Definitions

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun An Australian swan whose feathers are black.
  • noun An occurrence believed impossible or not to exist.
  • noun An occurrence believed impossible or not to exist, subsequently shown to exist.

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

  • noun large Australian swan having black plumage and a red bill

Etymologies

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Comments

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  • In Nassim Nicholas Taleb's definition, a black swan is a large-impact, hard-to-predict, and rare event beyond the realm of normal expectations.

    The term black swan comes from the ancient Western conception that all swans were white in color. In that context, a black swan was a metaphor for something that could not exist. The 17th Century discovery of black swans in Australia metamorphosed the term to connote that the perceived impossibility actually came to pass.

    The term was introduced by Karl Popper in the context of the falsifiability of the statement "All swans are white".

    October 17, 2007

  • Interesting, sionnach. I never knew this.

    And by the way, black swans are lovely.

    October 17, 2007

  • I think the presence of black swans in Australia also was taken as further evidence of Australia being literally the antipodes--in the sense of being completely backward/opposite from everything Europeans had "known." At least, they were still talking about that 20 years ago in Australia (maybe they're over it by now?)....

    October 17, 2007

  • Ooh, yeah. True! I'd never connected the two.

    October 17, 2007

  • All swans are black.

    October 12, 2008