See also: White


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

Alternative forms


From Middle English whit, hwit, from Old English hwīt, from Proto-West Germanic *hwīt, from Proto-Germanic *hwītaz, from Proto-Indo-European *ḱweydós, a byform of *ḱweytós (bright; shine).

Cognate with West Frisian wyt, Dutch wit, German weiß, Norwegian Bokmål hvit, Norwegian Nynorsk kvit; also Lithuanian šviẽsti (to gleam), šviesa (light), Old Church Slavonic свѣтъ (světŭ, light), свѣтьлъ (světĭlŭ, clear, bright), Persianسفید(sefid), Avestan𐬯𐬞𐬀𐬉𐬙𐬀(spaēta, white), Sanskrit श्वेत (śvetá, white, bright).



white (comparative whiter or more white, superlative whitest or most white)

  1. Bright and colourless; reflecting equal quantities of all frequencies of visible light.
    Antonyms: black, nonwhite, unwhite
    Write in black ink on white paper.
  2. (sometimes capitalized) Of or relating to Europeans or those of European descent, regardless if their skin has cool or warm undertones.
  3. (sometimes capitalized) Of or relating to Caucasians (people with white complexion and European ancestry):.
    • 1949, Wendell P. Alston, “The Green Book”, in The Negro Motorist Green Book, New York: Victor H. Green, published 1949, page 3:
      [] more white corporations cognizant of the mounting purchasing power of the Negro consumer, have Negro representatives in the field [].
    • 2004 May 9, Michael Joseph Gross, “When the Losers Ruled in Teenage Movies”, in New York Times[1]:
      Ms. Ringwald finds a few things about these films regrettable. One thing she found "significantly disturbing," she wrote, "was how white the films are."
  4. (sometimes capitalized) By U.S. Census Bureau definition, of or relating to people hailing from Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East.
  5. (chiefly historical) Designated for use by Caucasians.
    white drinking fountain
    white hospital
  6. Relatively light or pale in colour.
    white wine
    white grapes
    white birch
  7. Pale or pallid, as from fear, illness, etc.
  8. (of a person or skin) Lacking coloration (tan) from ultraviolet light; not tanned.
    Synonyms: fair, pale
    Antonym: tanned
  9. (of an animal) Affected by leucism.
  10. (of coffee or tea) Containing cream, milk, or creamer.
    Antonym: black
  11. (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.
  12. Pertaining to an ecclesiastical order whose adherents dress in white habits; Cistercian.
    a white monk
  13. Honourable, fair; decent.
    • 1693, Decimus Junius Juvenalis, John Dryden, transl., “[The Satires of Decimus Junius Juvenalis.] The Second Satyr”, in The Satires of Decimus Junius Juvenalis. Translated into English Verse. [] Together with the Satires of Aulus Persius Flaccus. [], London: Printed for Jacob Tonson [], →OCLC:
      White as thy fame, and as thy honour clear.
    • 1897, Rudyard Kipling, Captains Courageous:
      "So I'm here to say I'm sorry." Another big gulp.
      Troop heaved himself slowly off the locker he was sitting on and held out an eleven-inch hand. "I mistrusted 'twould do you sights o' good; an' this shows I weren't mistook in my jedgments[sic]."
      "You're white," said Dan, as Harvey regained the deck, flushed to the tips of his ears.
    • 1737, Alexander Pope, First Epistle of the Second Book of Horace; republished in The Complete Poetical Works of Alexander Pope, Boston, New York: Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1902, page 194:
      No whiter page than Addison's remains. / He from the taste obscene reclaims our youth, / And sets the passions on the side of Truth,
    • 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.”
    • 1916, Julia Frankau, Twilight:
      He's a fine fellow, this Gabriel Stanton, a white man all through
    • 1953, Raymond Chandler, The Long Goodbye, Penguin, published 2010, page 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"
  14. Grey, as from old age; having silvery hair; hoary.
  15. (archaic) Characterized by freedom from that which disturbs, and the like; fortunate; happy; favourable.
  16. (obsolete) Regarded with especial favour; favourite; darling.
  17. (politics) Pertaining to constitutional or anti-revolutionary political parties or movements.
    • 1932, Duff Cooper, Talleyrand, Folio Society, published 2010, page 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.
  18. (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.
  19. (typography) Not containing characters; see white space.
  20. (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).
  21. Characterised by the presence of snow.
    a white Christmas
    a white Easter
  22. (of a set of armor) Alwhite, pertaining to white armor.
    • 2015 August 31, Albrecht Classen, Handbook of Medieval Culture, Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co KG, →ISBN:
      For instance, tyro jousters in fifteenth-century Iberia wore “white armor,” while experienced men wore surcoats over their harness (Fallows 2010, 80), while fabric-covered breastplates are depicted in many examples of fifteenth-century northern European art.

