The origin of the word Blackmail as defined by webster 1913 is from the term mal. This is an Old English word borrowed from the Old Norwegian language. It was carried across to Britain by the Vikings and it originally meant 'speech'. The vikings weren't well known for their speeches and since generally the only time they engaged in such activities was to demand something at axeblade the understanding became distorted to mean 'tax' or 'payment in tribute'. The Vikings split in two directions: one branch headed south to Italy and formed the Mafia and the other stopped in Scotland. Here they started their own protection racket on the Scottish border. By this time mal had become spelt 'mail'. So if one cherished the value of one's crops, the life of your family or even your daughters virginity, then you paid mail to the neighbourhood chieftains; and the victims, in due course, came to call it black mail.

Blackmail, a certain rate of money, corn, cattle, or the like, anciently paid, in the N. of England and in Scotland, to certain men who were allied to robbers, to be protected by them from pillage. It was carried to such an extent as to become the subject of legislation. Blackmail was levied in the districts bordering the Highlands of Scotland until the middle of the 18th century. In the United States, the word is applied to money extorted from person under threat of exposure for an alleged offense; hush-money.


Entry from Everybody's Cyclopedia, 1912.

Black"mail` (?), n. [Black + mail a piece of money.]

1.

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.

Sir W. Scott.

2.

Payment of money exacted by means of intimidation; also, extortion of money from a person by threats of public accusation, exposure, or censure.

3. Eng.Law

Black rent, or rent paid in corn, flesh, or the lowest coin, a opposed to "white rent", which paid in silver.

To levy blackmail, to extort money by threats, as of injury to one's reputation.

 

© Webster 1913.


Black"mail`, v. t. [imp. & p. p. Blackmailed (#); p. pr. & vb. n. Blackmailing.]

To extort money from by exciting fears of injury other than bodily harm, as injury to reputation, distress of mind, etc.; as, to blackmail a merchant by threatening to expose an alleged fraud.

[U. S.]

 

© Webster 1913.

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