When someone writes you a letter and threatens to expose your extramarital affair to your husband unless you pay $1000, this is an example of blackmail.
When you are charged with a crime for extorting money by threatening to reveal embarrassing information, the charges are because of an act of blackmail.
To levy blackmailto extort money by threats, as of injury to one's reputation.
Origin of blackmail
- black mail
From American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition
- 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.