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Black is the darkest color, the result of the absence or complete absorption of visible light. It is an achromatic color, literally a color without hue, like white and gray. It is often used symbolically or figuratively to represent darkness, while white represents light. Black and white have often been used to describe opposites; particularly truth and ignorance, good and evil, the Dark Ages versus Age of Enlightenment. Since the Middle Ages, black has been the symbolic color of solemnity and authority, and for this reason is still commonly worn by judges and magistrates.
Black was one of the first colors used by artists in neolithic cave paintings. In the 14th century, it was worn by royalty, clergy, judges and government officials in much of Europe. It became the color worn by English romantic poets, businessmen and statesmen in the 19th century, and a high fashion color in the 20th century. In the Roman Empire, it became the color of mourning, and over the centuries it was frequently associated with death, evil, witches and magic. According to surveys in Europe and North America, it is the color most commonly associated with mourning, the end, secrets, magic, force, violence, evil, and elegance.
Black ink is the most common color used for printing books, newspapers and documents, as it provides the highest contrast with white paper and thus the easiest color to read. Similarly, black text on a white screen is the most common format used on computer screens.
The word black comes from Old English blæc , from Proto-Germanic *blakkaz , from Proto-Indo-European *bhleg- , from base *bhel- , related to Old Saxon blak , Old High German blach , Old Norse blakkr , Dutch blaken , and Swedish bläck. More distant cognates include Latin flagrare , and Ancient Greek phlegein.
The Ancient Greeks sometimes used the same word to name different colors, if they had the same intensity. Kuanos' could mean both dark blue and black.
The Ancient Romans had two words for black: ater was a flat, dull black, while niger was a brilliant, saturated black. Ater has vanished from the vocabulary, but niger was the source of the country name Nigeria the English word Negro and the word for "black" in most modern Romance languages.