ya·​ku·​za ˈyä-ku̇-ˌzä How to pronounce yakuza (audio)
plural yakuza
: a Japanese gangster
: an organized crime syndicate in Japan

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Example Sentences

Recent Examples on the Web Directed by the comedian, actor and filmmaker Takeshi Kitano, this crime film that was released in Japan in 1990 follows a dispirited baseball player (Masahiko Ono) who teams up with a friend to get revenge on a local yakuza that attacked his coach. Sara Aridi, New York Times, 16 Feb. 2020 Their mission pairs them with an eccentric yakuza boss (Kitano) who leads them deep into the underworld. Sara Aridi, New York Times, 16 Feb. 2020 Its bodiless state comes courtesy of yakuza vengeance. BostonGlobe.com, 3 Oct. 2019 Adelstein’s novel and the series follows his first-hand account of covering the metropolitan police beat as an American reporter working for Tokyo newspaper, putting him in the path of the yakuza. Nick Romano, EW.com, 22 Oct. 2019 Sold to a yakuza clan to work off her ne’er-do-well father’s debts, she’s been locked away and forced into drug addiction and prostitution. Los Angeles Times, 26 Sep. 2019 Another issue: Players have been asked to cover up their many tattoos, which in Japan are associated with crime syndicates known as the yakuza. Washington Post, 25 Sep. 2019 As hotels and bars stock up on alcohol, some hot-spring resorts have been prodded to relax their rules on tattoos, which in Japan are associated with yakuza mobsters. The Economist, 19 Sep. 2019 There are long-standing links between the Japanese entertainment world and yakuza crime clans, though they have been weakened in recent decades by laws making it an offense to have any business dealings with the gangs. Gavin J. Blair, The Hollywood Reporter, 16 July 2019 See More

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.

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Word History


Japanese, ruffian, gangster

First Known Use

1964, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of yakuza was in 1964

Dictionary Entries Near yakuza

Cite this Entry

“Yakuza.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/yakuza. Accessed 27 Sep. 2022.

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