white

1 of 3

adjective

whiter; whitest
1
a
: having the color of new snow or milk
specifically : of the color white (see white entry 2 sense 1)
white socks
a white rabbit
b
: light or pale in color
white hair
white wine
lips white with fear
c
: free from color : clear, transparent
white vinegar
vodka and other white liquors
d
: lustrous pale gray : silvery
white alloy wheels
also : made of silver
… each ball containing 1.366 ounces of pure silver, would cost $204.90 compared with $5.29 at the white metal's pre-1967 price of 1.29 … William L. Silber
2
a
or less commonly White : of or relating to any of various population groups considered as having light pigmentation of the skin

Note: The meaning of white as it relates to population groups has historically been fluid, with people of particular ancestries being excluded for a time before being included, and vice versa. The category has also often functioned as a grouping into which people who are not designated as belonging in some other category are placed. Specific parameters are, however, sometimes set, as in the U.S. 2020 Census, which stipulates that "the category of 'White' includes all individuals who identify with one or more nationalities or ethnic groups originating in Europe, the Middle East, or North Africa."

b
or less commonly White : of or relating to white people or their culture
books from the canon of white literature
c
dated, offensive : marked by upright fairness
That's mighty white of you

Note: This use of white is sometimes used ironically.

3
: free from spot or blemish: such as
a(1)
: free from moral impurity : innocent
the pure white heart of the devout
(2)
: marked by the wearing of white by the woman as a symbol of purity
a white wedding
b
: unmarked by writing or printing
a writer trying to will the white space on the page away
c
: not intended to cause harm
a white lie
white magic
d
archaic : favorable, fortunate
one of the white days of his lifeWalter Scott
4
a
: wearing or habited in white
white friars
b
: marked by the presence of snow : snowy
a white Christmas
5
a
: heated to the point of whiteness
molten white metal
b
: notably ardent : passionate
white fury
6
a
: conservative or reactionary in political outlook and action
b
: instigated or carried out by reactionary forces as a counterrevolutionary measure
a white terror
7
: of, relating to, or constituting a musical tone quality characterized by a controlled pure sound, a lack of warmth and color, and a lack of resonance
8
: consisting of a wide range of frequencies
used of light, sound, and electromagnetic radiation
whitish adjective

white

2 of 3

noun

plural whites
1
: the achromatic object color of greatest lightness characteristically perceived to belong to objects that reflect diffusely nearly all incident energy throughout the visible spectrum
2
: one that is or approaches white in color: such as
a
: white clothing
often used in plural
c
: a white mammal (such as a horse or a hog)
d(1)
: a white-colored product (such as flour)
usually used in plural
(2)
: any of numerous butterflies (subfamily Pierinae of the family Pieridae) that usually have the ground color of the wings white and are related to the sulphur butterflies
e
whites plural : teeth
used in the phrase pearly whites
3
: a person belonging to any of various population groups considered as having light pigmentation of the skin

Note: This meaning of the noun white is usually used in the plural form and typically in contexts about population groups, as in "a policy supported by many rural whites."

4
a
: a white or light-colored part of something: such as
(1)
: a mass of albuminous material surrounding the yolk of an egg
(2)
: the white part of the eyeball
(3)
: the light-colored pieces in a 2-player board game
also : the player by whom these are played
(4)
: the area of a page unmarked by writing, printing, or illustration
b(1)
archaic : a white target
(2)
: the fifth or outermost circle of an archery target
also : a shot that hits it
5
whites plural : leukorrhea
6
often capitalized : a member of a conservative or reactionary political group

