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 The gangster dinner show attraction has a coupon on their website,, for 50 percent off admission. Trevor Fraser,, "Capone’s dinner show taking half-off with coupon," 8 Sep. 2020 The series about a high school chemistry teacher who turns into a meth-making crime lord was famously described by creator Vince Gilligan as the story of how mild schoolteacher Mr. Chips becomes Scarface, the gangster. oregonlive, "TV’s new Golden Age: 8 modern classics that helped make TV the center of the culture," 26 Aug. 2020 Debut movies don't come much weirder, nor more wonderful, than Parker's, a gangster-musical-comedy with a cast of children. Clark Collis,, "Alan Parker's 5 best movies," 31 July 2020 But once things settle down, that White backlash could set in with the neo-fascist gangster in the White House, and with his following — Trump [had] what, 65 percent of the White male vote, 52 percent of the White female vote? Washington Post, "Cornel West: Is America ‘even capable of treating the masses of Black people with decency and dignity’?," 11 Aug. 2020 Bobby is the one and only original gangster of Food Network who is still with us. Gerrad Hall,, "Ted Allen takes viewers behind the scenes of new Chopped: Beat Bobby Flay tournament," 8 Aug. 2020 Affleck last directed the 2016 Prohibition-era gangster movie Live by Night while his 2012 film, Argo, won the Oscar for best picture. Borys Kit, The Hollywood Reporter, "Ben Affleck to Write, Direct Making of 'Chinatown" Movie for Paramount," 7 Aug. 2020 The actor, who co-starred with Cordero in the musical Bullets Over Broadway, got a tattoo of his friend in his gangster Cheech three-piece suit dancing on his arm. Rania Aniftos, Billboard, "Zach Braff Honors Late Friend Nick Cordero With Heartwarming Tattoo," 7 Aug. 2020 That’s where Minneapolis historian Katie Thornton met Nettie Hayes Sherman, a Black nightclub entertainer who ran a St. Paul speakeasy during the Depression and gangster eras of the 1930s. Curt Brown, Star Tribune, "Nettie Hayes Sherman stood at intersection of booze, voting 100 years ago," 1 Aug. 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

17 Sep 2020

Cite this Entry

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