What Does In The Black Mean?

In the Black Meaning

Definition: Having more income than expenditures; to be making a profit.

Origin of In the Black

This idiom can be compared with the expression in the red. While in the red means to be in debt, in the black means the opposite.

Both expressions originated from the record keeping practices of business, where financial losses were written in red and financial profits were written in black. In the black originated in the first half of the 1900s.

See also the phrase in the red.

Examples of In the Black

What does being in the black mean?The dialogue below is between two university students who are discussing rumors about the financial well being of their school.

Nisha: Have you heard anything about the school’s financial difficulties?

Alan: No. Why? What have you heard?

Nisha: I heard that it hasn’t been making a profit for years now, and that they are deeply in debt.

Alan: Really?

Nisha: Yeah. It might even have to close if it can’t make more money.

Alan: That seems hard to believe. We have to pay a lot of money for tuition. Also, as far as I know, the university is in the black. I don’t think you have anything to worry about.

Nisha: I hope you’re right.

to be in the blackThe second dialogue uses the idiom in the context of a son and his father discussing the family business.

Son: Hey, Dad, I think we should get Wi-Fi for the restaurant.

Dad: No.

Son: Why not? Most restaurants have free Wi-Fi nowadays. It could help bring us more business!

Dad: We own a takeout restaurant. People aren’t inside long enough to need the wifi. Also, you know how hard we’ve been trying to stay in the black. We can’t waste money on something that no one will use.

Son: People would use it while waiting for their order to be ready.

Dad: I don’t think so. The answer is no. When you’re the owner, you can get Wi-Fi. Now, do your homework.

More Examples

In an article about company earnings, the idiom is used to describe how one bank was in debt but is no longer.  

  • EARNINGS: Swiss National Bank back in the black. The Swiss National Bank on Monday posted a strong profit for 2016, offsetting some of the steep decline in the prior year due to a rise in value of its foreign-currency assets. –Wall Street Journal

In this excerpt about Asian stocks, the idiom is used to show that Asian shares are rising and showing a profit in the first week of the year 2017.

  • Asian shares ended the first week of the year in the black—in contrast to last year when a crash in Chinese stocks rattled global markets.  –Wall Street Journal


The English phrase in the black means that a business is earning more money than it is spending or has more money than it owes.