Derived terms

Related terms


  • Bislama: waet
  • Tok Pisin: wait
  • Japanese: ホワイト (howaito)
  • white fella
  • white gin



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.
    • 2012, Andrew Martin, Underground Overground: A passenger's history of the Tube, Profile Books, →ISBN, page 117:
      Not only were the platforms tiled in white, the tunnels were painted white too - to prettify them, and make them less claustrophobic - and the Central proudly issued a postcard of its tunnel-whitening machine.
  2. A person of European descent with light-coloured skin.
    • 1912, Arthur Conan Doyle, The Lost World [], London, New York, N.Y.: Hodder and Stoughton, →OCLC:
      The Indians carried first our canoes and then our stores through the brushwood, which is very thick at this point, while we four whites, our rifles on our shoulders, walked between them and any danger coming from the woods.
    • 2012, Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow, →ISBN, page 54:
      The War on Drugs proved popular among key white voters, particularly whites who remained resentful of black progress, civil rights enforcement, and affirmative action.
    Synonyms: see Thesaurus:white person
  3. Any butterfly of the subfamily Pierinae in the family Pieridae.
  4. (countable and uncountable) White wine.
    • 1977, “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant”, in Billy Joel (music), The Stranger:
      A bottle of red, a bottle of white / It all depends upon your appetite / I'll meet you any time you want / In our Italian Restaurant.
    • 2014, Maximillian Potter, Shadows in the Vineyard:
      Those were my first impressions of wine: Ladies drink chilled, soft white while they gossip in the kitchen; old men drink strong, room-temperature red to get shellacked.
  5. (countable and uncountable) White coffee
  6. (countable) Any object or substance 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. (slang, US, UK) Cocaine.
      Synonyms: see Thesaurus:cocaine
      • 2004, “On The Run”, Kanye West (music), performed by Bump J ft. Rick James, Atlantic:
        I've got to hit the streets; I've got to move this white.
      • 2019 January 20, Ann Cleeves, Paul Matthew Thompson, “Cuckoo” (1:26:51 from the start), in Lawrence Gough, director, Vera, season 9, episode 2 (TV series), spoken by Tyler Lennon (Louis Healy):
        Ten grand a week we were clearing: base, white, meth, weed, anything. I can get you anything to get you high.
      • 2024, “Entrapreneur”, performed by Central Cee:
        We was flyin' up O with white, we was buildin' lines, now it's clothing lines
    5. The snow- or ice-covered "green" in snow golf.
    6. A white pigment.
      Venice white
    7. A white bean.
      • 1952, Columbia River and Tributaries, Northwestern United States, United States Government Printing Office, page 3764:
        Nearly two-thirds of the Idaho crop has been great northerns, one-sixth small reds, and the remainder small flat whites and pintos and seed for snap beans and baby limas (table 21).
  7. (archery) The central part of the butt, which was formerly painted white; the centre of a mark at which a missile is shot.
  8. The enclosed part of a letter of the alphabet, especially when handwritten.
    • 1594, Hugh Plat, chapter 38, in The Jewell House of Art and Nature[2], London, page 42:
      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[3], London: T. Passinger, page 18:
      [] the a. b. d. g. o. p. q. &c. [] must be made with equal whites.
    • 1931, Margery Allingham, chapter 14, in Police at the Funeral[4], Penguin, published 1939, page 157:
      She copied the whole alphabet like that, as though only the inside whites of the letters registered on her mind.
  9. A feather, from the wing of the cock ostrich, that is of the palest possible shade.[1]
    Synonym: prime
    • 1909, Agricultural Journal of the Cape of Good Hope, page 514:
      3.—Wing-Quills or Remiges; Whites and Feminas.—The wing-quills are the largest feathers in the wing, and are arranged in a single row. They include the “Whites” in the cock, and the “Feminas” in the hen, as well as the “Byocks” or “Fancies” in the cock.
    • 1909 August 12, “Ostrich Feathers of Tripoli”, in Neenah Daily Times, volume 53, number 8,451, Neenah, Wis., Menasha, Wis., column 5:
      The usual kinds of ostrich feathers known to the trade come into the Tripoli market. These are whites, blacks, feminas, byocks, spadonas, boos, drabs and floss.
    • 1910 October 30, The Arizona Republican, volume XXI, number 161, Phoenix, Ariz., page 9:
      Whites, primes, pound, $120 to $300 [] The whites and blacks come from the male birds, the feminas and drabs from the female, the spadones are the first clipping taken from the young birds and the tails from each.
    • 1923, South African Law Reports. Cape Provincial Division: Decisions of the Supreme Court of South Africa (Cape of Good Hope Provincial Decision)., page 532:
      This parcel included 286 lbs. of feathers known as whites, and 211 lbs. of feathers known as feminas. The whites are described as lot 12, and the feminas as lot 13.
  10. (Should we delete(+) this sense?) (board games, chess) The person playing with the white set of pieces.
    In this position, white has an opportunity to make a good move.

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.

Derived terms

See also

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


  1. ^ white, n.”, in Dictionary of South African English, Makhanda, Eastern Cape: Dictionary Unit for South African English, 1996–2024.

Further reading


Middle English



  1. Alternative form of whit



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