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 Federal prosecutors allege the men began extorting a carting and hauling company in the New York City area as early as 2017 and a separate demolition company. Luke Barr, ABC News, 8 Nov. 2023 Long suspected of having killed her, van der Sloot finally admitted to the murder as part of his guilty plea in U.S. federal court in Alabama for extorting Holloway’s mother, Beth. Liam Quinn, Peoplemag, 20 Oct. 2023 On Wednesday, Joran Van der Sloot, 36, pleaded guilty in federal court to extorting and defrauding the Holloway family. Alisha Ebrahimji, CNN, 18 Oct. 2023 According to a 2010 grand jury indictment previously obtained by PEOPLE, prosecutors said van der Sloot had tried to extort about $250,000 from Beth by promising to share information about the location of her daughter’s remains and the circumstances of her death. Nicole Acosta, Peoplemag, 19 Oct. 2023 The stunning confession was made before the Dutch national pleaded guilty in federal court to extorting money from the missing teenager's mother and sheds light on a nearly two-decade-long mystery that has captivated people around the world. Barnini Chakraborty, Washington Examiner, 18 Oct. 2023 Van der Sloot was charged in 2010 with trying to extort a quarter-million dollars from Holloway's mother Beth Holloway in exchange for information about her missing daughter's remains, but he wasn't extradited to the U.S. until earlier this year. Alex Sundby, CBS News, 18 Oct. 2023 And to subjugate them and extort money from them (Quran 9:29). Karla Adam, Washington Post, 13 Oct. 2023 The sheriff’s department was first alerted Aug. 31 that an employee was possibly extorting female inmates in its home confinement unit. Carly Olson, Los Angeles Times, 16 Sep. 2023 See More

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 28 Nov. 2023.

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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