The Origin of Black Friday

Black Friday

With Thanksgiving feasts come Black Friday sales. While many people believe the term Black Friday finds its roots in the sense of black meaning “showing a profit; not showing any losses,” this isn’t actually the case.

Historically, black has been associated with days of economic stress as opposed to days of booming commercial success. The first Black Friday occurred in 1869 after financier Jay Gould and railway businessman James Fisk attempted to corner the gold market, which ultimately resulted in financial panic and the collapse of the market. A little over 60 years later, on October 29, 1929, another stock market crash referred to as Black Tuesday marked the onset of the Great Depression.

Following suit with the earlier “black” days, the true origin of the post-Thanksgiving Black Friday lies in the sense of black meaning “marked by disaster or misfortune.” In the 1950s, factory managers first started referring to the Friday after Thanksgiving as Black Friday because so many of their workers decided to falsely call in sick, thus extending the holiday weekend. About ten years later, Black Friday was used by Philadelphia traffic cops to describe the day after Thanksgiving because they had to work 12-hour shifts in terrible traffic. Soon the term caught on among shoppers and merchants in Philadelphia, and from there it took off nationwide.

The 1980s brought the mythology of Black Friday that’s often heard today. While the phrases in the black and in the red are used in the business world to describe profits and losses, this explanation for one of the busiest shopping days of the year only came about in the 1980s, about 20 years after the phrase Black Friday was in regular use.

Hear directly from a linguist in this 2013 piece on Black Friday from WBUR. And while you’re at it, do you know why the Monday after Thanksgiving is called Cyber Monday?



  1. Sky the Hedgehog -  February 23, 2016 - 5:45 pm

    I never knew that black Friday had soooo much history.

    • Lucas is the Heaven Boss -  November 29, 2016 - 1:03 pm

      I agree,Sky The Hedgehog.

  2. Adrian -  February 8, 2016 - 11:21 am

    No tengo saldo fui a la escuela. .. estás ??

    • Desaji -  February 8, 2016 - 12:02 pm

      Si, aqui estoy. Como que saldo?, les cortaron el internet ahi con tu mama o que?

      • Desaji -  February 8, 2016 - 12:03 pm

        ah si, este wey esta chingue y chingue que le manda saludos a tu hermana jajaja.

      • Adrian -  February 9, 2016 - 2:28 pm

        Jajaja apenas hoy me apareció el mensaje. .. lo bueno que no era algo urgente si no ya hubiera valido… che mugrero… pero bueno ….como quiera nos sirve… mi hermana no ha venido estaba internada cuando la vea le doy los saludos :D. … cuídate

    • Desaji -  February 8, 2016 - 12:13 pm

      ya nos tenemos que ir, cuidate, no olvides que te amo. un beso. alrato te marco.

  3. Desaji -  February 8, 2016 - 10:47 am

    Ana Luisa?. Como se llama mi compadre? picale en reply.

    • Adrian -  February 8, 2016 - 11:53 am

      Adrian Amilkar no?

      Tarda mucho en actualizar este pedo

    • Adrian -  February 8, 2016 - 11:56 am

      Le doy en reply y no aparece nada…. o estoy bien bruta o a la mejor nada mas a ti te aparece … o de plano esto se tarda un chingo

    • Adrian -  February 8, 2016 - 12:01 pm

      Desde la 1.21 estoy conectada y el.mensaje apareció apenas a la 1.57 no se si sigas ahí…pero te mandé varios mesajes… y hasta esa hora vi el de reply. .. porque no me aparecía ese mensaje… pero Aquí estuve. …TeAmo chikito no lo.olvides :*

  4. Adrian -  February 8, 2016 - 9:55 am

    Ya me quitaron el otro :(…. ojala y veas este y no creas que no quiero hablar contigo :*

  5. Adrian -  February 8, 2016 - 9:14 am

    Aquí estoy

    • Adrian -  February 8, 2016 - 9:53 am

      Ya me quitaron la otra … de nuevo. .. :)…

  6. Okodel Pius -  January 10, 2016 - 2:09 pm

    Black friday nolonger existed. Am not so sure about it

  7. Shayne -  December 8, 2015 - 5:49 pm

    Black Fridays are awsome!!!!!!!!!!!$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

    • Cynthia Grissinger -  December 21, 2015 - 5:10 am

      I first learned the Black Friday for day after Thanksgiving as being the day stores went “into the black” from my high school business teacher in the 1960′s. I’ve always used that reference for it – long before 1980.

