What Does Black and White Mean?

Black and White Meaning

Definition: A clear distinction.

The colors black and white are opposites. They are as different as two colors can be. They are clearly defined and have a distinct difference from each other.

Therefore, if something is black and white, it is clear and distinct. It will not be confused with anything else, and it is defined clearly and fits within specified parameters.

Origin of Black and White

what is the meaning of black and whiteThis phrase comes from exactly where it seems like—from the difference between the two colors. Even colorblind people can tell the difference between the two. There is no confusing them for each other.

It may also relate to writing and penmanship. Most pens are black, and most paper is white. Legal documents are clearly defined when they are written in black in on white paper. Therefore, black and white also refers to legal specificity or specificity as clearly defined as that in a legal document.

Examples of Black and White

what does the saying black and white meanTo spell things out in black and white is to say exactly what you think.

For example, if someone says,

I’m going to spell this out for you in black and white. You must be back here by eight o’clock.

That means there is no room to be late because the rule is “black and white.”

Some people are described as seeing things in black and white. This means that they have very defined ideas that will not be changed. No amount of arguing or reasoning will sway them.

Black and white can also refer to documents. A lawyer may draft out a contract in black and white and ask multiple parties to sign it before working together so that their rules and expectations are totally clear.

More Examples

  • “Hoodies” is best when it focuses on the personal. Not everything is black and white. –Orlando Sentinel
  • And they argue through the night. Black is black and white is white. –Washington Post


Something that is black and white is clearly defined and unchangeable.