whiteness, one that doesn’t fill anyone who is not a white boy with immediate dread. Naomi Fry, The New Yorker, "The Squandered Promise of Chet Hanks’s White-Boy Summer," 4 Apr. 2021 What ugliness is hiding in plain sight, covered only by a sea of whiteness, where homogeneity renders respectability optional? Andrea Williams, Vulture, "Morgan Wallen Is Exactly What Country Music Wanted … Now What?," 4 Feb. 2021 In all years, the overwhelming whiteness of the crowd in an Orange County that has been majority minority for nearly a generation. Gustavo Arellano, Los Angeles Times, "Column: How Huntington Beach became Angrytown, USA," 24 Nov. 2020

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

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First Known Use of whiteness

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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The first known use of whiteness was before the 12th century

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Last Updated

13 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Whiteness.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/whiteness. Accessed 16 May. 2021.

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