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From blackbird +‎ -ing, suggestedly from the putative slang blackbird (indigenous Pacific islander).


blackbirding (uncountable)

  1. (Britain, Australia) The practice of kidnapping Pacific Islanders, or kanakas, for sale as cheap labour.
    • 1995, John Gunn, Taking Risks, QBE 1886-1994: A History of the QBE Insurance Group[1], page 9:
      Burns Philp was to incur public odium in the most notorious case in Queensland concerning blackbirding.
    • 2004, Lawrence McCane, Marist Brothers, Melanesian stories: Marist Brothers in Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea 1845-2003, page 120,
      Douglas Oliver, in Black Islanders, tells the story of a blackbirding party which, in 1871, captured a group of eighty-five unsuspecting Bougainvilleans who had taken their twenty-man canoes to the blackbirding ship out of curiosity or a desire to trade.
    • 2008, Andrew David Grainger, The Browning of the All Blacks: Pacific Peoples, Rugby, and the Cultural Politics of Identity in New Zealand[2], page 326:
      Blackbirding was the euphemism given to the slave-trading that occurred in the Pacific from the mid-1800s through to the early-1900s. According to one study, blackbirding, [as] “the practice of luring Melanesians and Polynesians to toil for next to nothing was called”, involved upwards of 60,000 people between 1863 and 1904 (Horne, 2007, p. 2).

Related termsEdit



  1. present participle of blackbird