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

Definition of ghetto

 (Entry 1 of 3)

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



Definition of ghetto (Entry 2 of 3)

often disparaging
: of, relating to, being, or characteristic of a ghetto (see ghetto entry 1 sense 2) or the people who live there ghetto youth/music ghetto neighborhoods Features that, according to [El] Jones, are often shamed and seen as "ugly, ghetto, or unprofessional" when on Black people, but suddenly become desirable and attractive when on a white person.CBC Kids News And lest anyone think graffiti itself is dead … the memorial walls are the latest outburst and refinement of ghetto art springing up in Brooklyn, the Bronx, and beyond.— David Gonzalez … the many social and cultural factors that went into the creation of a permanent class of ghetto poor, unable to move into the mainstream.— Jonathan Alter


ghettoed; ghettoing; ghettos

Definition of ghetto (Entry 3 of 3)

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

Noun He grew up in the ghetto.
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Barnett was from the ghetto and expected to stay there. Bill Dwyre, Los Angeles Times, 26 Apr. 2022 This fried, crispy golden globe artichoke, which makes a crunchy sound with each bite, is a delicacy of Rome's Jewish ghetto. Silvia Marchetti, CNN, 26 Apr. 2022 After the ghetto was liquidated, Mary survived three concentration camps, Kaiserwald, Stutthof, and Magdeburg. Olivia B. Waxman, Time, 6 May 2022 The German synagogue was constructed by a group of Ashkenazi Jews with five large windows that overlook the ghetto’s central square, or campo. New York Times, 4 May 2022 Do not try to compete with the fierce ghetto divas. Danyel Smith, Rolling Stone, 1 May 2022 The opening chapter follows the aforementioned vicar through the damp, unenlightened village of Rohatyn, showing his progress through the Jewish ghetto and into the warrenlike house of a local rabbi. Jake Bittle, The New Republic, 2 Mar. 2022 She and her family were forced into a ghetto and her parents were ultimately deported to Auschwitz. Rebekah Riess, CNN, 9 Apr. 2022 Two months later, the Germans liquidated the Bielsko ghetto, marching its inhabitants through the center of town to a line of trucks. New York Times, 8 Apr. 2022 See More

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.

First Known Use of ghetto


1611, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1892, in the meaning defined above


1936, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for ghetto

Noun and Verb

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


from attributive of ghetto entry 1

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ghetto blaster

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Last Updated

23 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Ghetto.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for ghetto


ghet·​to | \ ˈge-tō How to pronounce ghetto (audio) \
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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