• synonyms


noun, plural ya·ku·za.
  1. any of various tightly knit Japanese criminal organizations having a ritualistic, strict code of honor.
  2. such organizations collectively.
  3. a member of such an organization; gangster.
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Origin of yakuza

1960–65; < Japanese: racketeer, gambler, good-for-nothing, useless, from the name of a game in which the worst hand is of three cards marked ya eight, ku nine (< Middle Chinese, equivalent to Chinese jiǒu), and -za three (combining form of sa(n) < Middle Chinese, equivalent to Chinese sān)
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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British Dictionary definitions for yakuza


noun plural -kuza
  1. the yakuza a Japanese criminal organization involved in illegal gambling, extortion, gun-running, etc
  2. a member of this organization
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Word Origin for yakuza

C20: from Japanese ya eight + ku nine + za three, the worst hand in a game of cards
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 yakuza


traditional Japanese organized crime cartel, literally "eight-nine-three" (ya, ku, sa) the losing hand in the traditional baccarat-like Japanese card game Oicho-Kabu. The notion may be "good for nothing," or "bad luck" (such as that suffered by someone who runs afoul of them), or it may be a reference to the fact that a player who draws this hand requires great skill to win.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper