ya·​ku·​za | \ ˈyä-ku̇-ˌzä How to pronounce yakuza (audio) \
plural yakuza

Definition of yakuza

1 : a Japanese gangster
2 : an organized crime syndicate in Japan

Examples of yakuza in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web

But such treatment is more appropriate for a yakuza mobster than an international CEO with no previous record of fraud or self-dealing. The Editorial Board, WSJ, "The Ghosn Inquisition," 26 Nov. 2018 The first two episodes of the show’s 10-episode debut season are devoted to former yakuza enforcer Shun and traumatized bodyguard Lana Pierce (Natalia Tena, known as Osha on Game of Thrones and Nymphadora Tonks in multiple Harry Potter films). Samantha Nelson, The Verge, "YouTube’s tech-noir series Origin is Lost… in space," 14 Nov. 2018 Think Keanu Reeves playing virtual cat-and-mouse with the yakuza in Johnny Mnemonic, or Michael Douglas pulling off corporate espionage in the world's most grandiose database in the wow-did-that-age-terribly, quasi-erotic thriller Disclosure. Peter Rubin, WIRED, "VR Is Back in Pop Culture—As a Warning," 29 June 2018 Jared Leto plays an American who becomes a member of the Japanese yakuza in this Netflix thriller directed by Martin Zandvliet. Frank Scheck, The Hollywood Reporter, "'The Outsider': Film Review," 8 Mar. 2018 In the 1964 Olympics, Tokyo shooed away its organized criminals, or yakuza. The Christian Science Monitor, "Why Russians may bare their teeth at the World Cup," 13 June 2018 Tattoos, associated with yakuza, or organized crime, are generally not permitted. Hanya Yanagihara, Town & Country, "The Transporting Daily Ritual of the Japanese Evening Bath," 8 Dec. 2017 Despite his outsider status, the taciturn Nick quickly fits in well with the yakuza and their highly formal, albeit deadly, customs. Frank Scheck, The Hollywood Reporter, "'The Outsider': Film Review," 8 Mar. 2018 Ishii’s tactic, in these situations, is to apply a temporary tattoo to his neck and dress like a yakuza. Kathryn Schulz, The New Yorker, "Japan’s Rent-a-Family Industry," 23 Apr. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'yakuza.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of yakuza

1964, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for yakuza

Japanese, ruffian, gangster

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about yakuza

Dictionary Entries near yakuza

Yakutat bear

Yakutat hut





yale blue

Statistics for yakuza

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for yakuza

The first known use of yakuza was in 1964

See more words from the same year

Comments on yakuza

What made you want to look up yakuza? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


an act or instance of editing or removing

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

What's that Smell?! Quiz

  • wide eyed dog smelling rose
  • Someone who is hircine smells like a:
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

Word Winder's CrossWinder

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!