Origins of Common Words - Blackmail

About the history, origins, and definitions of the common word blackmail.


Blackmail - Its origin had nothing to do with the post office. Mail in this sense was an old Anglo-Norse term for rent or tribute. During the time of border warfare between England and Scotland, freebooters extorted payment from farmers of the area in exchange for protection and immunity from plunder. As the inhabitants were generally very poor, the tribute was paid in "black mail," that is, grain, meat, or the lowest coinage (copper), as opposed to "white mail," which was silver. In time the word took on the meaning of any payment extorted by threat of exposure of an incriminating secret.

You Are Here: Trivia-Library Home » Origins of Common Words » Origins of Common Words - Blackmail
« Origins of Common Words - BedlamOrigins of Common Words - Browse »
DISCLAIMER: PLEASE READ - By printing, downloading, or using you agree to our full terms. Review the full terms at the following URL: /disclaimer.htm