blackmail, in law, exaction of money from another by threat of exposure of criminal action or of disreputable conduct. The term was originally used for the tribute levied until the 18th cent. upon the inhabitants of the Scottish border to provide immunity from raids by Scottish bands. Statutes often treat blackmail as a form of extortion.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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