or ex·tor·tion·er

[ ik-stawr-shuh-nist ]
/ ɪkˈstɔr ʃə nɪst /
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a person who engages in extortion.
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Origin of extortionist

First recorded in 1880–85; extortion + -ist
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What does extortionist mean?

An extortionist is someone who practices extortion—the act of using violence, threats, intimidation, or pressure from one’s authority to force someone to hand over money (or something else of value) or do something they don’t want to do. The word extortioner means the same exact thing.

Extortion and the verb extort are commonly used in this literal sense, but they can also be used in a few more general or figurative ways.

Extort can mean to overcharge someone for something or to obtain through relentless and unreasonable demands. In both of these cases, a person who does so can be called an extortionist or an extortioner. These senses liken such actions to the actual crime of extortion.

Example: Mobsters are often extortionists, meaning they extort money from small business owners through intimidation.

Where does extortionist come from?

The first records of the word extortionist come from the 1880s. It ultimately comes from the Latin extortus, meaning “wrenched out,” from the verb extorquēre, “to wrest away,” from torquēre, “to twist.” The suffix -ist indicates a person who practices the action of the root verb—in this case, someone who practices extortion.

When a mobster walks into a shop and says, “Nice place you got here—it would be a shame if something happened to it,” they’re threatening to make bad things (destruction and violence) happen unless you pay them not to do those bad things. That’s extortion. Extortionists extort in a lot of different ways, such as through intimidation and threats like these or through violence. A blackmailer is a specific type of extortionist. Some extortionists abuse their power or authority to extort money or favors from other people. All of these kinds of extortion are serious crimes that can carry a lengthy prison sentence.

The word extortionist can also be used in a more general way. A politician may be called an extortionist as a criticism for using methods that some consider to be similar to extortion. It can also be used in a less serious way, as in The kids are little extortionists—they get their grandparents to give them treats by constantly asking.

What’s the difference between bribery and extortion? Extortion is often the act of requiring a bribe from someone, or forcing someone to provide money or favors in some other corrupt way. Bribery typically refers to the act of bribing or the exchange itself.

Did you know ... ?

What are some other forms related to extortionist

What are some synonyms for extortionist?

  • extortioner

What are some words that share a root or word element with extortionist

What are some words that often get used in discussing extortionist?

How is extortionist used in real life?

Extortionist is often used to refer to criminals, but it can also be used in a figurative way.



Try using extortionist!

Which of the following actions is a method used by extortionists?

A. blackmail
B. intimidation
C. threats
D. all of the above

How to use extortionist in a sentence