The term Black Friday was first used to describe Sept. 24, 1869, when several financiers had tried to corner the gold market and the market crashed, and a depression ensued. Another panic in the financial markets in 1873 also began on a Friday.
The Great Depression was precipitated by the Oct. 29, 1929 start of the stock market collapse. But that was Black Tuesday. Another bad day for the stock market — Oct. 19, 1987 — was called Black Monday.
The term is now applied to the big shopping day after Thanksgiving.
You might think it describes the bleak scene of hoards of shoppers trampling each other to snag the last DVD player on the shelf. But actually it's because it is when retailers' balance sheets supposedly move out of the red (red ink was used by accountants of old to indicated losses) and into the black (the color of ink you want to see if you have a really high-paying job as a CEO).
The other way of putting it: If the annual shopping Black Friday does not go well, then the whole year, at least from an individual company's perspective, can turn out a lot like the other Black days in history.