A boycott is the act of abstaining from using, buying, or dealing with someone or some organization as an expression of protest or as a means of coercion.
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 ejected them from the land. Charles Stuart 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, stables as well as the house. Local businessmen stopped trading with him and the local postman refused to deliver post.
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 of 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 from 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.