Black sheep of the family


      • outcast or odd one out
        Referring to someone who is different or does not fit in with the rest of their family or group, often with negative connotations.

      • scapegoat
        Blaming someone for the mistakes or wrongdoings of a group, especially within a family dynamic.

      • disowned or rejected
        Describing someone who has been rejected or disowned by their family, often due to their behavior or lifestyle choices.

    Examples of Black sheep of the family

    • Rachel's younger sister, Emily, has always been the black sheep of the family. She struggled in school, dropped out at sixteen, and moved in with her boyfriend, who she married at nineteen and divorced at twenty-two. Rachel's parents disapprove of her sister's choices, whereas Rachel tries her best to be supportive and understanding.

      The expression "black sheep of the family" refers to a family member who does not conform to the expectations, values, and norms of the family. The metaphor comes from sheep, where the sheep with black wool is different from the rest. Emily, Rachel's sister, is the black sheep because of her deviant behaviors and choices that disappoint her parents, who perceive them as abnormal, and distance her from the family's standards. Rachel, on the other hand, tries to differentiate herself from Emily and proves herself as a better-behaved and successful member of the family.

    • In their annual family reunion, everyone except Emily was dressed elegantly and sitting primly, with their hands folded and their faces sober. Emily, however, wore a bright red dress, and her hair was as wild as ever. She was chatting with a group of boisterous men, guffawing and laughing loudly. Rachel tried to introduce her to some of her relatives, but they, too, avoided Emily and refusing to talk to her.

      The metaphor "black sheep" highlights the social and psychological consequences of being an outcast or an outsider, as in Rachel's family, Emily's behavior causes her to be isolated and rejected by her kin. The actions, appearance, and noise that Emily makes in the reunion symbolizes her non-conformity and "deviant" identity. Emily's family members see her misbehaving as a black sheep, as her actions contradict the family's values and expectations, and they try to distance themselves from her in order to not associate with her non-traditional identity.

    • Emily has a new job in a coffee shop near the city. She puts in extra hours, serves customers with a smile, and always keeps the kitchen clean. Rachel heard her parents discussing her progress, praising her for being independent and responsible. Rachel's mother said that Emily's new job made her proud and wished that Rachel would follow in her sister's footsteps.

      The phrase "black sheep" demonstrates the dynamic evolution of a person's identity. Emily, who was once the black sheep, has transformed into a responsible and hardworking person. Her new job and her positive changes have earned her the respect and admiration of her parents, who would like to see their other daughter, Rachel, adopt Emily's new habits and behavior. The phrase "black sheep" illustrates how a person's adherence to family values and norms can lead to social acceptance and integration into the family.

    • Although he inherited a successful business from his wealthy family, John has become the black sheep of the family because of his reckless spending habits and continuous financial troubles.

      This idiom describes a person who doesn't fit the normal mold of success or behavior in their family. In this case, John has strayed away from the traditional path of wealth and prosperity due to his poor money management skills.

    • Despite his brother's achievements as a renowned doctor, Peter has earned the title of the black sheep of the family for his decision to drop out of medical school and pursue a career as a musician.

      The idiom represents an individual who is not as successful or well-respected as their family members. Peter's siblings may be proud of his artistic talents, but they may also view his career path as unconventional, leading to his label as the black sheep.

    • Although she grew up in a wealthy family, Samantha became the black sheep when she decided to give away all her possessions to charity and live a simple life.

      This usage of the idiom refers to a person who differs significantly from their family's values or lifestyle. Samantha's altruistic choices may be admirable, but they go against her family's materialistic beliefs, causing her to be considered the black sheep.

    • Lisa's sister, who is adopted, has always felt like the black sheep of the family due to her different appearance and background.

      This example illustrates that being the black sheep doesn't necessarily mean one has committed wrongdoings or made poor decisions. Lisa's sister may not resemble her biological family or have the same upbringing, leading her to feel like she doesn't belong. As a result, she is labeled as the black sheep, but it's not indicative of her worth or choices.


    The idiom "black sheep of the family" is used to refer to someone who is seen as an outcast or odd one out within their family or social group. It can also be used to describe a scapegoat, someone who is blamed for the actions of a group, particularly within a family setting. Additionally, it can convey the idea of someone being disowned or rejected by their family, often due to their behavior or choices.

    This idiom is typically used with a negative connotation, as it implies that the person being referred to is seen as different or inferior to the rest of their family or group. It can also suggest a sense of isolation or alienation from one's family or community.

    Origin of "Black sheep of the family"

    The origin of the idiom "black sheep of the family" can be traced back to the farming industry. In a flock of white sheep, a black sheep was seen as undesirable and would often be separated from the rest of the herd. This idea of a black sheep being seen as different or outcast was eventually transferred to human relationships, particularly within families.

    The first recorded use of this idiom can be found in a play by Edmund Gayton in 1638, where it was used to describe a black sheep being shunned by its flock. However, the idiom became more popular in the 19th century, with the rise of industrialization and the growing importance of family reputation and social standing. It was often used to describe a family member who did not meet societal expectations or who brought shame to the family name.

    Today, the idiom is still widely used and has become a common phrase to describe someone who is seen as an outcast or troublemaker within their family or community.