any payment extorted by intimidation, as by threats of injurious revelations or accusations.
the extortion of such payment: He confessed rather than suffer the dishonor of blackmail.
a tribute formerly exacted in the north of England and in Scotland by freebooting chiefs for protection from pillage.
verb (used with object)
to extort money from (a person) by the use of threats.
to force or coerce into a particular action, statement, etc.: The strikers claimed they were blackmailed into signing the new contract.

1545–55; black + mail3

blackmailer, noun Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
blackmail (ˈblækˌmeɪl)
1.  the act of attempting to obtain money by intimidation, as by threats to disclose discreditable information
2.  the exertion of pressure or threats, esp unfairly, in an attempt to influence someone's actions
3.  to exact or attempt to exact (money or anything of value) from (a person) by threats or intimidation; extort
4.  to attempt to influence the actions of (a person), esp by unfair pressure or threats
[C16: see black, mail³]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
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Word Origin & History

1550s, second element is M.E. male "rent, tribute," from O.E. mal "lawsuit, terms, bargaining, agreement," from O.N. mal "speech, agreement;" related to O.E. mæðel "meeting, council," mæl "speech," Goth. maþl "meeting place," from P.Gmc. *mathla-, from PIE *mod- "to meet, assemble."
From the practice of freebooting clan chieftains who ran protection rackets against Scottish farmers. Black from the evil of the practice. Expanded c.1826 to any type of extortion money. Verb is 1880.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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