- in the U.S. and elsewhere, a secret society, of Italian origin, engaged in such illegal activities as gambling, prostitution, and illicit trade in narcotics
- Informal any group engaged in organized crime: the Russian mafia
- any exclusive, dominating group
Origin of Mafia; from Italian (Sicilian), name for a Sicilian secret society
- a. A secret criminal organization operating mainly in Sicily since the early 1800s and known for its intimidation of and retribution against law enforcement officials and witnesses.b. A secret criminal organization operating mainly in the United States and Italy and engaged in illegal activities such as gambling, drug-dealing, protection, and prostitution.
- Any of various similar criminal organizations, especially when dominated by members of the same nationality.
- often mafia Informal A tightly knit group of trusted associates, as of a political leader: “[He] is one of the personal mafia that [the chancellor] brought with him to Bonn” (Christian Science Monitor).
Origin of MafiaItalian, back-formation from mafiuso, mafioso, Mafioso; see Mafioso.
See Mafia. The sense "entity which attempts to control a specified arena" makes an analogy to crime-syndicate mafias' attempts to control certain kinds of business in the regions in which they exist.
- (specifically) An international criminal organization of Sicilian origin operating in Italy and the United States.
- (by extension) Any organized crime syndicate operating internationally in high-level organized crime; often with a modifying adjective, such as a nationality.
- Somehow he managed to upset the Russian Mafia.
- A party game modelling a conflict between an informed minority (the mafia) and an uninformed majority (the innocents). Each player is secretly assigned a role within one of these teams, and the innocents attempt to identify the mafia members before they are all "murdered".
- Alternative capitalization of mafia (an entity which attempts to control a specified arena).