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 Jason Renaud, an advocate for people with mental illness, said that Unity’s funding request seems like blackmail. oregonlive, "Mentally ill patients wait days for room at Portland’s psychiatric ER due to financial, overcrowding crisis," 17 Jan. 2020 Taped a month and a half before the pop star’s death and first played during opening statements, the judge says the recording was designed to blackmail Jackson. Shelby Grad, latimes.com, "Michael Jackson’s final day: A sleepless night, dangerous drugs and a death that shook the world," 27 Apr. 2019 For example, foreign governments could use the data to gather compromising information on individual military personnel, using it blackmail people into committing acts of espionage...or worse. Kyle Mizokami, Popular Mechanics, "If You're in the Military, Maybe Don't Take That Home Genetic Test," 30 Dec. 2019 The personal information contained in the text messages could be an asset to scammers; it could also be used in blackmail schemes and lead to identity theft and fraud. Dalvin Brown, USA TODAY, "'Hundreds of millions of people' may have had their text messages exposed online, researchers say," 2 Dec. 2019 LaPierre claimed in response that North’s letter and his various other claims of impropriety amounted to a blackmail campaign, carried out on AMc’s behalf, in order to force his departure and preserve AMc’s lucrative relationship with the NRA. Jack Crowe, National Review, "NRA Accuses Its Long-time Ad Agency of Multimillion-Dollar Fraud," 30 Oct. 2019 In 2017, according to DataBreaches.net, Wyatt pleaded guilty to 20 counts of fraud by false representation, two counts of blackmail, and one count of possession of an identity document with intent to deceive (a false passport). Dan Goodin, Ars Technica, "Dark Overlord taunted, threatened, and extorted. Now alleged member is behind bars," 19 Dec. 2019 Temple steps into a role formerly occupied by Steven Fabrizio, who was fired in August amid allegations of alleged rape and blackmail. Eriq Gardner, The Hollywood Reporter, "MPA Taps Copyright Office Director Karyn Temple as General Counsel," 9 Dec. 2019 That’s why Google’s decision last week doesn’t amount to blackmail. Jeff John Roberts, Fortune, "Google and Copyright ‘Blackmail’—Data Sheet," 30 Sep. 2019

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 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Blackmail.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/blackmail. Accessed 19 Feb. 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for blackmail

blackmail

noun
How to pronounce blackmail (audio)

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

See Definitions and Examples »

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

More Confusing Words—Quiz

  • cats on impossible timber
  • The magician ______ moved the selected card to the top of the deck.
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

TAKE THE QUIZ
Citation

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

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!