boy·​cott ˈbȯi-ˌkät How to pronounce boycott (audio)
boycotted; boycotting; boycotts

transitive verb

: to engage in a concerted refusal to have dealings with (a person, a store, an organization, etc.) usually to express disapproval or to force acceptance of certain conditions
boycotting American products
boycott noun
boycotter noun

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In the 1870s, Irish farmers faced an agricultural crisis that threatened to result in a repeat of the terrible famine and mass evictions of the 1840s. Anticipating financial ruin, they formed a Land League to campaign against the rent increases and evictions landlords were imposing as a result of the crisis. When retired British army captain Charles Boycott, acting as an agent for an absentee landlord, tried to evict tenant farmers for refusing to pay their rent, he was ostracized by the League and community. His laborers and servants quit, and the crops in his care began to rot. Boycott’s fate was soon well known, and his name became a byword for that particular protest strategy, both as a verb and as a noun. Across the Atlantic three-quarters of a century later, boycotts such as the Montgomery bus boycott were pivotal components of the Civil Rights Movement in the United States.

Examples of boycott in a Sentence

plans to boycott American products They boycotted the city's bus system. We boycotted companies that were polluting the environment.
Recent Examples on the Web Why are people boycotting Pizza Hut?What to know about the latest controversy How much is the Double Big Mac? Bill Goodykoontz, The Arizona Republic, 23 Feb. 2024 In solidarity, Sam’s teammates boycott the sponsor alongside him on the field, covering up the company logo on their jerseys. Melissa Jun Rowley, Rolling Stone, 22 Feb. 2024 Many Democrats are increasingly anxious that young voters who supported Biden in 2020 will boycott the general election in 2024, support a third-party candidate or vote for Trump. Chandler James, The Conversation, 21 Feb. 2024 After marches, school boycotts and the establishment of freedom schools for Black students who were boycotting Milwaukee Public Schools, Barbee sued MPS. Amy Schwabe, Journal Sentinel, 7 Feb. 2024 Starbucks has similarly slashed its annual sales forecast partly due to a hit to sales and traffic at stores in the Middle East, as well as, calls to boycott the coffee chain. Orianna Rosa Royle, Fortune, 6 Feb. 2024 In some of the years since then, a notable number of prominent artists — including Drake, West, Frank Ocean and The Weeknd — have called out or boycotted the Grammys outright for its failure to honor Black musicians with awards and nominations. George Varga, San Diego Union-Tribune, 31 Jan. 2024 Several opposition parties boycotted Monday’s event, and some high-ranking Hindu theologians, known as the Shankaracharyas, rebuked the prime minister for consecrating an unfinished temple in violation of Hindu scripture and scheduling a religious event in the lead-up to elections. Anant Gupta, Washington Post, 22 Jan. 2024 Black characters who take on roles that weren't initially Black have been met with backlash and trending hashtags about boycotting the movies. Kimanzi Constable, Parents, 4 Feb. 2024 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'boycott.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Charles C. Boycott †1897 English land agent in Ireland who was ostracized for refusing to reduce rents

First Known Use

1880, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of boycott was in 1880


Dictionary Entries Near boycott

Cite this Entry

“Boycott.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 2 Mar. 2024.

Kids Definition


1 of 2 verb
: to join with others in refusing to deal with a person, organization, or country usually to express disapproval or to force acceptance of terms


2 of 2 noun
: the process or an instance of boycotting

named for Charles Boycott 1832–1897 estate manager in Ireland

Word Origin
In the autumn of 1880 there was much unrest in the Irish countryside as the result of a depression. Many farmers who did not own the land they worked were unable to pay their rent. A Land League was formed to fight eviction of tenants, and the first victim of their campaign was one Charles S. Boycott, a retired English army captain who worked as an agent for an absentee landlord in County Mayo. When this landlord's tenants refused to pay their rents unless they received a reduction, Boycott attempted to serve eviction notices. As a result, he was shunned by the community, his laborers and servants quit, and the crops on his own farm began to rot. Fifty volunteers from northern Ireland were sent to Mayo to harvest his crops, guarded by hundreds of troops and police. The new tactic of shunning a person to assert a grievance needed a name, and Boycott's name was at hand. Though the British government banned the Irish Land League, the word boycott is still part of English.

Legal Definition


transitive verb
boy·​cott ˈbȯi-ˌkät How to pronounce boycott (audio)
: to engage in a concerted refusal to have dealings with (as a store, business, or organization) usually to express disapproval or to force acceptance of certain conditions see also primary boycott, secondary boycott

Note: A boycott of a business by its competitors, suppliers, or buyers that has the effect of preventing the business's access to the market is a violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act.

boycott noun
Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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