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

  • n. A secret criminal organization operating mainly in the United States and Italy and engaged in illegal activities such as gambling, drug-dealing, protection, and prostitution.
  • n. Any of various similar criminal organizations, especially when dominated by members of the same nationality.
  • n. A secret criminal organization operating mainly in Sicily since the early 19th century and known for its intimidation of and retribution against law enforcement officials and witnesses.
  • n. Informal A tightly knit group of trusted associates, as of a political leader: "[He] is one of the personal mafia that [the chancellor] brought with him to Bonn” ( Christian Science Monitor).

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • proper n. An international criminal organization of Sicilian origin operating in Italy and the United States.
  • proper n. Any organized crime syndicate operating internationally in high-level organized crime; often with a modifying adjective, such as a nationality.
  • proper n. Alternative capitalization of mafia (an entity which attempts to control a specified arena).

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. see maffia, maffioso.

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

  • n. any tightly knit group of trusted associates
  • n. a crime syndicate in the United States; organized in families; believed to have important relations to the Sicilian Mafia
  • n. a secret terrorist group in Sicily; originally opposed tyranny but evolved into a criminal organization in the middle of the 19th century


Italian, perhaps from dialectal mafia, bluster, boldness.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Italian. Perhaps from Italian mafia ("spirit of hostility to the law") or from Sicilian mafia ("boldness, bravado"). See the Wikipedia article for more discussion of the origin of the word. (Wiktionary)



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