blackmail

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English[edit]

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Etymology[edit]

From black + mail (a piece of money).

The word is variously derived from the tribute paid by English and Scottish border dwellers to Border Reivers in return for immunity from raids and other harassment. This tribute was paid in goods or labour, in Latin reditus nigri "blackmail"; the opposite is blanche firmes or reditus albi "white rent", denoting payment by silver. Alternatively, McKay derives it from two Scottish Gaelic words blathaich, pronounced (the th silent) bl-aich, "to protect" and mal (tribute, payment). He notes that the practice was common in the Highlands of Scotland as well as the Borders.

Noun[edit]

blackmail (uncountable)

  1. (archaic) A certain rate of money, corn, cattle, or other thing, anciently paid, in the north of England and south of Scotland, to certain men who were allied to robbers, or moss troopers, to be by them protected from pillage.
  2. Payment of money exacted by means of intimidation; also, extortion of money from a person by threats of public accusation, exposure, or censure.
    to levy blackmail
    to extort money by threats, as of injury to one's reputation
  3. (English law) Black rent, or rent paid in corn, meat, or the lowest coin, as opposed to white rent, which paid in silver.

Translations[edit]

Derived terms[edit]

Verb[edit]

blackmail (third-person singular simple present blackmails, present participle blackmailing, simple past and past participle blackmailed)

  1. (transitive) To extort money from (a person) by exciting fears of injury other than bodily harm, such as injury to reputation, distress of mind, false accusation, etc.; as, to blackmail a merchant by threatening to expose an alleged fraud.

Translations[edit]

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Scots[edit]

Etymology[edit]

From black (bad) +‎ mail (rent).

Pronunciation[edit]

Noun[edit]

blackmail (uncountable)

  1. (archaic) A tribute paid, usually in kind, to reivers or raiders as a form of protection money.
  2. Payment of money exacted by means of intimidation.

Verb[edit]

tae blackmail (third-person singular simple present blackmails, present participle blackmailin, simple past blackmailt, past participle blackmailt)

  1. To extort money from another by means of intimidation.