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 mugs and the gangsters and the nightclub singers. San Diego Union-Tribune, "At North Coast Rep, ‘Another Roll of the Dice’ picks up where ‘Guys and Dolls’ left off," 2 July 2019 The night before Game 1 in Cincinnati, Morgan said sportswriter Hugh Fullerton crossed the river to Newport, Ky., for dinner and overheard a gangster saying Sox players took bribes to lose the game. Katherine Rodeghier,, "From scandals to milestones, an expanded museum and tours celebrate 150 years of baseball in Cincinnati," 12 June 2019 In 1956, Graham compared the Soviet Union to a gangster set loose to murder and pillage. David Briggs,, "Billy Graham's 'uwavering message' was heard around the world, and in Cleveland (photos)," 21 Feb. 2018 Now, a remake of Guys and Dolls, the much-beloved show about gamblers, gangsters, nightclub singers, and missionaries, is in the works as well. Caroline Hallemann, Town & Country, "Guys and Dolls Is Set to Return to the Big Screen," 27 Mar. 2019 The show follows a group of students at King's Dominion, a high school dedicated to teaching the kids of the world's gangsters, mob bosses, and assassins in the art of murder, kidnapping, and other dark things. Tamara Fuentes, Seventeen, "Everything We Know About Lana Condor's New Show "Deadly Class"," 4 Jan. 2019 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

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

6 Jul 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

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