Word of the Day




to not take part in an event, or to not buy or use something as a protest

an act of boycotting something

Origin and usage

The verb and noun boycott can both be dated to 1880. They come from the name of Captain Charles C. Boycott, a land agent in County Mayo, Ireland, who in that year became the object of an early protest of this type. In response to threats of eviction, and in pursuit of their campaign for fair rents and security of tenure, the Irish Land League encouraged employees on the estate managed by Boycott to withdraw their labour; local shops also refused to serve him.


Boycott is an eponym, a word derived from someone’s name. Although early reports referred to Captain Boycott by name when referring to the protests, almost immediately his name started to be used in inverted commas as a verb. In November 1880 The Birmingham Daily Post reported that another man, a merchant, ‘has been ‘Boycotted’ to use the local term’. It was only a few years before the term lost its capital letter and boycott entered the language as an ordinary verb and noun used to refer to the different ways in which pressure can be exerted on a person, organization or even country to persuade them to change their behaviour.


“During the bus boycott, I was tested by fire, and I came to understand that I was not a breakable crystal figurine.”
(Coretta Scott King)
“History shows that all protest movements rely on symbols – boycotts, strikes, sit-ins, flags, songs.”
(Hugh Evans)

Related words

black, blacklist, civil disobedience, protest

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.

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Macmillan Dictionary

Macmillan Dictionary

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