from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. A sheep with black fleece.
  • n. A member of a family or other group who is considered undesirable or disreputable.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. Used other than as an idiom: see black,‎ sheep.
  • n. a nonconformist; an unusual or unconventional person
  • n. a disliked person; one who is disfavored

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adj. one in a family or company who is unlike the rest, and makes trouble.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. a reckless and unprincipled reprobate
  • n. sheep with a black coat


Sorry, no etymologies found.


  • The eldest brother the Marquis of Haverston, the second an earl, the third the black sheep of the family, and Anthony a close second.

    Tender Rebel

  • In a nearby field black sheep grazed among black-eyed Susans.

    Roc and a Hard Place

  • One day a swivel-chair pilot, an equip - ment officer, made the amazing discovery that there was a black sheep in his flock.

    The HurricaneStory

  • His handsome face bloated into the plain round pock-marked face of the bailiff’s black sheep son.

    Songs of Love & Death

  • Euphrates, from the mouth to the sources of those rivers, was reduced to his obedience: he entered Edessa; and the Turkmans of the black sheep were chastised for the sacrilegious pillage of a caravan of Mecca.

    The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire

  • I never heard him utter an irrevocable judgment, even when the black sheep of the estate, a foul-mouthed farmer of whose malpractices he had had to complain to the landlord, had accused him of some dishonest trick or other.

    Maigret's Memoirs

  • His father was the black sheep of a prosperous but unforgiving Irish family, his mother was the daughter of the German butcher in Winton; when she insisted on marrying Luke senior, she also was disowned.

    The Thorn Birds

  • Those who saw him told me he looked pleased; but he sent me no message showing a change of viewpoint, and the gulf between the family and its black sheep remained unbridged.

    The Story of a Pioneer


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  • Someone different from other members of the family (not necessarily with a negative sense)

    November 20, 2007