21 Feb /13


Today’s word of the day “boycott” originates from a man called Captain Boycott who worked as an agent for collecting rent. The tenants for whom he was responsible wanted to pay less rent due to a series of bad harvests. When he refused any lower rents and started evicting his tenants, the whole local community in Ireland refused to pay the rent to Captain Boycott. The first reports about Charles Boycott were about the a crowd of tenants rushing to his house and forcing everyone who worked with him in any way to resign. This took place in September 1880 Boycott himself was the first person to be boycotted.

The whole event was reported extensively in the English press. It was part of the upper vs lower class issue and well as the Irish against the English. In November 1880 the word had already found its way into general use. People were advised to “boycott any man who betrayed them by taking their land” or a merchant had been “boycotted to use the local term”. In December, the Illustrated London News reported “to ‘boycott’ has already become a verb active, signifying to ‘ratten’, to intimidate, to ‘send to Coventry’, and to ‘taboo’.”

Within 4 months the word had become a fixed part of the English language. And it spread quickly – to French immediately in 1880, to Russian in 1891, to German in 1893 and to Dutch in 1893. The boycott came quickly and was here to stay.