noun \ˈmä-fē-ə, ˈma-\

Definition of MAFIA

a :  a secret criminal society of Sicily or Italy
b :  a similarly conceived criminal organization in the United States; also :  a similar organization elsewhere <the Japanese Mafia>
c :  a criminal organization associated with a particular traffic <the cocaine Mafia>
often not capitalized :  a group of people likened to the Mafia; especially :  a group of people of similar interests or backgrounds prominent in a particular field or enterprise :  clique

Origin of MAFIA

Mafia, Maffia, a Sicilian secret criminal society, from Italian dialect (Sicily), probably from mafiusu
First Known Use: 1875


geographical name \ˈmä-fē-ə, ˈma-\

Definition of MAFIA

island Tanzania in Indian Ocean S of Zanzibar area 170 square miles (442 square kilometers), pop 16,748


noun    (Concise Encyclopedia)

Society of criminals of primarily Italian or Sicilian origin. The Mafia arose in Sicily in the late Middle Ages, possibly as a secret organization to overthrow the rule of foreign conquerors. It drew its members from the small private armies, or mafie, hired by landlords to protect their estates. By 1900 the Mafia “families” of western Sicily controlled their local economies. In the 1920s Benito Mussolini jailed most of the members, but they were released by the Allies after World War II and resumed their activities. In the 1970s their control of the heroin trade led to fierce rivalry among the clans, followed in the 1980s by renewed governmental efforts to imprison the Mafia leadership. In the U.S., Sicilian immigrants included former Mafia members who set up similar criminal operations. Their operations expanded from bootlegging in the 1920s to gambling, narcotics, and prostitution, and the Mafia, or Cosa Nostra, became the largest U.S. syndicated crime organization. About 24 Mafia groups or “families” controlled operations in the U.S.; the heads (or “dons”) of the largest families formed a commission whose main function was judicial and could override a don's authority. At the beginning of the 21st century the Mafia's power was greatly diminished through convictions of top officials, defections, and murderous internal disputes. See also organized crime.


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