white

3 of 3

verb

whited; whiting

Examples of white in a Sentence

Adjective He was wearing white sneakers. He had a long, white beard. Her lips were white with fear. He turned white when he heard the news. He came from a white middle-class background. His mother is Hispanic and his father is white. Noun the whites of his eyes The cake recipe calls for four egg whites. See More
Recent Examples on the Web
Adjective
More white people claim the credit than Black people certainly. Tax Notes Staff, Forbes, 14 Feb. 2023 Black people make up about 14% of the U.S. population but are three times more likely to face hunger than white people, according to the Agriculture Department. Maya Eaglin, NBC News, 11 Feb. 2023 The only racial group that saw a decrease in suicide rates across age cohorts was non-Hispanic white people. Ellen Barry, BostonGlobe.com, 11 Feb. 2023 Since 2005, the homeownership rate for white people in metro Atlanta has hovered between 73% and 80%. Zachary Hansen, ajc, 9 Feb. 2023 Here the racial inequality is stark, with Black people being nearly three times more likely to die from childbirth as white people, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Allison Parshall, Scientific American, 9 Feb. 2023 Across ethnic groups the support of gun control legislation saw broad support, with 86 percent of Black people, 82 percent of Latino people and 77 percent of white people in favor of the age change. Kennedy Sessions, Chron, 8 Feb. 2023 Some in Milwaukee took it as Abdul-Jabbar not liking white people. Los Angeles Times, 8 Feb. 2023
Noun
The film’s whites, including the fur coat Pinochet’s wife (Gloria Münchmeyer) wears around the house, look radiant against its stark blacks. Matthew Jacobs, The Hollywood Reporter, 22 Feb. 2024 Meanwhile, Carpenter, 24, added a pop of color in a red and white spotted mini dress by Bella Venice. Natasha Dye, Peoplemag, 21 Feb. 2024 Popular Southern styles also come into play with homes that have wraparound porches painted in pristine shades of white. Jessica Poitevien, Travel + Leisure, 10 Feb. 2024 On the cover is a self-portrait of Wolfe looking possessed, with slots of empty white where her pupils should be. Hanif Abdurraqib, The New Yorker, 9 Feb. 2024 The rose-like blooms can be found in yellows, apricots, oranges, pinks, reds, and whites. Katelyn Chef, Southern Living, 9 Feb. 2024 On the nation’s asylum laws, 33% of Latinos described them as too lenient, compared with 39% of whites. Gustavo Arellano, Los Angeles Times, 9 Feb. 2024 The other can evoke spring and summer sensations with complementary greens, whites and sky blues. Cameron Sullivan, The Mercury News, 8 Feb. 2024 Their limbs and undersides look almost creamy white, photos show. Aspen Pflughoeft, Miami Herald, 5 Feb. 2024
Verb
Choose from flounder, perch or whiting on a bun with tartar sauce. Heidi Finley, Charlotte Observer, 13 Feb. 2024 Whip egg whites: Beat egg whites with an electric mixer on medium speed until stiff peaks form; fold one-third of egg whites into batter. Pam Lolley, Southern Living, 30 Dec. 2023 For the mile-high meringue: Large egg whites: The base of the meringue, egg whites whip up for an airy topping. Southern Living Test Kitchen, Southern Living, 20 Nov. 2023 Seared sea robin, smoked swordfish tater tots, and locally caught whiting wrapped in sugar kelp (tempura fried) are just some of the potentially sustainable dishes diners can find on the menu here. Laura Baisas, Popular Science, 26 Oct. 2023 Whip egg whites: Beat egg whites on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form, about 2 minutes; gently fold into batter. Southern Living Test Kitchen, Southern Living, 17 July 2023 Why should white always be the default color when colors can lift mood and make a person feel great? Dominique Fluker, Essence, 11 Aug. 2023 With snowy skies and snow covering the ground, the surroundings may appear entirely white with no visible horizon, leading to 'white out' visibility. Claire Thornton, USA TODAY, 20 Feb. 2022 Room temperature egg whites: Separate the yolks from the whites while the eggs are still refrigerator temp to decrease the chances of any yolk slipping into the whites. Southern Living Test Kitchen, Southern Living, 23 June 2023 See More

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

Word History

Etymology

Adjective

Middle English whit, white, going back to Old English hwīt "white, bright, shining," going back to Germanic *hwīta- (whence also Old Frisian hwīt, hwītt, wīt, wit "white," Old Saxon hwīt "white, bright," Middle Dutch wit, witt "white," Middle Low German wit, witte, Old High German hwīz, wīz, Old Icelandic hvítr, Gothic ƕeits), probably going back to Indo-European *ḱu̯ei̯t-nó-, whence also, with zero-grade, Sanskrit śvítnaḥ "whitish," and without suffixal -n- Sanskrit áśvait "(it) brightened," śvitāná- "brightening," śvetáḥ "white, bright," Avestan spaēta-, Old Church Slavic světŭ "light, radiance," svěštǫ, světiti "to shine, give light," Lithuanian šviečiù, šviẽsti "to shine, shine a light (for)"; (sense 2c) from the stereotypical and racist association of good character with northern European descent; (sense 6) from the association of white with royalist and counterrevolutionary causes, perhaps originally from its use in the cockades and flags of the Bourbon dynasty in France and the Jacobites in Britain

