early 15c., reprisail, "the seizing of property or citizens of another nation in equivalent retaliation for loss inflicted on one's own," from Anglo-French reprisaille (mid-14c.), Old French reprisaille (Modern French représaille), from early Italian ripresaglia, from ripreso, past participle of riprendere "to take back," from Latin reprendere, earlier reprehendere "to seize, restrain," literally "pull back, hold back" (see reprehend).
First in letters of mark and reprisal, the official warrant authorizing it. The general sense of "act of retaliation" is from 1710.
Reprisals differ from retorsion in this, that the essence of the former consists in seizing the property of another nation by way of security, until it shall have listened to the just reclamations of the offended party, while retorsion includes all kinds of measures which do an injury to another, similar and equivalent to that which we have experienced from him. Embargo, therefore, is a species of reprisals. [Theodore Dwight Woolsey, "Introduction to the Study of International Law," Boston: 1860]