gang·​ster | \ ˈgaŋ-stər How to pronounce gangster (audio) \

Definition of gangster

: a member of a gang of criminals : racketeer

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Other Words from gangster

gangsterdom \ ˈgaŋ-​stər-​dəm How to pronounce gangsterdom (audio) \ noun
gangsterish \ ˈgaŋ-​stə-​rish How to pronounce gangsterish (audio) \ adjective
gangsterism \ ˈgaŋ-​stə-​ˌri-​zəm How to pronounce gangsterism (audio) \ noun

What is the history of the word gangster?

Gangster came into the English language at the latter portion of the 19th century, as one of what is now a large parcel of words which have been formed by adding the noun combining form –ster to an existing word. The ending -ster has a number of possible meanings (“one that does, handles, or operates,” “one that makes or uses,” “one that is associated with or participates in,” “one that is”), and one of its interesting elements is that it has, in many cases, shifted its gender. This second portion of gangster comes from the Old English -estre, meaning “female agent.” The word tapster ("a bartender"), for instance, was tæppestre in Old English, and designated a barmaid, or female tapster. In modern use the addition of -ster may often be found in a gender-neutral sense, as with hipster, or with implications of masculinity, as with gangster and mobster, through prevalence of usage.

Examples of gangster in a Sentence

Al Capone remains one of the most notorious gangsters in American history.
Recent Examples on the Web This weekend, there are a couple of high-profile theatrical releases that moved to streaming, including an animated reintroduction to Scooby-Doo and Tom Hardy going mad as a dying gangster. Brian Truitt, USA TODAY, "What to stream this weekend: Animated 'Scoob!' adventure, Tom Hardy as 'Capone'," 15 May 2020 In one subplot, a gangster in a white waistcoat has ordered room service. Sophie Pinkham, The New York Review of Books, "My Quarantine: Savoring the Ramen Western," 8 May 2020 What do Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and a gangster have in common? Elissa Robinson, Detroit Free Press, "Elections newsletter: Whitmer gets a big moment," 24 Jan. 2020 Inspired by a gangster’s girlfriend, a heavyweight contender takes on the champ. Los Angeles Times, "Movies on TV for Oct. 6-12: ‘Throne of Blood’ and more," 4 Oct. 2019 The gig at hand: Rescuing 14-year-old Ovi (Rudhraksh Jaiswal, who gives a performance better than the movie deserves), the son of an affluent, powerful gangster. Stephanie Zacharek, Time, "Chris Hemsworth's Extraction Is Way less Fun Than It Should Be," 24 Apr. 2020 The Republic in 2017 documented Gioia's transition to Capri, from gangster to witness to Phoenix businessman. Robert Anglen, azcentral, "Federal judge closes Arizona courtroom during ex-mobster Frank Capri's detention hearing," 18 Feb. 2020 From mobster to Arizona businessman The Republic in 2017 documented Gioia's transition to Capri, from gangster to witness to businessman. Robert Anglen, USA TODAY, "Feds: Ex-mobster used Toby Keith and Rascal Flatts restaurants in nationwide fraud scheme," 8 Feb. 2020 Be aware that inked skin is associated with gangsters; tattooed visitors may be barred from spas and public baths. Mark Jenkins, Washington Post, "Why your next vacation should be in Japan," 15 Jan. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'gangster.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of gangster

1884, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for gangster

gang entry 1 + -ster

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Time Traveler for gangster

Time Traveler

The first known use of gangster was in 1884

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Statistics for gangster

Last Updated

24 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Gangster.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 29 May. 2020.

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More Definitions for gangster


How to pronounce gangster (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of gangster

: a member of a group of violent criminals


gang·​ster | \ ˈgaŋ-stər How to pronounce gangster (audio) \

Kids Definition of gangster

: a member of a gang of criminals



Legal Definition of gangster

: a member of a gang of criminals

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