Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun A secret criminal organization operating mainly in Sicily since the early 1800s and known for its intimidation of and retribution against law enforcement officials and witnesses.
  • noun 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.
  • noun Any of various similar criminal organizations, especially when dominated by members of the same nationality.
  • noun Informal A tightly knit group of trusted associates, as of a political leader.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • noun see maffia, maffioso.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

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

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

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

Etymologies

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

[Italian, back-formation from mafiuso, mafioso, Mafioso; see Mafioso.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

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.

Examples

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