from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. A secret society organized in the South after the Civil War to reassert white supremacy by means of terrorism.
  • n. A secret fraternal organization of similar intent founded in Georgia in 1915.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • proper n. A secret society that uses terrorism to promote white supremacy. It primarily operated in the southern United States of America during the mid-1900s.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. In United States history, a secret oath-bound organization, also called simply Kuklux, which arose in the Southern States after the civil war of 1861-65, among the participants in or sympathizers with secession, the members of which (or persons passing as members) perpetrated many outrages, by whipping, expelling, or murdering persons obnoxious to them, especially negroes and new-comers from the north.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. a secret society of white Southerners in the United States; was formed in the 19th century to resist the emancipation of slaves; used terrorist tactics to suppress Black people


Perhaps alteration of Greek kuklos, circle; see cycle + alteration of clan.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
Probably based on Ancient Greek κύκλος (kuklos, "circle") and clan. (Wiktionary)


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  • WORD: Ku Klux Klan


    (1) ' The name is probably derived from the Greek word kuklos (κύκλος) which means circle, suggesting a circle or band of brothers. '
    -- Wikipedia. << >>

    (2) In his 1891 story The Five Orange Pips Arthur Conan Doyle has Sherlock Holmes reading aloud to Dr. Watson from the "American Encyclopaedia". The encyclopedia article from which Holmes quotes, states that the name Ku Klux Klan has an onomatopoeiac origin: ' "Ku Klux Klan. A name derived from the fanciful resemblance to the sound produced by cocking a rifle. . ." '
    -- 1891 ARTHUR CONAN DOYLE. The Five Orange Pips. Chapter 15.


    < 13 >:

    HOLMES: ' "Now, for such a case as the one which has been submitted to us to-night, we need certainly to muster all our resources. Kindly hand me down the letter K of the American Encyclopaedia which stands upon the shelf beside you. . . "

    < 15 >:
    HOLMES: "In this way you see K. K. K. ceases to be the initials of an individual and becomes the badge of a society."

    WATSON: "But of what society?"

    "Have you never --" said Sherlock Holmes, bending forward and sinking his voice --"have you never heard of the Ku Klux Klan?"

    "I never have."

    Holmes turned over the leaves of the book upon his knee. "Here it is," said he presently:

    "Ku Klux Klan. A name derived from the fanciful resemblance to the sound produced by cocking a rifle . . ." '

    August 29, 2013