ex·​tort ik-ˈstȯrt How to pronounce extort (audio)
extorted; extorting; extorts

transitive verb

: to obtain from a person by force, intimidation, or undue or illegal power : wring
also : to gain especially by ingenuity or compelling argument
extorter noun
extortive adjective

Did you know?

To extort is literally to wrench something out of someone. Extortion is a mainstay of organized crime. Just as the school bully extorts lunch money from the smaller kids in exchange for not beating them up, thugs extort "protection" money from business owners with threats of violence. But that's only one kind of extortion; a mobster might extort favors from a politician with threats of revealing some dark secret, just as you might extort a favor from a brother or sister by promising not to tell on them.

Choose the Right Synonym for extort

educe, evoke, elicit, extract, extort mean to draw out something hidden, latent, or reserved.

educe implies the bringing out of something potential or latent.

educed order out of chaos

evoke implies a strong stimulus that arouses an emotion or an interest or recalls an image or memory.

a song that evokes warm memories

elicit usually implies some effort or skill in drawing forth a response.

careful questioning elicited the truth

extract implies the use of force or pressure in obtaining answers or information.

extracted a confession from him

extort suggests a wringing or wresting from one who resists strongly.

extorted their cooperation by threatening to inform

Examples of extort in a Sentence

The criminals extorted large sums of money from their victims. He was arrested for extorting bribes.
Recent Examples on the Web The allegation that Joe Biden extorted $5 million, for influence peddling, from the Ukrainian firm Burisma has now been completely debunked. Letters To The Editor, The Mercury News, 1 Apr. 2024 If the victim doesn’t pay the ransom, the attacker—armed with the company’s sensitive data—will attempt to extort the victim for payment in exchange for not publicly releasing the data. Mike Lefebvre, Forbes, 27 Mar. 2024 In a federal trial that unfolded in downtown L.A. this month, prosecutors painted Cho, 39, as a gangster who for years extorted monthly protection fees from karaoke bar owners and doumi drivers, many of whom were in the country illegally and did not speak English fluently. Brittny Mejia, Los Angeles Times, 26 Mar. 2024 Chainalysis found that in the first half of 2023 alone, attackers extorted $176 million more than in 2022. Sivan Tehila, Forbes, 29 Mar. 2024 Throughout his six-day trial, Berenyi continued to maintain that Vinson had extorted him – an argument the jury rejected. Quinlan Bentley, The Enquirer, 6 Mar. 2024 Some of the people who paid the man would use the photos to extort the women and cyberstalk them, according to officials. Jennifer Rodriguez, Kansas City Star, 22 Jan. 2024 Finally, reporters at Der Spiegel, Recorder, The Washington Post, and WIRED collaborated on an investigation into a global network of violent predators who use major platforms like Discord, Telegram, and even Roblox to target children and extort them into committing horrific acts of abuse—or worse. Dell Cameron Andrew Couts, WIRED, 16 Mar. 2024 Furthermore, Miller-Whitehead attempted to extort $5,000 from a businessman and later sought a $500,000 loan, falsely promising favorable actions from the mayor of New York City in exchange. Manahil Ahmad, USA TODAY, 13 Mar. 2024

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

Word History


Latin extortus, past participle of extorquēre to wrench out, extort, from ex- + torquēre to twist — more at torture entry 1

First Known Use

15th century, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of extort was in the 15th century

Dictionary Entries Near extort

Cite this Entry

“Extort.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/extort. Accessed 22 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition


ex·​tort ik-ˈstȯ(ə)rt How to pronounce extort (audio)
: to get (as money) from a person by the use of force or threats
extorter noun

from Latin extortus, past participle of extorquēre "to twist out, extort," from ex- "out, away" and torquēre "to twist" — related to distort, retort, torture

Legal Definition


transitive verb
ex·​tort ik-ˈstȯrt How to pronounce extort (audio)
: to obtain (as money) from a person by force, intimidation, or undue or unlawful use of authority or power
extorter noun
extortive adjective

Latin extortus, past participle of extorquere to remove by twisting, obtain by force, from ex- out + torquere to twist

More from Merriam-Webster on extort

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