Meaning Behind the Word: Blackmail

Blackmail, a term with a history rooted in secrecy and coercion, is used to describe a form of manipulation involving the threat of revealing sensitive information.


The word blackmail has its roots in the Middle English language, where ‘black’ referred to evil or wicked, and ‘mail’ meant payment. In essence, it was a ‘dark payment’ or a form of extortion.


Blackmail, as defined, is the act of coercing or threatening someone with the disclosure of embarrassing, disgraceful, or damaging information, unless a demand, usually financial, is met.


Here are some blackmail examples:

  • Threatening to reveal an individual's personal secrets unless they provide money or property.
  • Using compromising photos to force someone to take specific actions against their will.

Legal Implications

Blackmail is illegal in most jurisdictions, as it involves coercion and is considered a criminal offense. Laws are in place to protect individuals from such forms of manipulation.


Understanding the meaning and history of the word blackmail helps shed light on the unethical and often criminal nature of this act. It is a reminder of the importance of legal safeguards against such practices.