      • Spring -  February 8, 2016 - 7:20 am

        Probando 123, me ves?

  8. Dan -  December 4, 2015 - 9:54 am

    Reading the various explanations offered here make me worry about the future of the human race.
    The Friday after Thanksgiving used to be the traditional beginning of the Christmas season (this is before stores began decorating for Christmas before Halloween).
    After Ronald Reagan altered the economic landscape in America during his presidency, which began stressing the middle class, retail outlets had to compete much harder for those fewer dollars spent by this largest group of consumers.
    Over time, this competition became more fierce. Stores began selling certain desirable items at or below cost in an effort to get those cash-strapped shoppers into their stores before that money was spent elsewhere. The human stampedes are now commonplace, and there continue to be fatalities among Black Friday shoppers almost every year.
    This ugly and greedy side of human nature is the origin of the term Black Friday. It most accurately describes people’s motivation as they elbow and punch their way through the crowds.
    The explanations stating stores do not make a profit all year until that day are ludicrous. No business that does not turn a profit until the final 35 to 40 days of the year could ever exist. If you have ever run a business, you would know this. That would be like going to your job for the final 5 weeks of the year and paying ALL of your bills for the whole year from that one paycheck.
    Think about it.
    Oh, and Merry Christmas!

  9. rig b -  December 3, 2015 - 11:54 am

    lil’$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$ u r awesome by the way nice username

    • lil'$$$$$$$$$$$ -  December 3, 2015 - 11:56 am

      thanks rig b

  10. jack -  December 2, 2015 - 9:11 am

    black friday!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!ya!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • clone -  December 8, 2015 - 4:12 pm


  11. sklyer -  December 1, 2015 - 3:33 pm

    you’re so RIGHT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • lil'$$$$$$$$$$$$ -  December 3, 2015 - 11:38 am

      how a bout being my freind

  12. Maria -  November 30, 2015 - 10:50 am

    If at the very least, there is anything more fun in reading these ‘fun facts!’ in Holiday messages, is simply getting a TRUE and whole-hearty good ‘ole much needed, and NEVER ENUF DAILY LAUGH, at others’ expenses!!

    Especially in something as wonderful as Twitter, where for the most part, folks are known (thankfully!!) to be respectful and on an adult level!!..

    Keep ‘em comin’! I can never get enough reading and you know what they say: “readers become leaders!” ….We shall see…

    Be blessed and Merry Christmas!

  13. Mark -  November 29, 2015 - 2:43 am

    Thanksgiving is not what everyone thinks it is…when the Pioneers first came to america..they had no food and no means of growing it..so they slaughtered millions of native indians..and when most of them were dead they forced the rest to show them how to grown corn etc..the first harvest was called Thanksgiving….thanksgiving is based on slaughter death genocide..and your happy to celebrate that ..a message to all so called bloggers..know you4 history ..know your facts….black friday ..the day after thanksgiving is…slave auction day ..slaves black and native indians stood on boxes waiting to be sold…after the celebrations of thanksgiving ….i personally don’t participate on black friday or thanksgiving ..based on ignorance and peddled by the ignorant ..smh…shame on you

    • Kathy -  December 1, 2015 - 6:11 pm

      Oh puhleese! The first Thanksgiving was a Mass to show gratitude for a safe voyage and landing in the New World. The indigenous people were still in the Stone Age and at times were cannibals too. Slaves have been bought sold. And captured since the beginning of time. Today we (humans ) still have human sex slavery, as well as economic and political slavery! Research your facts, don’t let anyone do your thinking for you. Boycott the traffickers and porn purveyors and exploiters of the intellectually lazy and politically deluded. In other words, Think and grow up.

