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 gangster (audio) \ noun
gangsterish \ ˈgaŋ-​stə-​rish How to pronounce gangster (audio) \ adjective
gangsterism \ ˈgaŋ-​stə-​ˌri-​zəm How to pronounce gangster (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 The hyperkinetic 1960 release, with its anti-establishment tone and homages to Hollywood gangster films, vaunted the French New Wave to the vanguard of world cinema and Belmondo along with it. Cynthia Littleton, Variety, 6 Sep. 2021 After all, who expects a gangster who is also a loving father and a therapy patient? Washington Post, 3 Sep. 2021 Malik Sharif let out a big false laugh, like a gangster in the Bollywood movies. Daniyal Mueenuddin, The New Yorker, 31 Aug. 2021 Capone, the son of Italian immigrants, grew up in New York City and was inspired to become a gangster as a teenager, according to a biography by Deirdre Bair., 28 Aug. 2021 The Samuels House was near two distilleries that the Samuels family had in the area, and played host to untold family gatherings, parties … and some gangster-laced Kentucky and U.S. history. Lennie Omalza, The Courier-Journal, 11 Aug. 2021 Stout notes that their crime spree inspired the genre of gangster films that proliferated a few years later. Greg Hanlon,, 30 July 2021 There’s a gangster named Saint Joe (played by the wily Daniel Wu, who the movie could have used more of). Owen Gleiberman, Variety, 18 Aug. 2021 Ah Ma is determined to use Jess to settle a score against a local gangster who offended the Black Water Sister, the god Ah Ma served as a medium during her life. Sadie Gennis, Vulture, 8 July 2021

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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Dictionary Entries Near gangster

gangsta rap


gang switch

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Statistics for gangster

Last Updated

18 Sep 2021

Cite this Entry

“Gangster.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 26 Sep. 2021.

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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

More from Merriam-Webster on gangster

Nglish: Translation of gangster for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of gangster for Arabic Speakers


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