greenmail

noun

green·​mail ˈgrēn-ˌmāl How to pronounce greenmail (audio)
: the practice of buying enough of a company's stock to threaten a hostile takeover and reselling it to the company at a price above market value
also : the money paid for such stock
greenmail transitive verb
greenmailer noun

Did you know?

Greenmail is a recent English coinage, but its history spans a millennium. In the Anglo-Saxon historical records for 1086, we find an early use of a word that still survives in Scottish English as mail, meaning "payment" or "rent." The 16th century saw the appearance of the compound blackmail, which was originally a tribute that freebooting chiefs at the Scottish border exacted in exchange for immunity from pillage. In 1862, the U.S. government began printing paper money using green ink, and soon the word green came to suggest money. Finally, in the 1980s, greenmail was coined by combining green and blackmail to describe a particular type of financial piracy.

Examples of greenmail in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Musk’s current war against Twitter might simply be posturing for greenmail. Robert Zafft, Forbes, 15 Apr. 2022 That comes out to an obscene $225,000 per job for factory work, proving that neither party, and few states, can control the scourge of corporate greenmail. Dan Haar, courant.com, 7 Aug. 2017

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

Word History

First Known Use

1983, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of greenmail was in 1983

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Cite this Entry

“Greenmail.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/greenmail. Accessed 24 Feb. 2024.

Legal Definition

greenmail

noun
green·​mail ˈgrēn-ˌmāl How to pronounce greenmail (audio)
: the practice of buying enough of a company's stock to threaten a hostile takeover and reselling it to the company at a price above market value
also : the money paid for such stock
greenmail transitive verb
greenmailer noun
Etymology

green (money) + -mail (as in blackmail)

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