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

Following a tip from Tobias Beckett, Han knows that a certain gangster has a job opportunity on Tatooine—a job Star Wars fans already know will go very, very wrong. Scott Meslow, GQ, "Solo: A Star Wars Story," 25 May 2018 My grandmother wouldn’t let her children out after dark, let alone get involved with gangsters. Angela Rocco Decarlo, WSJ, "Merry Christmas, Don Corleone," 20 Dec. 2018 Still, Trump has made clear his interest in the case, suggesting in a tweet that Manafort was being treated worse than gangster Al Capone. Chad Day, The Seattle Times, "Testimony by ‘right-hand man’ critical in Manafort trial," 5 Aug. 2018 Michael’s journey from idealistic World War II veteran to hard-hearted gangster is the emotional crux of Coppola’s crime saga, and Pacino sells it by never exploding with anger, or doing anything to make the transformation obvious. David Sims, The Atlantic, "The Many Eras of Al Pacino's Stardom," 25 Mar. 2018 Hip-hop was — this has been written about a lot by others, not by me — but the music industry pushed gangster rap. Eric Johnson, Recode, "Swiping on Tinder is addictive. That’s partly because it was inspired by an experiment that ‘turned pigeons into gamblers.’," 19 Sep. 2018 My music doesn’t have to be super gangster all the time. Kathy Iandoli, Billboard, "Lil' Kim Debuts New Track, 'Nasty One,' Talks Early Censorship & Everlasting Legacy," 11 July 2018 But Mike is much distracted from his job, because Mike is in love, having fallen for the daughter of a florist who supplies the final floral tributes for the funerals of gangsters. Rick Kogan,, "David Mamet's new book belongs on your shelf of Chicago classics," 28 Feb. 2018 Luke Tennie as Willie Lewis: The son of a famous gangster, he was sent by the headmaster of King's Dominion to recruit Marcus. Tamara Fuentes, Seventeen, "Everything We Know About Lana Condor's New Show "Deadly Class"," 4 Jan. 2019

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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Statistics for gangster

Last Updated

11 May 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for gangster

The first known use of gangster was in 1884

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More Definitions for gangster



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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More from Merriam-Webster on gangster

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for gangster

Spanish Central: Translation of gangster

Nglish: Translation of gangster for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of gangster for Arabic Speakers

Comments on gangster

What made you want to look up gangster? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


something valued as if it were money

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