a. Extortion of money or something else of value from a person by the threat of exposing a criminal act or discreditable information.
b. Something of value, especially money, extorted in this manner: refused to pay blackmail.
2. Tribute formerly paid to freebooters along the Scottish border for protection from pillage.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.