ghetto

1 of 3

noun

ghet·​to ˈge-(ˌ)tō How to pronounce ghetto (audio)
plural ghettos also ghettoes
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
3
a
: 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

ghetto

2 of 3

adjective

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

ghetto

3 of 3

verb

ghettoed; ghettoing; ghettos

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.

Word History

Etymology

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

Adjective

from attributive of ghetto entry 1

First Known Use

Noun

1611, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Adjective

1892, in the meaning defined above

Verb

1936, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of ghetto was in 1611

Dictionary Entries Near ghetto

Cite this Entry

“Ghetto.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ghetto. Accessed 16 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition

ghetto

noun
ghet·​to
ˈget-ō
plural ghettos also ghettoes
1
: a part of a city in which Jews were formerly required to live
2
: a part of a city in which members of a minority group live especially because of social, legal, or economic pressure
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