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 British crime lord Peter Sprott needs a rival taken down, and the best man for the job is Suruli, a Tamil gangster from Madurai. Jacob Siegal, BGR, "Netflix reveals 32 original movies coming this summer – here’s the full list," 27 Apr. 2021 Indeed, in a sort of O. Henry twist, Nicky’s parents, who run a restaurant called Harmony Dumplings, have independently gone into debt with a seemingly untouchable local gangster after their rent was raised. Robert Lloyd, Los Angeles Times, "Review: Strangely drawn to Asian American stereotypes, ‘Kung Fu’ stumbles out of gate," 7 Apr. 2021 Set in Birmingham, England, in the years after World War I, the series follows a gangster family led by Polly’s nephew, Tommy Shelby (Cillian Murphy). Washington Post, "Helen McCrory, British actress in ‘Peaky Blinders,’ dies at 52," 16 Apr. 2021 The song’s cinematic vibe and 50′s singalong hook have become the go-to for that turning point in the gangster lifestyle. Troy L. Smith, cleveland, "200 greatest hip-hop songs of all time," 13 Apr. 2021 It’s a New York gangster staple! On Made for Love, Byron wears all these very intense tech-guy outfits. Jackson Mchenry, Vulture, "Made for Love’s Billy Magnussen Is Deconstructing Douchebags and Other Toxic Tech Men," 8 Apr. 2021 New York gangster Bugsy Siegel goes Hollywood with a tan, a mistress and a mad vision of Las Vegas. Los Angeles Times, "Movies on TV this week: ‘Lust for Life’; ‘Platoon’ and more," 5 Mar. 2021 Lewis’s death became a national news story, with headlines proclaiming that Chicago was back to its old gangster ways — the kind of bad press that made Daley irate. Mick Dumke, ProPublica, "“Power Companies Get Exactly What They Want”: How Texas Repeatedly Failed to Protect Its Power Grid Against Extreme Weather," 28 Feb. 2021 That Megan’s mother and manager, Holly Thomas, was a rapper in her own right—recording with gangster flair in the early aughts under the name Holly-Wood—was no reprieve from pressure to reach her academic potential. Collier Schorr; Styling By Samira Nasr, Harper's BAZAAR, "The Importance of Being Megan Thee Stallion," 19 Feb. 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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Statistics for gangster

Last Updated

9 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Gangster.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 18 May. 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

Comments on gangster

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