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

Grinberg had survived the Kovno ghetto and the forced labor camps around Dachau partly because his captors allowed him to act as a physician. Emanuella Grinberg, Smithsonian, "When a Bavarian Monastery Provided a Home to Jewish Refugees," 11 July 2018 Janice couldn’t win—too ghetto for Long Island, too Oreo for Co-op, vainly hiding facets of one ethnicity in the company of the other. Miles Marshall Lewis, The Root, "(What Did I Do to Get So) Black and Blue," 18 Mar. 2018 This reduces the risk that immigrants will cluster in ghettos, sell drugs and trade illegally, says Juan Carrasco, the mayor. The Economist, "Chile gives immigrants a wary welcome," 12 Apr. 2018 Here is a woman who at 15 survived the ghetto of Miedzyrzec before being ripped from her family and herded into a cattle car to stand atop heaps of bodies. kansascity, "Holocaust survivor faces another loss as Metcalf South’s closing displaces her tailor shop | The Kansas City Star," 11 May 2014 In one, Fritzie Fritzshall describes being taken to a ghetto at gunpoint during Passover, and from there to Auschwitz. New York Times,, "More than 40% of Americans don't know what Auschwitz is, survey finds," 12 Apr. 2018 His other documentaries include Tsahal (1994), about the Israel Defense Forces; The Last of the Unjust (2013), about the last president of the Jewish Council in the Theresienstadt ghetto in the former Czechoslovakia; and Napalm (2017). Jordan Mintzer, The Hollywood Reporter, "Claude Lanzmann, French Director of Holocaust Documentary 'Shoah,' Dies at 92," 5 July 2018 One of her brothers was shot and killed in the ghetto, and another brother escaped, never to be seen again. Samantha Schmidt, Washington Post, "‘Bride of Belsen’: Holocaust survivor who took care of Anne Frank dies at 95," 11 June 2018 Many city leaders, however, were calling the neighborhood a ghetto and laying plans for decades of demolition and redevelopment. Christopher Reynolds,, "Grab an apple and enter the Fillmore, San Francisco’s cradle of psychedelia that continues to rock," 3 May 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


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

16 Sep 2018

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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 \
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

Comments on ghetto

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the setting in which something occurs

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