gang·​ster | \ˈgaŋ-stər \

Definition of gangster 

: a member of a gang of criminals : racketeer

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Other Words from gangster

gangsterdom \ˈgaŋ-​stər-​dəm \ noun
gangsterish \ˈgaŋ-​stə-​rish \ adjective
gangsterism \ˈgaŋ-​stə-​ˌri-​zəm \ 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

Backstage at one of his concerts Voletta seems to have come to terms with the fact that her son is a beloved gangster rapper despite her constant worry for his well-being. Scott Glaysher, Billboard, "'Unsolved': Episode 9 Cuts to the Chase as Biggie's Mom Comes to Terms With His Lifestyle," 27 Apr. 2018 In the first episode Barry is sent to Los Angeles to take out an actor, Ryan, who’s having an affair with a Chechen gangster’s wife. Sophie Gilbert, The Atlantic, "The Dark Humanity of Barry," 22 Mar. 2018 The other tells the brutal story of gangster Ganesh Gaitonde (Nawazuddin Siddiqui, another Bollywood leading man) and his rise through the Mumbai crime world. Taylor Antrim, Vogue, "Netflix’s Sacred Games Is Your Next Binge Watch," 20 July 2018 Set in Oakland, California, its cast of bruised native characters, including drunks, recovering drunks, gangsters and long-suffering grandmothers, are forever questioning and sometimes dabbling in their Indian culture. The Economist, "Tommy Orange’s debut novel is a work of defiance and recovery," 5 July 2018 Cartels of gangsters either take over the kiosks or tap the pipes in strategic locations, blocking the flow of water and then selling it at exorbitant rates—far more than the utility would charge. Elijah Wolfson, Newsweek, "A Water Project Cleans Up Nairobi's Slum," 9 Nov. 2014 That would be Boris Volkov, one of those ruthless Russian gangsters with unsmiling bodyguards that are all but omnipresent in films these days. Kenneth Turan,, "Review: Keanu Reeves is stranded in the low-energy romantic thrills of 'Siberia'," 10 July 2018 The map circulated as Chicago’s mobster image was magnified in Hollywood gangster films and sensational newspaper stories. Morgan Greene,, "A rare 1931 map of Chicago's 'Gangland' could be yours — for 20,000 pounds," 30 May 2018 This is the moral logic of a gangster, and also of the bulk of the ruling American political party. Jonathan Chait, Daily Intelligencer, "The Gangster Morality of Anti-Anti-Trumpism," 30 May 2018

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

7 Dec 2018

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 \

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).


living or existing for a long time

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