blackmail

noun
black·mail | \ ˈblak-ˌmāl \

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 princess dwells in a whirlwind of speculation, gambling and blackmail. Dan Hofstadter, WSJ, "Longing, Violence and Social Rank," 25 May 2018 Nadeshda, posing as suburban mom Elizabeth Jennings, kills, seduces and blackmails on behalf of her Moscow handlers. Hugh Hart, latimes.com, "Truth or fiction? Maybe both as the U.S.-Russia dynamic plays out on television and in the news," 24 May 2018 Cillizza: There are any number of allegations against Greitens -- from the blackmail to campaign finance violations. Chris Cillizza, CNN, "Yes, the scandal-plagued Missouri governor still could be impeached sometime soon," 15 May 2018 Greitens has acknowledged the affair but denies allegations of abuse and blackmail and has spent money to boost news articles on Facebook that bash St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner, who is prosecuting Greitens for two felonies. Allison Kite, Jason Hancock And Bryan Lowry, kansascity, "Missouri lawmakers agree to call special session to consider Greitens’ impeachment | The Kansas City Star," 3 May 2018 Eventually stretching to 16 novels, the Pretty Little Liars juggernaut followed the misadventures of four teenage wannabes who cope with blackmail threats and worse after their Queen Bee mysteriously vanishes. Maureen Corrigan, Philly.com, "'The Elizas' by Sara Shepard: No 'Pretty Little Liars,' in fact not much at all," 2 May 2018 Nearly half of 100 publishers surveyed by SembraMedia said members of their staff had suffered threats or blackmail, and more than half had lost advertising. The Economist, "Latin America’s new media are growing up," 14 July 2018 With the help of disguises, tap-dancing sailors, and blackmail, Reno and Martin team up to help Billy win Hope's heart. Independencelocalschools, cleveland.com, "Independence High School Presents Anything Goes March 23-24: Community Voices," 17 Mar. 2018 In the movie's second half Mia tries to blackmail Liu by threatening to give her cell-phone video to the police. Ben Sachs, Chicago Reader, "A government official's child rape is swept under the rug in Angels Wear White," 27 June 2018

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 1

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about blackmail

Phrases Related to blackmail

emotional blackmail

Statistics for blackmail

Last Updated

13 Sep 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for blackmail

The first known use of blackmail was in 1552

See more words from the same year

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 \

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 \

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

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

alleviating pain or harshness

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Musical Words Quiz

  • gramophone
  • Which word describes a musical performance marked by the absence of instrumental accompaniment?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

TAKE THE QUIZ
Add Diction

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!