Note: Though this etymology for Germanic *hwīta- seems likely in broad outline, the details are problematic. The *-t- in the Indo-European etymon would lead one to expect a voiced or voiceless fricative in Germanic rather than a voiceless stop. The explanation for this lies in the assumption that the cluster *-tn- after the accent in the presumed pre-form *ḱu̯ei̯t-nó- produced a geminate t (Kluge's Law), which the individual Germanic languages have generally shortened after a long vowel (though this is arguably not the case for Old High German). The occasional tt spellings in Old Frisian, Middle Dutch and Middle Low German may be taken as traces of gemination. (E. Seebold, however, believes these forms are late and secondary, and points to the nominative neuter form hwitt in the Cotton Caligula manuscript of the Heliand—see Etymologisches Wörterbuch der deutschen Sprache.) Their descendants in the modern languages in part also show a short vowel, giving rise to yet another assumption, that these forms go back to a zero-grade adjective *ḱu̯it-nó-. The older literature on *hwīta- simply accepts that its Indo-European predecessor was *ḱu̯ei̯d-, with -d- being a different root extension than the -t- evident in the Indo-Iranian and Balto-Slavic words. See discussion and references in R. Lühr, Expressivität und Lautgesetz im Germanischen (Heidelberg, 1988), pp. 263-64; and in G. Kroonen, Etymological Dictionary of Proto-Germanic (Brill, 2013), p. 267.

Noun

Middle English whit, white, going back to Old English hwīt, noun derivative of hwīt white entry 1

Verb

Middle English whiten, going back to Old English hwītan, hwītian, derivative of hwīt white entry 1

First Known Use

Adjective

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

Noun

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 4a

Verb

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of white was before the 12th century

Dictionary Entries Near white

Cite this Entry

“White.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/white. Accessed 4 Mar. 2024.

Kids Definition

white

1 of 2 adjective
ˈhwīt How to pronounce white (audio)
ˈwīt
whiter; whitest
1
a
: having no color
b
: of the color of new snow or milk
c
: light or pale in color
white hair
lips white with fear
d
: pale gray : silvery
2
: of, relating to, or being a member of a group or race having light skin
3
: unmarked by writing or printing : blank
4
: not intended to cause harm
a white lie
white magic
5
: marked by the presence of snow
a white Christmas
whiteness noun

white

2 of 2 noun
1
: the color of fresh snow
2
: a white or light-colored thing or part (as the material around the yolk of an egg or the white part of the eyeball)
3
: one that is or approaches the color white: as
a
: white clothing
washed a load of whites
b
plural : teeth
used in the phrase pearly whites
4
: a person belonging to a light-skinned race

Geographical Definition

White

geographical name

1
river 690 miles (1110 kilometers) long in northern Arkansas and southwestern Missouri flowing southeast into the Mississippi River
2
river 250 miles (402 kilometers) long in northwestern Colorado and eastern Utah flowing west into the Green River
3
river 50 miles (80 kilometers) long in southwestern Indiana flowing west into the Wabash River
4
river 325 miles (523 kilometers) long in southern South Dakota flowing east into the Missouri River
5
river 130 miles (209 kilometers) long in northwestern Texas

Biographical Definition

White 1 of 9

biographical name (1)

Andrew Dickson 1832–1918 American educator and diplomat

White

2 of 9

biographical name (2)

Byron Raymond 1917–2002 American jurist

White

3 of 9

biographical name (3)

Edward Douglass 1845–1921 American jurist; chief justice U.S. Supreme Court (1910–21)

White

4 of 9

biographical name (4)

Elwyn Brooks 1899–1985 American journalist and writer

White

5 of 9

biographical name (5)

Gilbert 1720–1793 English clergyman and naturalist

White

6 of 9

biographical name (6)

Patrick Victor Martindale 1912–1990 Australian writer

White

7 of 9

biographical name (7)

Stanford 1853–1906 American architect

White

8 of 9

biographical name (8)

Theodore Harold 1915–1986 American journalist and writer

White

9 of 9

biographical name (9)

William Allen 1868–1944 American journalist and writer

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