- noun a black or coloured person, an Arab. The racist epithet is derived from the colour of soot and the name of a glove puppet of a yellow bear, a popular figure in children’s entertainment, especially television, since the 1950s. Although sooty does not sound unaffectionate, in actuality it is often used highly offensively. (In 1745 Henry Fielding referred to Jews as ‘the Sooty Tribe’ in his Covent Garden Tragedy.).