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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.