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  1. an international syndicate, combine, or trust formed especially to regulate prices and output in some field of business.
  2. a coalition of political or special-interest groups having a common cause, as to encourage the passage of a certain law.
  3. a written agreement between belligerents, especially for the exchange of prisoners.
  4. a written challenge to a duel.
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Origin of cartel

1550–60; < Middle French < Italian cartello letter of defiance, poster, equivalent to cart(a) carte + -ello diminutive suffix
Related formscar·tel·ism, noun


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Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words

monopoly, corporation, conglomerate, gang, syndicate, mob, ring, consortium, crowd, chain, outfit, crew, combine, trust, pool, bunch, multinational

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British Dictionary definitions for cartel


  1. Also called: trust a collusive international association of independent enterprises formed to monopolize production and distribution of a product or service, control prices, etc
  2. politics an alliance of parties or interests to further common aims
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Word Origin

C20: from German Kartell, from French, from Italian cartello a written challenge, public notice, diminutive of carta card 1
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

Word Origin and History for cartel


1550s, "a written challenge," from Middle French cartel (16c.), from Italian cartello "placard," diminutive of carta "card" (see card (n.1)). It came to mean "written agreement between challengers" (1690s) and then "a written agreement between challengers" (1889). Sense of "a commercial trust, an association of industrialists" comes 1902, via German Kartell, which is from French. The older U.S. term for that is trust (n.). The usual German name for them was Interessengemeinschaft, abbreviated IG.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

cartel in Culture



An association in which producers of a similar or identical product try to obtain a monopoly over the sale of the product.

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The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.