the black sheep
- a disgrace
- the least reputable member of a group
- someone who is viewed as unlike the rest (usually a part of a family)
- someone who is disapproved of
- someone who brings shame to their family
- I have always been the black sheep of my family. Everyone else has responsible jobs while I have chosen to be an artist.
- John is the black sheep in our family. He almost ended up in jail a few times when we were younger.
- My cousin is seen as the black sheep in our family. She left school to run off with her boyfriend.
- Vijay Mallya was the black sheep. Eventually, he migrated to the United Kingdom to avoid the punishment here.
- When I chose to marry you, my father was very worried. Once he said, "Do you really want to spend your life with that black sheep?" 😛
The wool of a sheep can be dyed different colours. Black sheep have a recessive gene that makes their wool black in colour. This means that it can not be dyed a different colour and makes it less valuable than white wool.
In the 16th century sheep with black wool was seen as carrying the mark of the devil.
The Sincere Convert, 1640:
Cast out all the Prophane people among us, as drunkards, swearers, whores, lyers, which the Scripture brands for blackesheepe, and condemnes them in a 100. places.
The phrase has been used, in the same context as we use it today, since the 18th century.
The Folk-Lore Record, 1878:
"We speak figuratively of the one black sheep that is the cause of sorrow in a family; but in its reality it is regarded by the Sussex shepherd as an omen of good luck to his flock."
The phrase is used less now than it was in the past. The colour black has less of a negative connotation and the phrase is often seen as being racist and offensive.