black market (black economy)

1. (noun) The illegal market for goods and services that are price regulated, taxed, rationed, or restricted.

2. (noun) The location where illegal buying and selling occurs.


  1. Selling a good that is rationed during wartime.
  2. Poaching and selling elephant tusks and rhinoceros horns.
  3. Selling illegal drugs.

Audio Pronunciation: (black mar·ket)

Download Audio Pronunciation: black market.mp3

Usage Notes:

  • Plural: black markets
  • Common goods or services sold on the black market include:
  • The black market is a vast part of the overall economy.
  • A black market emerges when laws and regulations prohibit the sale of certain goods and services; prices are controlled; goods and services are sold but untaxed; or during a specific times such as famine or war. By definition, a black market can only exists when a government controls prices or applies taxes, prohibits certain goods or services, or rationing is in place.
  • A black market often sells goods and services that are not illegal but that are sold illegally. For example bootlegging is when alcohol is produced and sold without paying taxes on the sale. Additionally, selling your own labor but not reporting the income on your taxes is part of the black market. This is called a parallel market or parallel economy.
  • A black market focused on human tissues such as blood, bones, and organs is called a red market.
  • Variant spellings:
    • black-market
    • blackmarket
  • Also called:
    • black economy
    • informal economy
    • informal market
    • shadow economy
    • shadow market
    • underdog economy
    • underdog market
    • underground economy
    • underground market
    • underworld economy
    • underworld market

Related Terms:

Works Consulted

Black, John, Nigar Hashimzade, and Gareth Myles. 2010. A Dictionary of Economics. 3rd ed. New York: Oxford University Press.

Bruce, Steve, and Steven Yearley. 2006. The SAGE Dictionary of Sociology. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

Law, Jonathan, ed. 2010. A Dictionary of Accounting. 4th ed. New York: Oxford University Press.

Macionis, John, and Kenneth Plummer. 2012. Sociology: A Global Introduction. 4th ed. Harlow, England: Pearson Education.

Princeton University. 2010. WordNet. (

Turner, Bryan S., ed. 2006. The Cambridge Dictionary of Sociology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Wikipedia contributors. (N.d.) Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation. (

Wikipedia contributors. (N.d.) Wiktionary, The Free Dictionary. Wikimedia Foundation. (

How to Cite the Definition of Black Market

ASA – American Sociological Association (5th edition)

Bell, Kenton, ed. 2018. “black market.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Retrieved June 26, 2019 (

APA – American Psychological Association (6th edition)

black market. (2018). In K. Bell (Ed.), Open education sociology dictionary. Retrieved from

Chicago/Turabian: Author-Date – Chicago Manual of Style (16th edition)

Bell, Kenton, ed. 2018. “black market.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Accessed June 26, 2019.

MLA – Modern Language Association (7th edition)

“black market.” Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Ed. Kenton Bell. 2018. Web. 26 Jun. 2019. <>.