AskDefine | Define boycott

Dictionary Definition

boycott n : a group's refusal to have commercial dealings with some organization in protest against its policies v : refuse to sponsor; refuse to do business with [ant: patronize, patronize]

User Contributed Dictionary



From Captain Charles Cunningham Boycott, an English evicting land agent in Ireland who was subject to a boycott organized by the Irish Land League in 1880.


  • a GenAm /ˈbɔɪkɑt/ /"bOIkAt/
  • a RP /ˈbɔɪkɒt/ /"bOIkQt/


  1. To abstain, either as an individual or group, from using, buying, or dealing with someone or some organisation as an expression of protest.


to abstain from dealing with a person or organisation as a protest
  • Albanian: bojkotoj
  • Breton: boikotiñ
  • Esperanto: bojkoti
  • Finnish: boikotoida
  • French: boycotter
  • German: boykottieren
  • Hebrew: להחרים (le'hakhrym)
  • Ido: boikotar
  • Japanese: ボイコットする
  • Polish: bojkotować
  • Russian: бойкотировать
  • Swedish: bojkotta


  1. The act of boycotting


the act of boycotting
  • Albanian: bojkotim
  • Croatian: bojkot
  • Finnish: boikotointi
  • French: boycott
  • German: Boykott
  • Hebrew: חרם
  • Japanese: ボイコット
  • Polish: bojkot
  • Russian: бойкот
  • Swedish: bojkott



fr-noun m

Related terms

Extensive Definition

A boycott is the act of voluntarily abstaining from using, buying, or dealing with someone or some other organization as an expression of protest.


The word boycott entered the English language during the Irish "Land War" and is derived from the name of Captain Charles Boycott, the estate agent of an absentee landlord, the Earl Erne, in County Mayo, Ireland, who was subject to social ostracism organized by the Irish Land League in 1880. In September that year protesting tenants demanded from Boycott a substantial reduction in their rents. He not only refused but also evicted them from the land. Charles Stewart Parnell, in his Ennis Speech proposed that, rather than resorting to violence, everyone in the locality should refuse to deal with him. Despite the short-term economic hardship to those undertaking this action, Boycott soon found himself isolated—his workers stopped work in the fields and stables, as well as the house. Local businessmen stopped trading with him, and the local postman refused to deliver mail.
The concerted action taken against him meant that Boycott was unable to hire anyone to harvest the crops in his charge. Eventually 50 Orangemen from Cavan and Monaghan volunteered to harvest his crops. They were escorted to and from Claremorris by one thousand policemen and soldiers—this despite the fact that Boycott's complete social ostracism meant that he was actually in no danger of being harmed. Moreover, this protection ended up costing far more than the harvest was worth. After the harvest, the "boycott" was successfully continued. Within weeks Boycott's name was everywhere. It was used by The Times in November 1880 as a term for organized isolation. According to an account in the book “The Fall of Feudalism in Ireland” by Michael Davitt, the term was coined by Fr. John O'Malley of County Mayo to "signify ostracism applied to a landlord or agent like Boycott". The Times first reported on November 20, 1880: “The people of New Pallas have resolved to 'boycott' them and refused to supply them with food or drink.” The Daily News wrote on December 13, 1880: “Already the stoutest-hearted are yielding on every side to the dread of being 'Boycotted'.” By January of the following year, the word was being used figuratively: "Dame Nature arose.... She 'Boycotted' London from Kew to Mile End" (The Spectator, January 22, 1881).
On December 1, 1880 Captain Boycott left his post and withdrew to England, with his family.

Examples of boycotts

Although the term itself was not coined until 1880, the practice dates back to at least 1830, when the National Negro Convention encouraged a boycott of slave-produced goods. Other instances of boycotts are their use by African Americans during the US civil rights movement; the United Farm Workers union grape and lettuce boycotts; the American boycott of British goods at the time of the American Revolution; the Indian boycott of British goods organized by Mohandas Gandhi; the successful Jewish boycott organised against Henry Ford in the USA, in the 1920s; the boycott of Japanese products in China after the May Fourth Movement; the Jewish anti-Nazi boycott of German goods in Lithuania, the USA, Britain and Poland during 1933; the antisemitic boycott of Jewish-owned businesses in Nazi Germany during the 1930s and the Arab League boycott of Israel and companies trading with Israel. In 1973, the Arab countries enacted a crude oil embargo against the West, see 1973 oil crisis. Other examples include the US-led boycott of the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow, the Soviet-led boycott of the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, and the movement that advocated "disinvestment" in South Africa during the 1980s in opposition to that country's apartheid regime. The first Olympic boycott was in the 1956 Summer Olympics with several countries boycotting the games for different reasons. Iran also has an informal Olympic boycott against participating against Israel and Iranian athletes typically bow out of or claim injuries when pitted against Israelis.
American track star Lacey O'Neal coined the term girlcott in the context of the protests by male African American athletes during the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City. Speaking for Black women athletes, she advised that the group would not "girlcott" the Olympic Games as they were still focused on being recognized. "Girlcott" appeared in Time magazine in 1970, and then later was used by retired tennis player Billie Jean King in The Times in reference to Wimbledon to emphasize her argument regarding equal pay for women players.

