Give Someone A Black Eye

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Have a black eye
Get a black eye


Give Someone a Black Eye

1. To cause a discolored dark bruise of the periorbital region ( the area surrounding the eye) by delivering a blow to the area. Although this seems to be a literal use, it is still idiomatic in that the expression does not refer to the eye itself, but to the skin surrounding the eye. To say that someone is black-eyed, as in a "black-eyed beauty," in fact, is positive.

2. To damage a person's (or organization's) reputation or to shame or humiliate them; can also refer to an organization or any other entity. 1,2,((news))


"Kevin wore sunglasses all day because he didn't want anyone to know he had a black eye. He had been in a fight!"

"Bob has a black eye and looks like he's been in a fight but he swears he just ran into something."

"The newspaper article gave the mayor a black eye and seriously affected his chances for re-election."


A bruise around the eye has been referred to as a black eye since at least the 1600's. It is not always recognized, however, that this use is idiomatic but someone not familiar with the expression might well assume its meaning to refer to one's eyeball turning black.

Since someone with a black eye is usually assumed to have been in a fight and to have lost the fight, they can be assumed to be embarrassed or to look foolish, thus, a black eye came to refer figuratively to suffering embarrassment or humiliation sometime in the 1700's. 3

1. Spears, Richard A. McGraw-Hill's American Idioms Dictionary. Boston: McGraw Hill, 2008.
2. Ammer, Christine. American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013.
3. Bengelsdorf, Peter. Idioms in the News - 1,000 Phrases, Real Examples. N.p.: Amz Digital Services, 2012.

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