In my national language Hindi, there's a term for it. Let me describe it.

Corruption is a nuisance in India. However, corruption is of many types here. For example, if you give some money to a traffic policeman, he'll let you go even though you have broken a signal at crossroads. Now, that is bribing him. But, I'm not talking about it.

In other case, mainly policemen, rogues or hoodlums take money from local vendors i.e. small shop owners, road-side vegetable sellers etc. If the latter ones don't give, they harass them one or the other way. Hoodlums may even 'beat' them. Policemen may falsely book them. That said, those people have to give money forcefully, unwillingly.

They come to 'collect' their _______ regularly. Say weekly or monthly.

I'm searching for a term for that money they take. Precisely a noun to describe the unethical act.

Say, a road-side vegetable seller is telling to a reporter/journalist...

"You don't know sir, we live terrible life. We earn INR 5000 a month, but then INR 2000 goes to policemen/hoodlums as ______________."

  • 19
    Is it something like a protection racket? Commented Aug 5, 2015 at 7:20
  • 5
    Yes, being an Indian, I agree with you. It is like a protection racket, and at times, we use the word 'protection money' for it.
    – Rucheer M
    Commented Aug 5, 2015 at 7:27
  • yes it is! as always helpful! @DamkerngT.
    – Maulik V
    Commented Aug 5, 2015 at 8:31
  • 6
    Extortion might be another word that describes what you're looking for. Commented Aug 5, 2015 at 12:54
  • 1
    Just a quick note, since I feel that the term "blackmail" was not talked about enough -- extortion is the broader term of the use of coercion (threats) to get money out of the victim. Blackmail specifically involves the victim having done some incriminating or extremely embarrassing act, which the perpetrator has irrefutable evidence of. The threat involved in blackmail is that the perp will reveal the information to authorities or someone important to the victim, if a payment isn't received. So, it's a specific case of extortion.
    – Crazy Eyes
    Commented Aug 6, 2015 at 21:47

4 Answers 4


It is "protection".

Here are various definitions (with the same meaning) from different sources:

Payment collected by racketeers from businesses or illegal enterprises under threat of violence

American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2011 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company

Money demanded by gangsters for freedom from molestation

Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003

Money paid to racketeers for a guarantee against threatened violence.

Random House Kernerman Webster's College Dictionary, © 2010 K Dictionaries Ltd. Copyright 2005, 1997, 1991 by Random House

  • 22
    Protection is a specific type of "extortion". Commented Aug 5, 2015 at 13:56
  • 2
    It's funny actually! 'Protection money' as those hooligans say that they'll protect you from others. But if you don't pay, there's no one to protect you from them! The protectors themselves turn into attackers! lol
    – Maulik V
    Commented Aug 6, 2015 at 4:52
  • 2
    @MaulikV It's something of a self-licking ice cream - a system that exists solely to sustain itself. You're the problem and the solution all in one.
    – Damien H
    Commented Aug 6, 2015 at 5:04
  • 1
    @MaulikV: There's a word for this "funnyness". It's "euphamism" - a nice sounding word to describe something not-quite-nice
    – slebetman
    Commented Aug 7, 2015 at 3:35
  • 1
    @slebetman: That should be "euphEmism". (I wouldn't comment on a typo normally, but on this site there are lots of learners of English and we don't want them learning the word wrong :) )
    – psmears
    Commented Aug 7, 2015 at 14:47

The word for this in English is extortion. The money involved may be called "protection money", but "extortion money" could also be used and is more factual, because the former is essentially facetious; traditionally, such a racket hinges on the idea that the money is for "protecting" someone, but at best this is from some other criminal gang and in the case of the police it is obviously not a legitimate provision of service.

Providing a false service is racketeering, and this kind of "it's for your own protection" extortion is a form of racketeering (the linked wikipedia article also refers to "protection rackets"). Prosecution of such offenses in the West is usually on racketeering charges.

However, I notice in your question that these people are not necessarily offering anything (real or not) in exchange, in which case it is really just robbery, although much the same could be said about our concept of racketeering and extortion. The difference hinges on the nature of the threat used; in robbery it is explicit ("I will shoot you..."), in extortion it is more implicit ("You don't want to end up with certain problems, do you?"). It sounds in many cases what you are talking about is just explicit serial robbery.

