ghet·​to | \ˈge-(ˌ)tō \
plural ghettos also ghettoes

Definition of ghetto 

(Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a quarter of a city in which Jews were formerly required to live

2 : a quarter of a city in which members of a minority group live especially because of social, legal, or economic pressure

3a : an isolated group a geriatric ghetto

b : a situation that resembles a ghetto especially in conferring inferior status or limiting opportunity the pink-collar ghetto


ghettoed; ghettoing; ghettos

Definition of ghetto (Entry 2 of 2)

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Did You Know?

The etymology of Italian ghetto was formerly the subject of much speculation, but today there is little doubt that the word comes from the Italian dialect form ghèto, meaning “foundry.” A foundry for cannons was once located on an island that forms part of Venice, where in 1516 the Venetians restricted Jewish residence. The word ghèto became the name for the area and was borrowed into standard Italian as ghetto, with the meaning of “section of a city where Jews are forced to live.” From there it passed into most other European languages. Since the late 19th century, the meaning of ghetto has been extended to crowded urban districts where other ethnic or racial groups have been confined by poverty or prejudice.

Examples of ghetto in a Sentence


He grew up in the ghetto.

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Participants then paid homage to the victims at several memorial sites in the area of the former ghetto, including at Umschlagplatz, the spot where Jews were assembled before being transported to the Treblinka death camp. Monika Scislowska,, "Poland marks 75th anniversary of uprising in Warsaw Ghetto," 19 Apr. 2018 Another brother, Janek, tried to escape the ghetto through sewers; the family never saw him again. James R. Hagerty, WSJ, "Young Polish Jew Gena Turgel Found Love in the Ruins of the Nazi Death Machine," 15 June 2018 Trayvon Martin wasn't the heart of America; Trayvon Martin is categorized as the ghetto. Patrick Ryan, USA TODAY, "Trayvon Martin's parents bring heartbreaking new docuseries 'Rest in Power' to Tribeca," 21 Apr. 2018 Within the ghetto, crowded apartments were divided, then subdivided further. The Economist, "Fifty years after Martin Luther King’s death, a divided America," 4 Apr. 2018 In this single day the Germans took 10,000 Jews from the ghetto in Krakow. Bryan Marquard,, "Lola Schuss, 96; wrote of experiences surviving four concentration camps," 9 July 2018 Another involves Olga’s audacious ingenuity in protecting Jewish laborers from the Riga ghetto in her tailoring atelier. Dagmar Herzog, New York Times, "Surviving Europe’s Horrendous 20th Century," 6 Apr. 2018 To find routes out of the ghetto, America will need accurate maps. The Economist, "Half a century after Martin Luther King’s murder, America remains an unequal place," 4 Apr. 2018 The violence killed hundreds of Rohingya and displaced tens of thousands more to detention camps, ghettos or prison villages, says Green. Lucy Westcott, Newsweek, "British Research Institute Report Says Rohingya Face Genocide Comparable to Nazi Era," 29 Oct. 2015

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'ghetto.' 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 ghetto


1611, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1936, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for ghetto


Italian, from Venetian dialect ghèto island where Jews were forced to live, literally, foundry (located on the island), from ghetàr to cast, from Latin jactare to throw — more at jet


see ghetto entry 1

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Statistics for ghetto

Last Updated

11 Nov 2018

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Time Traveler for ghetto

The first known use of ghetto was in 1611

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English Language Learners Definition of ghetto

: a part of a city in which members of a particular group or race live usually in poor conditions

: the poorest part of a city


ghet·​to | \ˈge-tō \
plural ghettos or ghettoes

Kids Definition of ghetto

: a part of a city in which members of a particular group live in poor conditions

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More from Merriam-Webster on ghetto

Spanish Central: Translation of ghetto

Nglish: Translation of ghetto for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of ghetto for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about ghetto

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