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or Maffia

[mah-fee-uh, maf-ee-uh] /ˈmɑ fi ə, ˈmæf i ə/
a hierarchically structured secret organization allegedly engaged in smuggling, racketeering, trafficking in narcotics, and other criminal activities in the U.S., Italy, and elsewhere.
  1. (lowercase) a popular spirit of hostility to legal restraint and to the law, often manifesting itself in criminal acts.
  2. a 19th-century secret society, similar to the Camorra in Naples, that acted in this spirit.
(often lowercase) any small powerful or influential group in an organization or field; clique.
Origin of Mafia
1870-75; < Italian < Sicilian: orig., elegance, bravura, courage; of obscure origin; the word's history prior to the 19th century is unknown, though many fictitious ideas have circulated regarding its age, source, etc., due to the organization's modern notoriety Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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British Dictionary definitions for Mafia


the Mafia, an international secret organization founded in Sicily, probably in opposition to tyranny. It developed into a criminal organization and in the late 19th century was carried to the US by Italian immigrants
any group considered to resemble the Mafia See also Black Hand, Camorra, Cosa Nostra
Word Origin
C19: from Sicilian dialect of Italian, literally hostility to the law, boldness, perhaps from Arabic mahyah bragging
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for Mafia



1875, from Italian Mafia "Sicilian secret society of criminals" (the prevailing sense outside Sicily), earlier, "spirit of hostility to the law and its ministers," from Italian (Sicilian) mafia "boldness, bravado," probably from Arabic mahjas "aggressive, boasting, bragging." Or perhaps from Old French mafler "to gluttonize, devour." A member is a mafioso (1870), fem. mafiosa, plural mafiosi.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Mafia in Culture
Mafia [(mah-fee-uh)]

A criminal organization that originated in Sicily and was brought to the United States by Italian immigrants in the late nineteenth century. The Mafia is also called the Syndicate, the Mob, and the Cosa Nostra (Our Thing). The Mafia built its power through extortion (forcing tradesmen and shopkeepers to buy Mafia protection against destruction) and by dominating the bootlegging industry (the illegal production and distribution of liquor) during Prohibition. Members of the Mafia often lead outwardly respectable lives and maintain a variety of legitimate businesses as a front, or cover, for their criminal activities, which include extortion, gambling, and narcotics distribution.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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Slang definitions & phrases for Mafia



A group prominent in and suspected of controlling some organization, institution, etc: Chernenko was a member of the Brezhnev mafia in the Politburo

[1960s+; fr Italian mafia or maffia, designating the Sicilian secret society supposed to be deeply involved in organized crime both in Italy and the US; the Italian word derives fr Old French mafler, ''to gluttonize, devour,'' perhaps cognate with German maffelen, ''chew'']

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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