What does the idiom "be in sb's black books" mean?

Idioms are generally defined as groups of words that form a meaningful whole when they come together, even though the words in them do not make sense on their own. They have produced many idioms according to their own cultural characteristics in communities using the English language. What does be in sb's black books mean? In what situations is be in sb's black books used?

Meaning of "be in sb's black books"


The idiom 'be in sb's black books' is used to describe a situation in which someone doesn't agree or approve of a person's actions, or has a feeling of disapproval towards them. It is used as a warning or threat to act or behave in a certain way otherwise there will be consequences. The phrase can be taken figuratively, or literally, to convey a sense of someone's displeasure with another person's behavior.


The phrase 'be in sb's black books' is an idiom derived from the ancient bookkeeping system. In the bookkeeping system, black books were used to keep records of bad debts, which would be written in black ink. This system gave rise to the phrase 'be in sb's black books', which means to be in a state of disfavor or out of favor with someone.


The phrase 'be in sb's black books' is often used to warn someone against doing something that could result in negative consequences. It is a phrase that is used in both informal and formal contexts. For example, a boss may say to their employee "If you don't do what I ask, you'll be in my black books". This phrase can also be used as a joke, when talking about someone's behavior or attitude. For instance, a parent might joke with their child and say "You'd better behave or you'll be in my black books".

Example Sentences

  • "If you're late for work one more time, you'll be in my black books."
  • "You'd better be nice to me, or you'll be in my black books!"
  • "My mom threatened that I'd be in her black books if I didn't clean my room."
  • "I'm already in my dad's black books for forgetting to do my chores."

The meanings of the words in the "be in sb's black books" idiom

The universal role of idioms

"Kill two birds with one stone" is an English idiom that means to accomplish two things with a single action. In French, the similar idiom is "Faire d'une pierre deux coups," which translates to "To kill two birds with one stone." This idiom highlights the efficiency of completing two tasks with one action.


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