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Six chess pieces, four white and two black.
A mountain covered in white snow.
A glass of white wine.
A white woman.
A white man.

Alternative forms


From Middle English whit, hwit, from Old English hwīt, from Proto-Germanic *hwītaz (whence also West Frisian wyt, Dutch wit, German weiß, Norwegian Bokmål hvit, Norwegian Nynorsk kvit), from Proto-Indo-European *ḱweydós, a byform of *ḱweytós (bright; shine). Compare Lithuanian šviẽsti (to gleam), šviesa (light), Old Church Slavonic свѣтъ (světŭ, light), свѣтьлъ (světĭlŭ, clear, bright), Persian سفید(sefid), Avestan 𐬯𐬞𐬀𐬉𐬙𐬀(spaēta, white), Sanskrit श्वेत (śvetá, white, bright).



white (comparative whiter, superlative whitest)

  1. Bright and colourless; reflecting equal quantities of all frequencies of visible light.
    Write in black ink on white paper.
  2. (sometimes capitalized) Of or relating to Caucasians, people of European descent with light-coloured skin.
    • 1949, Wendell P. Alston, “The Green Book”, in The Negro Motorist Green Book, 1949 edition, New York: Victor H. Green, page 3:
      [] more white corporations cognizant of the mounting purchasing power of the Negro consumer, have Negro representatives in the field [].
  3. (chiefly historical) Designated for use by Caucasians.
    white drinking fountain;  white hospital
  4. Relatively light or pale in colour.
    white wine;  white grapes
  5. Pale or pallid, as from fear, illness, etc.
    • (Can we date this quote?) Lord Byron
      Or whispering with white lips, "The foe! / They come! they come!"
  6. (of a person or skin) Lacking coloration (tan) from ultraviolet light; not tanned.
  7. (of coffee or tea) Containing cream, milk, or creamer.
  8. (board games, chess) The standard denomination of the playing pieces of a board game deemed to belong to the white set, no matter what the actual colour.
    The white pieces in this set are in fact made of light green glass.
  9. Pertaining to an ecclesiastical order whose adherents dress in white habits; Cistercian.
    • 1485, Sir Thomas Malory, chapter ix, in Le Morte Darthur, book XIII:
      NOw rydeth Galahalt yet withouten shelde / and so rode four dayes without ony aduenture / And at the fourth day after euensonge / he came to a whyte Abbay / and there was he receyued with grete reuerence / and ledde vnto a chambre / and there was he vnarmed / And thenne was he ware of knyghtes of the table round
  10. Honourable, fair; decent.
    • (Can we date this quote?) John Dryden
      White as thy fame, and as thy honour clear.
    • (Can we date this quote?) Alexander Pope
      No whiter page than Addison's remains.
    • 1901, Hamlin Garland, Her Mountain Lover, page 51:
      “I’ll put you down at my club; and then, the governor will want to see you in the country.” / Jim had no idea of what was involved in being put down at a club, but he consented. “That ’s mighty white of you, old man, but I don’t know where I shall make down.”
    • (Can we date this quote?) G. K. Chesterton
      I trust Lionel. He got me out; he'll see I don't get in again. You must known Lionel. He's a white man all through, and the prison that can hold him has got to be made.
    • 1953, Raymond Chandler, The Long Goodbye, Penguin, 2010, p.12:
      ‘We've only met twice and you've been more than white to me both times.’
    • 1976, United Church of Christ, A.D., number 1, page 34:
      Even decency has been regarded as a white or Christian attribute, as is evidenced by the expression "that's very white of you"
  11. Grey, as from old age; having silvery hair; hoary.
    • (Can we date this quote?) William Shakespeare
      Your high engendered battles 'gainst a head / So old and white as this.
  12. (archaic) Characterized by freedom from that which disturbs, and the like; fortunate; happy; favourable.
    • (Can we date this quote?) Sir Walter Scott
      On the whole, however, the dominie reckoned this as one of the white days of his life.
  13. (obsolete) Regarded with especial favour; favourite; darling.
  14. (politics) Pertaining to constitutional or anti-revolutionary political parties or movements.
    • 1932, Duff Cooper, Talleyrand, Folio Society, 2010, p.163:
      Aimée de Coigny had always adopted with enthusiasm the political views of her ruling lover and she had thus already held nearly every shade of opinion from red republicanism to white reaction.
  15. (of tea) Made from immature leaves and shoots.
    • 2012, Mary Lou Heiss & Robert J. Heiss, The Tea Enthusiast's Handbook, →ISBN:
      Most often consisting of a budset pluck, a frost tea has the clarity and freshness of a white tea, with the richness and lingering finish of a finely crafted black tea.
  16. (typography) Not containing characters; see white space.
  17. (typography) Said of a symbol or character outline, not solid, not filled with color. Compare black (said of a character or symbol filled with color).
  18. Characterised by the presence of snow.
    a white Christmas or white Easter




See white/translations § Adjective.


An egg yolk surrounded by the egg white.
a cabbage white, a Pieris butterfly.

white (countable and uncountable, plural whites)

  1. The color/colour of snow or milk; the colour of light containing equal amounts of all visible wavelengths.
  2. A person of European descent with light-coloured skin.
  3. Any butterfly of the family Pieridae.
  4. (countable) Anything that is of the color white.
    1. The albumen of bird eggs (egg white).
    2. (anatomy) The sclera, white of the eye.
    3. (sports, billiards, snooker, pool) The cue ball in cue games.
    4. (countable and uncountable) White wine.
    5. (slang, US) Cocaine
      • 2004, Kanye West (music), “On The Run”, Atlantic, performed by Bump J (featuring Rick James):
        I've got to hit the streets; I've got to move this white.
    6. The snow- or ice-covered "green" in snow golf.
    7. A white pigment.
      Venice white
  5. (archery) The central part of the butt, which was formerly painted white; the centre of a mark at which a missile is shot.
  6. The enclosed part of a letter of the alphabet, especially when handwritten.
    • 1594, Hugh Plat, The Jewell House of Art and Nature, London, Chapter 38, p. 42,[1]
      Also it giueth a great grace to your writing, if the whites of certeine letters bee made of one equall bignesse with the o. supposing the same were all round, as the white of the b. of the a. p. y. v. w. x. q. d. g. and s.
    • 1677, Hannah Woolley, The Compleat Servant-Maid, London: T. Passinger, p. 18,[2]
      [] the a. b. d. g. o. p. q. &c. [] must be made with equal whites.
    • 1931, Margery Allingham, Police at the Funeral, Penguin, 1939, Chapter 14, p. 157,[3]
      She copied the whole alphabet like that, as though only the inside whites of the letters registered on her mind.


Derived terms


white (third-person singular simple present whites, present participle whiting, simple past and past participle whited)

  1. (transitive) To make white; to whiten; to bleach.
    • Bible, Matthew xxiii. 27
      whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of [] uncleanness
    • Bible, Mark ix. 3
      so as no fuller on earth can white them

See also

Colors in English · colors, colours (layout · text)
     white      gray, grey      black
             red; crimson              orange; brown              yellow; cream
             lime              green              mint
             cyan; teal              azure, sky blue              blue
             violet; indigo              magenta; purple              pink



Middle English



  1. inflection of whit:
    1. weak singular
    2. strong/weak plural
  2. Alternative form of whit