I make this last point since I think the Western distinction between "extortion" and "robbery" is a fine grained cultural one and could be confusing to the unfamiliar. None-the-less, it is a real distinction in English.

  • 2
    The act is known as extortion, but the question includes a sample sentence that clearly suggests the OP is looking for "protection money": You don't know sir, we live terrible life. We earn INR 5000 a month, but then INR 2000 goes to policemen/hoodlums as protection (or protection money ).
    – phyrfox
    Commented Aug 5, 2015 at 22:41
  • 1
    @phyrfox There is some ambiguity in the question (taken as title), since it is not a proper sentence -- does it refer to the money ("Name of...") or the act of procuring ("Act of..."). In any case they are the same. I do refer to "protection money" and "protection racket", however, it is in no way uncommon or inappropriate to use "extortion money" or "extortion racket" (or in the latter case, just "racketeering"), and this is a more objective term in most cases.
    – goldilocks
    Commented Aug 6, 2015 at 2:15
  • I've +1ed your answer for the first two paragraphs, but I disagree with the last paragraph. I don't see anything in the question that qualifies as simple robbery.
    – jpmc26
    Commented Aug 6, 2015 at 7:06
  • 1
    @jpmc26 There is a description of simple robbery. I'm not familiar with India, and (as a Westerner), the details in the question immediately made me go, "Oh, protection racket..". However, if you read it without that preconception, there actually is not a literal description of a protection racket. It seems to me there is plenty of room for whatever Hindi word the OP refers to have a literal root quite different from "protection money" -- perhaps something we don't have an exact historical term for, one that emphasizes the robbery aspect of "extortion".
    – goldilocks
    Commented Aug 6, 2015 at 10:30
  • ...Of course, as it turns out, the O.P. has said "protection money" does correspond (see comments on the accepted answer). But if we are talking about the meaning and use of words, I do not think I have gone off the deep end. The distinction between robbery and extortion is a subtle and even culturally nuanced one. We, and I presume Indians, regard extortion as a bit more civilized than robbery; extortionists are not simply thieves. They get more respect than that, which is key to the act itself. Hence we have special words for what they do to distinguish them from thieves.
    – goldilocks
    Commented Aug 6, 2015 at 10:33
  • Protection Money This is a typical tactic of "mobs" like the Mafia. It is often a form of extortion or blackmail, a payment to make sure that your illegal business is protected against law enforcement.

Or it may be extorted from legal businesses, to protect themselves against the mob who is extorting; like so..,.

  • "It'd be a real shame if something happened to you or your business. Sometimes a building might burn down. Sometimes people have accidents—they lose a finger, or break an arm. So it's a good idea to keep us happy, so an accident like that won't happen to you." (see any movie about the Mafia.)
  • 6
    Blackmail is a form of extortion, but extortion is not always blackmail. A protection racket, such as you are discussing, is always (not "often") a form of extortion.
    – goldilocks
    Commented Aug 5, 2015 at 14:41
  • 2
    Protection rackets do have some tiny degree of legitimacy to them, in that a racketeer is technically obliged to protect the protectee against other, unrelated racketeers. As the protectee, you could say, "Mr Mobster, I'm sorry, I paid my protection money to Mr Yakuza this week," and then stand back and see if Mr Mobster ran off/killed Mr Yakuza or vice-versa. It's still extortion, though.
    – Monty Wild
    Commented Aug 6, 2015 at 0:18

Other options include:


pay·off ˈpāˌôf/ noun informal
a payment made to someone, especially as a bribe or reward, or on leaving a job.
"widespread rumors of payoffs and kickbacks in the party"


graft2 ɡraft/ noun noun: graft
1. practices, especially bribery, used to secure illicit gains in politics or business; corruption.
"sweeping measures to curb official graft"

gains secured by corruption.
"government officials grow fat off bribes and graft"


the practice of bribing someone to use their influence or position to promote a particular product or interest.

Hush Money

hush mon·ey
noun informal
money paid to someone to prevent them from disclosing embarrassing or discreditable information.

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