a violent, lawless, or vicious person, especially one who commits a crime such as assault, robbery, or murder: It wasn't uncommon for hired thugs to intimidate shop owners until they paid up.
(sometimes initial capital letter) one of a former group of professional robbers and murderers in India who strangled their victims.
In American English, the word is disproportionately applied to nonwhite perpetrators of violence or crime. White teens disturbing the peace at a party with loud music are more likely to be called troublemakers or hooligans. Their Black peers are more likely to be labeled thugs for the same offense. And following this common racialized usage, thug is used by some and interpreted by many as a code word for Black. In extreme cases, thug is chosen as a dog whistle to imply that Black people are generally prone to violence or criminality.
However, there is also a reclaimed sense of thug within the Black community, and particularly in the hip-hop community, one that acknowledges the violence implicit in the label while also celebrating toughness and street smarts.
Because thug has many implied connotations that may change depending on who is using the word and who is being described by it, it’s important to critically consider the context and tone around each particular instance of its use to truly understand what is being communicated.
- thug·ger·y [thuhg-uh-ree], /ˈθʌg ə ri/, noun
- thug·gish, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023
How to use thug in a sentence
Bannon may be a thug and a grifter, but at least he has made this unavoidably clear.Steve Bannon’s vile threats show the GOP’s radicalization is getting worse | Greg Sargent | February 19, 2021 | Washington Post
Sometimes you can get the thugs and treat them the right way, be a mentor to them.
During a rally in Minnesota on September 18, he said Lee was a “great general,” called statue removal the work of “thugs,” and said Lee would have won the Civil War, “except for Gettysburg.”The Problem of Confederate Statues on U.S. Public Lands | Alex Heard | September 28, 2020 | Outside Online
These groups are generally united in their thuggery and xenophobia.
It was evidence, a parade of Fox pundits stressed, of “union thuggery.”
In-state winger groups accused Casa of intimidation and thuggery.
This tolerance for certain brands of thuggery is an old story on the left.
The mayhem is mostly thuggery, but may reflect unresolved grievances against authority, says William Underhill.
There was to be no gigantic clash of sea-arms; action was to be taken on the lines of Thuggery.Merchantmen-at-Arms | David W. Bone
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
- thuggery, noun
- thuggish, adjective
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