Ku Klux Klan

[ kluhks klan ]
/ ˈklʌks ˈklæn /


U.S. History. a secret hate group in the southern U.S., active for several years after the Civil War, which aimed to suppress the newly acquired rights of black people and to oppose carpetbaggers from the North, and which was responsible for many lawless and violent proceedings.
Official name Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. a secret hate group inspired by the former, founded in 1915 and currently active across the U.S., especially in the South, directed against black people, Muslims, Jews, Catholics, foreign-born individuals, and other groups.

Origin of Ku Klux Klan

Ku Klux (perhaps < Greek kýklos circle, assembly) + Klan, spelling variant of clan
Also called Ku Klux.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

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British Dictionary definitions for ku klux klan

Ku Klux Klan

/ (ˈkuː ˈklʌks ˈklæn) /


a secret organization of White Southerners formed after the US Civil War to fight Black emancipation and Northern domination
a secret organization of White Protestant Americans, mainly in the South, who use violence against Black people, Jewish people, and other minority groups
Derived FormsKu Kluxer or Ku Klux Klanner, nounKu Kluxism, noun

Word Origin for Ku Klux Klan

C19 Ku Klux, probably based on Greek kuklos circle + Klan clan
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 ku klux klan

Ku Klux Klan

1867, American English, Kuklux Klan, a made-up name, supposedly from Greek kyklos "circle" (see cycle (n.)) + English clan. Originally an organization of former Confederate officers and soldiers, it was put down by the U.S. military, 1870s. Revived 1915 as a national racist Protestant fraternal organization, it grew to prominence but fractured in the 1930s. It had a smaller national revival 1950s as an anti-civil rights group, later with anti-government leanings.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Culture definitions for ku klux klan

Ku Klux Klan

A secret society dedicated to the supremacy of white people in the United States. It began in the South during the time of Reconstruction and attempted to terrorize the many southern blacks and carpetbaggers who had replaced white southerners in positions of power. The Klan gained renewed strength in the 1920s and again in the 1960s but is now very diminished. It has stated that it aims to preserve “pure Americanism.” It has attacked Jews (see also Jews) and Roman Catholics, along with immigrants and communists but is still primarily opposed to equal rights for black people and has often engaged in violence against them. Klansmen wear white hoods and robes. Klan leaders have titles such as Grand Dragon, Grand Cyclops, and Imperial Wizard.


A favored tactic of Klansmen is to burn a wooden cross outside the house of someone whom they wish to intimidate. Typically, they want the occupant to move out of the vicinity. The burning cross is a threat of future assaults if the victim does not do what the Klan wants.
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.