from The Century Dictionary.

  • To cover with plumbago or black-lead; apply black-lead to.
  • noun Amorphous graphite; plumbago. See graphite.
  • noun A pencil made of graphite.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • Plumbago; graphite. It leaves a blackish mark somewhat like lead. See graphite.
  • transitive verb To coat or to polish with black lead (graphite).

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

  • verb To cover, treat or polish with graphite
  • noun Alternative form of black lead.

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

  • verb cover with graphite
  • noun used as a lubricant and as a moderator in nuclear reactors


Sorry, no etymologies found.


  • The process of electrotyping is as follows: The form is locked up very tightly, and is then coated with a surface of graphite, commonly known as blacklead, but it is a misnomer.

    Scientific American Supplement, No. 488, May 9, 1885

  • She came to the door in her sacking apron, a blacklead-brush in her hand, and a black smudge on her nose.

    Lady Chatterley's Lover

  • For there was, as it follows afterward, Grecian hyssop: fucous hyssop, perhaps of the colour of blacklead: Roman hyssop, and wild hyssop.

    From the Talmud and Hebraica

  • This process prevents entirely the circulation of blacklead in the air, which has heretofore been so objectionable in the process of electrotyping.

    Scientific American Supplement, No. 488, May 9, 1885

  • They went inside, and there was such a neat kitchen, with tiles as red as tiles could be; a little dresser, with all sorts of useful things; a nice clock ticking opposite the fire-place, and a grate as bright as blacklead could make it.

    Fanny, the Flower-Girl, or, Honesty Rewarded

  • If the surface upon which it fell was first covered with blacklead, a circular spot of lead will be found on the ivory ball.

    Aether and Gravitation

  • Slaveys, with clasped hands and faces pale beneath smudges of blacklead, shook in the hall or on the stairs and landing whilst Darco roared, and

    Despair's Last Journey

  • A film of copper is deposited on the blacklead surface of the mould; and when this shell is sufficiently thick, it is taken from the bath, the wax removed, the shell trimmed, the back tinned, straightened, backed with an alloy of type-metal, then shaved to a thickness, and mounted on a block to make it type-high.

    Scientific American Supplement, No. 488, May 9, 1885

  • The kitchen was spotlessly clean, the grate shining with blacklead.

    The Carved Cupboard

  • He brought out his order book and a blacklead pencil.

    My Neighbors Stories of the Welsh People


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  • I bought some blacklead and blackleaded the grate so the iron glowed with a dull coaly gleam.

    —Helen Dunmore, Your Blue-eyed Boy

    Google Books throws up another use of the verb in a different Dunmore novel. WeirdNet only knows the verb. I'd never seen it used, and in fact didn't know what blacklead was. In my pub there's an old advertisement, circa 1900, for a brand of blacklead, but it depicts hoop-skirted young women in sunny outdoor colloquy, and so studiously fails to give any clue as to what it might be that I half imagined it must be some Edwardian hygiene product whose mode of application eluded me.

    April 21, 2009