      • Mary -  November 30, 2016 - 6:57 am

        I agree w Mary whole heartedly! In addition to her comments did you know that the USA makes up 25% of the worlds sex trade industry? There are millions of children yes little children that are sold every single day today into sex slavery! Just google the history of African slave trading and you’ll also be surprised in finding that the Africans sell their own people into slavery I’m never going to negate the fact that Americans particulates in slavery as they did but so have many many other countries throughout history and to this very day it continues! I agree with Mary. Thanksgiving is a day to be thankful for your blessings. In addition to that STOP promoting hatred and unforgiveness Get out there and use your energy to make a positive difference in this world! Did you know 1 in 5 girl children btw and 2 in 20 little boys are sexually molested every day? Why not use your energy to help these misfortunate victims? Help the thousands of women and children in homeless shelters or people in inner cities fighting crime every day and dying. People can bitch about the PAST all day long w bitterness and rage but what are YOU doing to make a difference TODAY? Anyway God bless everyone I’ve made my peace w my past and am going to try to make the world a better place one person at a time ❤️

    • Anonymous -  December 3, 2015 - 1:21 pm

      Your source?

    • Denise -  December 4, 2015 - 4:32 am

      Thanks for your honesty I as well don’t have anything to do with man made holidays and lies

      • Denise -  December 4, 2015 - 4:34 am

        I was thanking Mark on what he said

      • Mark -  January 7, 2016 - 8:18 am

        Um… all holidays are man made.

        • Mark -  January 7, 2016 - 8:19 am

          …and I’m not the same guy as that first Mark.

    • Adam -  December 3, 2016 - 6:58 am

      Yo brother THANK YOU!!!!. Whoever wrote this blog clearly ommited EVERYTHING about the original slaughter of our black people!!!!!!!!!! I just sent this to some of my other brothers as well. Crazy right????

  14. Steve -  December 1, 2014 - 4:17 pm

    This article is sheer baloney. Just because the phrase “Black Friday” may have been in existence prior to the current, modern “Black Friday” phenomenon doesn’t mean that its modern usage is determined by previous meanings. The fact of the matter is that the Friday after Thanksgiving Day is called “Black Friday” because it (allegedly) is the first day of profit (“in the black”) after nearly 11 months of businesses operating at a loss (“in the red”). Of course, this is pure theory and conjecture, given that few businesses could actually survive for 11 months operating at a loss. This article goes to show that you can’t believe everything on the internet, even when it comes from an otherwise reliable source.

    • You -  April 14, 2015 - 9:00 am

      Yeah, you’re right. We should trust some random guy named Steve over a dictionary website.
      I’m not saying that either you or dictionary.com are right, I’m just saying that you’re stupidly implying that we should trust YOU, even though you’re saying we shouldn’t trust everything we see on the internet.

      • Ric D -  November 27, 2015 - 7:00 pm

        “The fact of the matter is…”

        “Of course, this is pure theory and conjecture”

        Yeah he starts off strong, utterly trashing the website’s explanation. He then offers his explanation as fact only to tell us it’s it’s nothing but theory and conjecture.

        Hmmm. I don’t know who to believe.

  15. Pradeep -  March 25, 2014 - 7:49 am

    Yeah now I know, in the movie The greatest show on earth the guy keeps saying as long as we are in the black.

  16. Sthi-Bash -  December 20, 2013 - 2:20 am

    After reading this article my mind went black…

    • Magesse -  November 29, 2015 - 9:28 am

      GOOD ONE.

