I can understand being "in the red", but why "being in the black" means having money?

  • 6
    If you understand why being in the red is used, then you should also understand why in the black is used!
    – user191580
    Aug 22, 2016 at 15:49
  • Then "being in the green" would be a logical conclusion.
    – TheTobruk
    Aug 22, 2016 at 15:57
  • Not necessarily as "being in the red" refers to a financial condition and is always coupled with being in the black as the antonym. But yes, if you are in the black, you are also in the green too... my comment wasn't mean, I was just trying to get him to think and logically figure it out ;)
    – user191580
    Aug 22, 2016 at 15:59
  • 2
    I suspect that this is due to historical reasons, when bankers used black ink for positive figures and red ink for negative figures in the ledgers.
    – abhi
    Aug 22, 2016 at 17:39
  • "In the green" only works if your currency can be called green. The phrase "in the black" is also used in the UK where our banknotes are more colourful. So your "green" is a red herring! (@JohnRakoczy)
    – Chris H
    Aug 22, 2016 at 19:40

2 Answers 2


To be "in the red" and to be "in the black" are complements of each other. They are both banking terms and they relate to losing and making money. The idea is that banks mark account status by color. To be "in the red" means the account has no money, so colloquially it means you're in an unsafe or unstable situation. Conversely, to be "in the black" means the accounts have enough money, so you're fine (for now).

  • 3
    Nice first answer. Consider citing the black ink part in the post.
    – Helmar
    Aug 22, 2016 at 16:01

The expressions would appear to have arisen from the practice in some companies of using red ink to record losses/deficits in their ledgers and black ink to record gains/credits. The original expression was "in the red ink".

You can read a history of these expressions at Barry Popic's The Big Apple site.

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