Application and uses

A boycott is normally considered a one-time affair designed to correct an outstanding single wrong. When extended for a long period of time, or as part of an overall program of awareness-raising or reforms to laws or regimes, a boycott is part of moral purchasing, and those economic or political terms are to be preferred.
Most organized consumer boycotts today are focused on long-term change of buying habits, and so fit into part of a larger political program, with many techniques that require a longer structural commitment, e.g. reform to commodity markets, or government commitment to moral purchasing, e.g. the longstanding boycott of South African businesses to protest apartheid already alluded to. These stretch the meaning of a "boycott."
Boycotts are now much easier to successfully initiate due to the Internet. Examples include the gay and lesbian boycott of advertisers of the "Dr. Laura" talk show, gun owners' similar boycott of advertisers of Rosie O'Donnell's talk show and (later) magazine, and gun owners' boycott of Smith & Wesson following that company's March 2000 settlement with the Clinton administration. They may be initiated very easily using either Web sites (the Dr. Laura boycott), newsgroups (the Rosie O'Donnell boycotts), or even mailing lists. Internet-initiated boycotts "snowball" very quickly compared to other forms of organization.
Another form of consumer boycotting is substitution for an equivalent product; for example, Mecca Cola and Qibla Cola have been marketed as substitutes for Coca-Cola among Muslim populations.
Academic boycotts have been organized against countries. For example, the mid and late 20th century academic boycotts of South Africa in protest of apartheid practices and the less successful but more recent academic boycotts of Israel.
Some boycotts center on particular businesses, such as recent protests regarding Costco, Walmart, Ford Motor Company, or the diverse products of Philip Morris. Another form of boycott identifies a number of different companies involved in a particular issue, such as the Sudan Divestment campaign, the Boycott Bush campaign. The Boycott Bush website was set up by Ethical Consumer after U.S. President George W. Bush failed to ratify the Kyoto Protocol - the website identifies Bush's corporate funders and the brands and products they produce. Today a prime target of boycotts is consumerism itself, e.g. "International Buy Nothing Day" celebrated globally on the Friday after Thanksgiving Day in the United States.
Another version of the boycott is targeted divestment, or disinvestment. Targeted divestment involves campaigning for withdrawal of investment, for example the Sudan Divestment campaign involves putting pressure on companies, often through shareholder activism, to withdraw investment that helps the Sudanese government perpetuate genocide in Darfur. Only if a company refuses to change its behavior in response to shareholder engagement does the targeted divestment model call for divestment from that company. Such targeted divestment implicitly excludes companies involved in agriculture, the production and distribution of consumer goods, or the provision of goods and services intended to relieve human suffering or to promote health, religious and spiritual activities, or education.
As a response to consumer boycotts of large-scale and multinational businesses, some companies have begun marketing brands which, though formally owned by the parent corporation, do not bear the company's name on the packaging or in advertising. Activists such as Ethical Consumer produce information on which companies own which brands and products to enable consumers to practice boycotts or moral purchasing more effectively.
"Boycotts" may be formally organized by governments as well. In reality, government "boycotts" are just a type of embargo. It is notable that the first formal, nationwide act of the Nazi government against German Jews was a national embargo of Jewish businesses on April 1, 1933.


While boycotts are generally legal in developed countries, some restrictions may apply. For instance, it may be unlawful for a union to order the boycott of companies that supply items to the organization.
For United States citizens, the antiboycott provisions of the Export Administration Regulations (EAR) apply to all "U.S. persons," defined to include individuals and companies located in the United States and their foreign affiliates. These persons are subject to the law when their activities relate to the sale, purchase, or transfer of goods or services (including information) within the United States or between the United States and a foreign country. This covers exports and imports, financing, forwarding and shipping, and certain other transactions that may take place wholly offshore.
boycott in Arabic: مقاطعة (عقاب)
boycott in Bulgarian: Бойкот
boycott in Catalan: Boicot
boycott in Czech: Bojkot
boycott in Danish: Boykot
boycott in German: Boykott
boycott in Modern Greek (1453-): Μποϊκοτάζ
boycott in Spanish: Boicot
boycott in Esperanto: Bojkoto
boycott in French: Boycott
boycott in Indonesian: Boikot
boycott in Italian: Boicottaggio
boycott in Georgian: ბოიკოტი
boycott in Lithuanian: Boikotas
boycott in Hungarian: Bojkott
boycott in Dutch: Boycot
boycott in Japanese: ボイコット
boycott in Norwegian: Boikott
boycott in Polish: Bojkot
boycott in Portuguese: Boicote
boycott in Romanian: Boicot
boycott in Russian: Бойкот
boycott in Simple English: Boycott
boycott in Slovenian: Bojkot
boycott in Serbian: Бојкот
boycott in Finnish: Boikotti
boycott in Swedish: Bojkott
boycott in Thai: คว่ำบาตร
boycott in Tajik: Бойкут
boycott in Turkish: Boykot
boycott in Ukrainian: Бойкот
boycott in Chinese: 杯葛

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

avoid, ban, banish, banishment, bar, barring, beef, bitch, blackball, blacklist, blockade, boggle, boycottage, call in question, challenge, circumscription, complain, complaint, compunction, cry out against, debarment, debarring, demarcation, demonstrate, demonstrate against, demonstration, demur, demurrer, disfellowship, dispute, embargo, enter a protest, eschew, exception, exclusion, expostulate, expostulation, go on strike, go out, grievance, grievance committee, hold out, holler, howl, inadmissibility, indignation meeting, injunction, job action, kick, lock out, lockout, march, narrowing, nonadmission, nonviolent protest, object, objection, omission, ostracism, ostracization, ostracize, outlaw, outlaw strike, pass by, pass over, picket, picketing, preclusion, press objections, prohibition, proscribe, proscription, protest, protest demonstration, protestation, qualm, raise a howl, rally, refuse, reject, rejection, relegation, remonstrance, remonstrate, remonstration, repudiation, restriction, revolt, rulebook slowdown, scruple, shun, shut it down, sick-in, sit down, sit in, sit-down, sit-down strike, sit-in, slow down, slowdown, squawk, state a grievance, strike, sympathy strike, taboo, teach in, teach-in, tie-up, turnout, walk out, walkout, wildcat strike, work stoppage, yell bloody murder
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