  17. Rebecca -  December 17, 2013 - 8:21 pm

    Why should we call it ” Black Friday”? Are we being rude by saying that? Well I know one thing for sure is I hear how bad it get, running people over for something stupid that we are mostly going to throw away. We get really crazy when it comes to Black Friday. You will never believe how stupid it is. We get into fights for what? Nothing that we need, now if it’s what we need the yes fight why fight if we don’t have to.

  18. Bob6431 -  December 3, 2013 - 8:32 am

    I didn’t do any Black Friday shopping at all but I went shopping on Thanksgiving and everthing was closed.

  19. Bob6431 -  December 3, 2013 - 8:31 am

    It was Christmas Eve. A woman came home to her husband after a day of busy shopping. Later on that night when she was getting undressed for bed, he noticed a mark on the inside of her leg. “What is that?” he asked. She said, “I visited the tattoo parlor today. On the inside of one leg I had them tattoo ‘Merry Christmas,’ and on the inside of the other one they tattooed ‘Happy New Year.’” Perplexed, he asked, “Why did you do that?” “Well,” she replied, “now you can’t complain that there’s never anything to eat between Christmas and New Years!”

    • jayo -  December 3, 2015 - 6:50 am


    • kathy -  December 4, 2015 - 1:52 pm

      She had her mind in the right place. She new her husband would need something sweet all year the years to come.

    • JACK THE MAN -  December 15, 2015 - 10:17 am


    • Poseidon`s other son -  January 27, 2016 - 8:34 am

      haha lol omfg

  20. El Swaggor -  December 1, 2013 - 1:43 pm

    Luckily our history teacher told us about this! :)

  21. Michelle -  December 1, 2013 - 5:37 am

    In my own personal life certain dates of particular misfortune I referr to them as ‘black’. And everyone I know who works retail uses the term Black Friday in a negative way because its the worse day of the year for them to work. I believe it was coined by retail workers and then some advertising agency was smart enough to turn it from a negative conotation to a marketing scheme. Which worked for a while but people are seeing it more and more in a negative way.

    • Lisa -  November 28, 2015 - 6:12 am

      You are 100 percent correct. Retail sales associates dread working the day after Thanksgiving. This is twofold, first a hectic day of holiday shoppers-most families have time off from work, second retailers work nights weekends and holidays. It’s a drag. Black Friday is mandatory work day for sales people. It has evolved to the frenzied event we experience now over the years since the early 80′s. I hate Black Friday, bring Back the Blue Laws! ;-)

  22. Rainbow -  December 1, 2013 - 3:30 am


  23. NaivePhilosopher -  November 30, 2013 - 5:54 pm

    I’d heard that the name came from the fact that companies operate on debt throughout the year. The revenue generated from the massive sales starts the ascent from the “black” debt zone (really bad) to the “red” debt zone (all clear). That’s just what I’ve heard any way.

    • Me -  December 5, 2015 - 6:03 pm

      Red (really bad), “In the black” equals profit.

  24. Emily -  November 30, 2013 - 3:20 pm

    So if that’s called Black Friday… Why is the 13th of December so dangerous? If you refer to Friday the 13th… Is it because deaths happen on those days?

    • You -  April 14, 2015 - 9:04 am

      It’s because of the movie Friday the 13th, which I believe was a TV show before it was a movie. In it, a killer stalks some campers and tries to kill them. Only one or two of the campers get away.

      • K220 -  November 28, 2015 - 11:53 am

        Friday the 13th is not just because of a stupid movie.

        • Me -  December 5, 2015 - 6:01 pm

          Hahaha, correct lol

  25. Robyn Youl -  November 30, 2013 - 9:17 am

    To Australians, Black Friday was the horrendous Friday 13th January 1939 when it appeared the whole state of Victoria was alight during one of our worst bushfires. ‘Black’ days in Australian vocabulary refers to particulary devastating bushfires. Strange how the same word has different connotations for different cultures. It would be disrespectful to tag a ‘Black Friday’ shopping spree.
    Robyn Youl

  26. wolf tamer and tree puncher -  November 30, 2013 - 6:57 am

    I thought Black Friday would be something bad, and wondered why they would have huge sales on that day. My dad told me the “black ink” explanation.

