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

In 2004 authorities discovered a tunnel that gangsters had dug inside it, to smuggle drugs beneath the border wall. The Economist, "Why America and Mexico are destined to grow even closer," 21 June 2018 The film follows a checklist of references for every drug or gangster movie from the last 30 years. Katie Walsh, Detroit Free Press, "Review: ‘SuperFly’ is outdated and out of touch," 13 June 2018 Burned into our collective memory as the apparel of choice for gangsters like Tony Montana, playboys like Hugh Hefner, and the greatest dolt in fashion history, Derek Zoolander, silky menswear has been parodied into a pulp. Samuel Hine, GQ, "Silk Is This Season's Strongest Look," 1 May 2018 James Cagney was pegged as a wisecracking gangster early in his career, but his range as a performer extended far beyond those limiting roles. Patrick Friel, Chicago Reader, "Crime / Dance / Film / On Video / Small Screen James Cagney is more than just a tough-guy as FilmStruck's Star of the Week," 3 July 2018 For many, Prohibition recalls a freewheeling era in American history with speakeasies, bootlegging, gangsters and G-men. Roger Catlin, Smithsonian, "The Bitter Aftertaste of Prohibition in American History," 9 June 2018 Peppa mania has even crossed over into street culture in China, with some teens and twenty-somethings getting Peppa tattoos depicting the innocent piglet as a gangster or pirate. Serenitie Wang, CNN, "Chinese video app targets 'subversive' Peppa Pig in online clean-up," 1 May 2018 Hernandez, 36, says that if she and her family are deported to Mexico, they could be killed by the same gangsters who murdered her brother and two nephews. Jeff Gammage,, "U.S. Rep. Bob Brady introduces bill to protect undocumented immigrant family from deportation," 26 Apr. 2018 So, Axe jumps to the next option: Taking the money of gangsters., "Billions Season 3, Episode 10 Recap: "Texas Roadkill Chili"," 28 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

12 Oct 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

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