1809 in reference to the blood that flows in the veins of the old and aristocratic families of Spain, translating Spanish sangre azul, claimed by certain families of Castile that held themselves uncontaminated by Moorish or Jewish admixture; the term probably is from the notion of the visible veins of people of fair complexion. In reference to English families by 1827. As a noun, "member of an old and aristocratic family," by 1877. See blue (adj.1) + blood (n.).
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