  27. Amenyamen -  November 30, 2013 - 6:38 am

    Preceded by Thanksgiving Day in the U.S.A., it is ironic there are no greeting cards sold inscribed inside with “happy Black Friday… I want your money” to blot out red ink… putting Friday in the Black. So why not call it is Blot Red Ink Friday, or Blotter Friday?
    Black spots of traffic or Blotting red ink- screw that.
    Stay at home and enjoy what America needs most (Family time) and left over turkey or ham, unless you are working and not at a store participating in Black Friday, that has been blotted out by Corporate greed, whose SOB’s may as well call it Advent Friday, to get to your pocket book.
    Pity the morons who think that shopping on Black Friday has to supercede Family time, and will be back on Saturday, and on Sunday to return them goods they bought because they never had the ability to buy and pay for, other then creating the hot zone of CO2 emissions by their auto commutes.
    How about calling it Far From The Maddening Crowd- Friday, and say hello to a great author T.Hardy, with a trip to the Library earlier in the week.

    • Me -  December 5, 2015 - 5:57 pm

      It’s Far from the Madding Crowd…

  28. Austin -  November 29, 2013 - 3:56 pm

    I read something about “Black Friday” in my APUSH book during the Reconstruction. I feel like it has something to do with it, since it also involves business, marketing, and deflation of prices.

  29. Bill -  November 29, 2013 - 1:47 pm

    Well, the day isn’t as profitable as you might think. When I was at Best Buy, our revenue (sales) for the day usually ran around $1,000,000 for the store, but we expected to lose between $50,000 and $100,000.

    But when I suggested to management that we just close the doors and keep the $50,000 in our pocket, they just laughed . . .

  30. hip hop -  April 20, 2012 - 5:05 am

    The title of Kims’ album

  31. Black Friday, doorbuster « Lex maniac -  November 23, 2011 - 2:23 pm

    [...] is the day that stores operate in or go into the black), seems to have arisen later, although one source says there’s no definitive evidence one way or the other. Two less common explanations — [...]

  32. Miles -  November 28, 2010 - 7:01 pm

    Yeah, I always thought it was strange to call it “Black Friday”. Black is a word usually reserved for bad things — Black Plague, Black Bart, etc.

    Like Anna, I figured it was a reference to the unpleasant crowds and traffic associated with that day.

    • Yule -  November 30, 2015 - 4:31 pm

      not to mention Black People

      • Dan -  December 4, 2015 - 10:03 am

        With a comment like that, the blackest thing on this page is what’s in your heart and in your mind.
        Crawl back into your hole and stay there.

      • Me -  December 5, 2015 - 5:59 pm

        Yule, meet Black below…

  33. Black Friday -  July 23, 2010 - 4:31 pm

    It’s called Black Friday because that is when retailers go “in the black” marking their profit for the year. From January until November they are not very profitable.

  34. BLACK | BLOGCHI@mayopia.com -  July 23, 2010 - 2:40 pm

    [...] you go Black you’ll never go back” and why in Checkers is there Black and Red. — The RED States — dey don’t like no Black — though THE HOT WORD is the [...]

  35. Jonel -  July 23, 2010 - 1:43 pm

    This is cool and informative.

  36. Isa -  July 23, 2010 - 11:54 am

    Haha Black friday i think it’s called that because it is the day when People Honor Corporate America but spendinglots of money on things they will never wear. Which is indeed a black offair

  37. Anna -  July 23, 2010 - 11:51 am

    I always assumed it was coined by employees who had to work the Friday after Thanksgiving. It is the most nightmarish day of the year when you are the one opening the doors and stocking the shelves..

    • Lisa -  November 28, 2015 - 6:15 am

      100 percent correct.


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