The word boycott is being used quite a lot at the moment following the events in Tibet and China. Its origin is very interesting:

Charles C. Boycott seems to have become a household word because of his strong sense of duty to his employer. An Englishman and former British soldier, Boycott was the estate agent of the Earl of Erne in County Mayo, Ireland. The earl was one of the absentee landowners who as a group held most of the land in Ireland. Boycott was chosen in the fall of 1880 to be the test case for a new policy advocated by Charles Parnell, an Irish politician who wanted land reform. Any landlord who would not charge lower rents or any tenant who took over the farm of an evicted tenant would be given the complete cold shoulder by Parnell’s supporters. Boycott refused to charge lower rents and ejected his tenants. At this point members of Parnell’s Irish Land League stepped in, and Boycott and his family found themselves isolated—without servants, farmhands, service in stores, or mail delivery. Boycott’s name was quickly adopted as the term for this treatment, not just in English but in other languages such as French, Dutch, German, and Russian.

(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language)

By | 2008-03-19T11:04:24+00:00 March 19th, 2008|Words|10 Comments

About the Author:

I am Céline Graciet, a freelance English to French translator. Since 2003 I’ve been writing on all sorts of areas linked to translation and the life of a translator.


  1. Saffron March 19, 2008 at 12:31 pm

    … and Italian too!
    The verb is “boicottare”, the noun is “boicottaggio.”

  2. Zak March 19, 2008 at 7:39 pm

    You might find this interesting:

  3. Fellippe Heitor March 20, 2008 at 5:46 am

    Also in Portuguese: the verb is “boicotar” and the noun is “boicote”

  4. Colm March 22, 2008 at 12:05 am

    In Irish:
    baghcat: noun
    baghcatáil: verb
    Nice site you got by the way.

  5. céline March 22, 2008 at 12:31 pm

    I can’t tell you how chuffed and how grateful to you all I am for sharing the different versions of "boycott" in your languages. Thanks so much!

  6. Martin Cross March 23, 2008 at 6:29 am

    Nice word elucidation! The gentleman’s name also made it to Japan, where they say boikotto.

  7. Bénédicte March 24, 2008 at 4:08 pm

    And in Greek we say “μποϊκοτάζ” (boycotaz) which is a copy paste of the French term boycottage.

  8. Fabio Said March 26, 2008 at 5:01 pm

    Interesting. This reminds me of a similar case: in Brazil, people say “cooper” when referring to (a kind of) “jogging”, and all because of a Dr. Kenneth Cooper (!

  9. céline March 26, 2008 at 5:20 pm

    Le test Cooper! This takes me back to my high-school days, where we had to run for 12 minutes in PE and see how far we got (not very). Now thanks to you, I finally know why!

  10. Michael April 15, 2008 at 10:30 am

    But remember: Lynch wasn’t lynched…

Comments are closed.