Etymology of Black
The word ‘Black’ can be traced back to its proto Indo-European origins through the word ‘blac’ which meant pale, wan, colourless, or albino. ‘Blac’ was incorporated into Old French as Blanc, Italian and Spanish as Blanco, Bianca, Bianco, Bianchi.
In Old English “blac” person meant fair; someone devoid of colour, similar to the word “blanc” which still means white or fair person.
In Middle English the word was spelt as “blaec” same thing as the modern word “black”, only at that time, around 1051 AD, it still meant a fair skin, or so-called white person. The words “blacca” an Old/Middle English word still resonates with “blanke” the Dutch-Germanic term for white people of today.
Black in Old and Middle English
Thus, we can see that the Old English ‘blæc’ was relative to its ‘blac’ origin as it was predominantly used as an adjective to describe ‘colour pertaining to matter that was colourless’. Other cognates of ‘blac’ include examples like: Bleak, Blake, Bleach, Blanch.
Good examples of the use of “blac” as something that meant blond or fair can be seen in Old English literature such as K. Ælfred’s ‘Bæda’ from c.890 where the following phrase can be found: “hæfde blæc feax” meaning “have blond hair”. Black’s Semantic Shifts
It was not till the sixteenth century that the semantic broadening of black occured- both figurative connotations as well as literal.
From ‘blac, blake, bleaken, blaccen’ and their literal meaning ‘to bleach out or make white, blond or pale’ came the figurative meaning ‘to stain someones reputation, or defame’ or darken. Literally “blac” by that time came to mean night-like colour, dark. One can say a very dramatic shift indeed. It was also the era, when the Vandals and the Goths were busy writing themselves into history and writing out the European Mauros (melan-chros or melanin people) out of history