a cruel or vicious ruffian, robber, or murderer.
(sometimes initial capital letter) one of a former group of professional robbers and murderers in India who strangled their victims.

Origin of thug

First recorded in 1800–10, thug is from the Hindi word thag literally, rogue, cheat
Related formsthug·ger·y [thuhg-uh-ree] /ˈθʌg ə ri/, nounthug·gish, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for thug

Contemporary Examples of thug

Historical Examples of thug

  • I'm going to catch this thug and I'll tell you how I'll do it.

    The Misplaced Battleship

    Harry Harrison (AKA Henry Maxwell Dempsey)

  • His fist hit the thug in the elbow, just as the man's hand reached for his knife.

    Police Your Planet

    Lester del Rey

  • About every day I have to send for the sheriff and have some thug arrested.

  • Of course it seemed ridiculous that a Thug should strangle the old man.

    The Opal Serpent

    Fergus Hume

  • He had changed from a thug into a determined, ambitious man.

    The Destroyers

    Gordon Randall Garrett

British Dictionary definitions for thug



a tough and violent man, esp a criminal
(sometimes capital) (formerly) a member of an organization of robbers and assassins in India who typically strangled their victims
Derived Formsthuggery, nounthuggish, adjective

Word Origin for thug

C19: from Hindi thag thief, from Sanskrit sthaga scoundrel, from sthagati to conceal
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 thug

1810, "member of a gang of murderers and robbers in India who strangled their victims," from Marathi thag, thak "cheat, swindler," Hindi thag, perhaps from Sanskrit sthaga-s "cunning, fraudulent," possibly from sthagayati "(he) covers, conceals," from PIE root *(s)teg- "cover" (see stegosaurus). Transferred sense of "ruffian, cutthroat" first recorded 1839. The more correct Indian name is phanseegur, and the activity was described in English as far back as c.1665. Rigorously prosecuted by the British from 1831, they were driven from existence, but the process extended over the rest of the 19c.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper