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Extortion vs. Blackmail

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Do you know the difference between blackmail and extortion? Unless you are a mafia enforcer, the difference probably isn’t germane to your everyday life, but you might still need to know the difference so that when someone else commits one of these crimes, you will be able to sound intelligent and well-informed while discussing it with your friends and coworkers.

In this post, I will compare blackmail vs. extortion and use each in several example sentences to give you an idea how each word should appear in context. Plus, I will show you a helpful memory tool that makes choosing blackmail or extortion a little easier, at least for writing purposes.

Origin:

The word extortion originated from Middle English: from late Latin extortio(n- ), from Latin extorquere ‘wrest’. The word blackmail originated in mid-16th century (denoting protection money levied by Scottish chiefs): from black + obsolete mail ‘tribute, rent’, from Old Norse mál ‘speech, agreement’.

Extortion as noun:

Extortion is used as a noun which means the practice of obtaining something, especially money, through force or threats.

He used bribery and extortion to build himself a huge, art-stuffed mansion.

Blackmail as noun:

Blackmail means the action, treated as a criminal offence, of demanding money from someone in return for not revealing compromising information which one has about them.

They were acquitted of charges of blackmail.

Blackmail as verb:

Blackmail is also used as a verb which means to demand money from (someone) in return for not revealing compromising information about them.

They use this fact to blackmail him, trying to force him to vote for their candidate.

Examples:

An 82-year-old woman was the victim of unwanted sexual advances from a man on bail for blackmailing sexual images from teenage girls. (The National)

A former city building inspector pleaded guilty Thursday to attempted extortion for shaking down a building owner for $300. (The Chicago Tribune)

The film fraternity is a soft target when it comes to blackmail and extortion, and shamefully, it is the quickest to buckle under threats. (The Hindu)

Extortion or blackmail:

Is it extortion or blackmail? Both of these practices are illegal, but they refer to different acts. Extortion means using illegal methods to get someone to do what you want. Blackmail is a type of extortion that involves threatening to divulge damaging information for a monetary payment. Since blackmail and information both contain the letter I, it should be easy to remember that blackmail involves damaging information.

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"Extortion vs. Blackmail." Grammar.com. STANDS4 LLC, 2017. Web. 24 Nov. 2017. <http://www.grammar.com/extortion_vs._blackmail>.

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