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

Greitens has admitted to the affair but has denied using a photograph for blackmail. Joseph Bustos, kansascity, "Greitens' lawyers accuse prosecutors of withholding evidence that contradicts report | The Kansas City Star," 12 Apr. 2018 But the still-under-investigation blackmail plot marked one more in a string of escalating personal attacks against him. Joshua Goodman, The Seattle Times, "After 7 long years, Assange’s capture happened quickly," 16 Apr. 2019 Life was a continuous cycle of extortion by police and blackmail by customers who would threaten them with the law to avoid paying. Max Bearak, Washington Post, "Gay Kenyans sense they may be on the brink of a historic legal triumph," 3 Apr. 2018 With Trump, the Russia relationship has taken some unprecedented turns: No other president has come into office suspected of being subject to blackmail by the Kremlin. Keith Gessen, New York Times, "The Quiet Americans Behind the U.S.-Russia Imbroglio," 8 May 2018 What seems like blackmail is actually a new scam police have seen pop up in different areas. charlotteobserver, "2 reports of ‘cheating spouse’ scam in Waxhaw area | Charlotte Observer," 16 Feb. 2018 China’s Commerce Ministry criticized the White House action as blackmail and said Beijing was ready to retaliate. Joe Mcdonald, USA TODAY, "Asian stocks tumble after new Trump tariff threat," 19 June 2018 Some scholars referred to it as environmental blackmail. Serhii Plokhy, Time, "The True Cost of the Chernobyl Disaster Has Been Greater Than It Seems," 26 Apr. 2018 Then Betty brings up Jughead, and Ethel doesn’t think Jughead is into Betty anymore because of their kiss in the bunker (which Betty calls out as blackmail). Jessica Macleish, Teen Vogue, ""Riverdale" Recap Season 3 Episode 7: Why Has No One Noticed Betty Is Missing?," 6 Dec. 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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about blackmail

Statistics for blackmail

Last Updated

7 Jun 2019

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 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

standardized text or formulaic language

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Finance Words Quiz

  • a-piggy-bank
  • The etymology of mortgage is related most closely to which two words?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Bee Cubed

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!