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

Last letter from the ghetto Ms. Landecker was at work at Benckiser when the Gestapo came for her father. Katrin Bennhold, New York Times, "Nazis Killed Her Father. Then She Fell in Love With One.," 14 June 2019 Nevertheless, this vast sprawling ghetto is a social and environmental calamity. Gaia Vince, Quartz, "How to survive in the world’s largest refugee camp," 8 June 2019 She was forced to move with her family in 1941 to a Jewish ghetto with only a sack of potatoes, some flour and a few belongings. Danica Kirka, Washington Post, "Gena Turgel, Holocaust survivor who cared for Anne Frank, dies at 95," 14 June 2018 Aron, his older brother and his mother were forced to live in a ghetto in Riga. Brigit Katz, Smithsonian, "Kalman Aron Used His Art to Survive the Holocaust," 13 Mar. 2018 One is that major knowledge gaps exist — for example, 45% of all adults cannot name a concentration camp or ghetto — but the other is a broad consensus that learning the history of the Holocaust is important. Lily Rothman, Time, "Survey Reveals Gaps in Knowledge of Holocaust History—And That Most Americans Believe It Could Happen Again," 12 Apr. 2018 Born in Krakow, Poland as Gena Goldfinger on Feb. 1, 1923, Turgel had to move with her family in 1941 to a Jewish ghetto with only a sack of potatoes, some flour and a few belongings. Danica Kirka,, "Gena Turgel, who cared for Anne Frank at Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, has died," 9 June 2018 But for black people in public, the specter of the urban ghetto always lurks. Elijah Anderson, Vox, "The sociology of living while black," 10 Aug. 2018 Not broke, which isn’t poor, and not bohemian poor, like a gentrifier living in the ghetto but able to afford nice clothes. Karla Cornejo Villavicencio, Glamour, "I'm an Immigrant. When I Spend Money on Makeup, I'm Paying to Feel Safe.," 17 Dec. 2018

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

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

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Statistics for ghetto

Last Updated

24 Jun 2019

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Time Traveler for ghetto

The first known use of ghetto was in 1611

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More Definitions for ghetto



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 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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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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