blackmail

noun
black·​mail | \ ˈblak-ˌmāl How to pronounce blackmail (audio) \

Definition of blackmail

1 : a tribute anciently exacted on the Scottish border by plundering chiefs in exchange for immunity from pillage
2a : extortion or coercion by threats especially of public exposure or criminal prosecution
b : the payment that is extorted

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from blackmail

blackmail transitive verb
blackmailer noun

Examples of blackmail in a Sentence

She was a victim of blackmail. The servant extorted blackmail from her employer.
Recent Examples on the Web The search for a missing person plunges detective Philip Marlowe into a deadly web of blackmail and murder. Los Angeles Times, "Movies on TV this week: ‘Gandhi’; ‘Forrest Gump’ and more," 26 Feb. 2021 That included wiretaps, blackmail and informers, trying to find dirt on King. Mark Kennedy, Detroit Free Press, "‘MLK/FBI’ explores agency’s pursuit of Martin Luther King," 15 Jan. 2021 That included wiretaps, blackmail and informers, trying to find dirt on King. Mark Kennedy, Star Tribune, "Review: 'MLK/FBI' explores the roots of an American ill will," 12 Jan. 2021 The girl’s death becomes blackmail leverage for a local kingpin, and as the drug lord and diplomat tangle, Aimaq — who, like her protagonist, grew up in Afghanistan — shows that country’s complicated history in a pulse-pounding thriller. Washington Post, "10 books to read in December," 1 Dec. 2020 Beyond the pressure to get married in the traditional way, the 24-year-old also has had to deal with remarks that being gay is abnormal and shameful as well as emotional blackmail and even violence. Amanat Khullar, Quartz India, "How LGBTQ+ members of the South Asian diaspora navigate stigma and stress," 29 Dec. 2020 But this tale of the press, blackmail, and romance is pure Mank. Maureen Lee Lenker, EW.com, "7 films written by Herman J. Mankiewicz to watch after Mank," 4 Dec. 2020 Once hired, they would be asked to provide more revealing pictures, which Cho then used as blackmail material. Jessie Yeung, CNN, "South Korean leader of online sexual blackmail ring sentenced to 40 years," 25 Nov. 2020 Such incidences included a Chinese spy sleeping with a top French pharmaceutical researcher and videotaping the affair as fodder for blackmail. Hollie Mckay, Fox News, "How China has built its extensive 'honey trap' spy network," 11 Dec. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'blackmail.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of blackmail

1552, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for blackmail

black + mail entry 4

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about blackmail

Time Traveler for blackmail

Time Traveler

The first known use of blackmail was in 1552

See more words from the same year

Statistics for blackmail

Last Updated

1 Mar 2021

Cite this Entry

“Blackmail.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/blackmail. Accessed 1 Mar. 2021.

Style: MLA
MLA Chicago APA Merriam-Webster

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for blackmail

blackmail

noun

English Language Learners Definition of blackmail

: the crime of threatening to tell secret information about someone unless the person being threatened gives you money or does what you want
: something (such as money) that is received through blackmail

blackmail

noun
black·​mail | \ ˈblak-ˌmāl How to pronounce blackmail (audio) \

Kids Definition of blackmail

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : the act of forcing someone to do or pay something by threatening to reveal a secret
2 : something (as money) obtained by threatening to reveal a secret

blackmail

verb
blackmailed; blackmailing

Kids Definition of blackmail (Entry 2 of 2)

: to threaten to reveal a secret unless something is done (as paying money)

Other Words from blackmail

blackmailer noun

blackmail

noun
black·​mail | \ ˈblak-ˌmāl How to pronounce blackmail (audio) \

Legal Definition of blackmail

: extortion or coercion by often written threats especially of public exposure, physical harm, or criminal prosecution

Other Words from blackmail

blackmail transitive verb
blackmailer \ -​ˌmā-​lər \ noun

History and Etymology for blackmail

originally, payment extorted from farmers in Scotland and northern England, from black + dialectal mail payment, rent

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on blackmail

What made you want to look up blackmail? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

WORD OF THE DAY

Test Your Vocabulary

February 2021 Words of the Day Quiz

  • squirrel in winter
  • Which is a synonym of perdure?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

TAKE THE QUIZ
Typeshift

Anagram puzzles meet word search.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!