Mafia Definition

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.
American Heritage
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.
Webster's New World
Any group engaged in organized crime.
The Russian mafia.
Webster's New World
Any exclusive, dominating group.
Webster's New World
Any of various similar criminal organizations, especially when dominated by members of the same nationality.
American Heritage

(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).

Other Word Forms of Mafia



Origin of Mafia

  • From Italian. Perhaps from Italian mafia (“spirit of hostility to the law") or from Sicilian mafia (“boldness, bravado"). See the Wikipedia article for more discussion of the origin of the word.

    From Wiktionary

  • 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.

    From Wiktionary

  • Italian back-formation from mafiuso, mafioso Mafioso Mafioso

    From American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition

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