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ghet·​to ˈge-(ˌ)tō How to pronounce ghetto (audio)
plural ghettos also ghettoes
: a quarter of a city in which Jews were formerly required to live
: a quarter of a city in which members of a minority group live especially because of social, legal, or economic pressure
: an isolated group
a geriatric ghetto
: a situation that resembles a ghetto especially in conferring inferior status or limiting opportunity
the pink-collar ghetto


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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


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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.

Example Sentences

Noun He grew up in the ghetto.
Recent Examples on the Web
Three-year-old Daniel and 7-year-old Mira have been spirited out of a Jewish ghetto in Poland and consigned for safekeeping to a Polish farm couple. Julia M. Klein,, 23 Mar. 2023 Yaron was six months old when she and her mother were rescued from the last transport from the ghetto in the Baron Hirsch neighborhood to Auschwitz by Greek partisans and her father. Etgar Lefkovits, Sun Sentinel, 23 Mar. 2023 Because Stanford’s charter forbade the sale of any of its some eighty-thousand acres in perpetuity, only professors and administrators could buy houses in the faculty ghetto—and only houses. David Leavitt, The New Yorker, 20 Mar. 2023 After the German invasion on Sept. 1, 1939, they were forced into a ghetto that would house as many as 164,000 Jews. Richard Sandomir, New York Times, 11 Feb. 2023 Professor Mancuso came across Ostiglio while researching an exhibition on the Jewish ghetto of Florence that will be hosted by the Uffizi late next year. Elisabetta Povoledo, New York Times, 16 Nov. 2022 This is of the essence because personal genomics, and the scientific understanding of genealogy, are now moving out of the ghetto of hobbyists, enthusiasts, and researchers. Razib Khan, Discover Magazine, 4 Jan. 2013 Pimps who run what little economy exists in the ghetto. Razib Khan, Discover Magazine, 25 July 2013 Eva Galler was in her mid-teens, the oldest of eight children, when the Nazis rounded up the Jews in her Polish town, Oleszyce, set their synagogues alight, and forced them into a ghetto. Globe Columnist,, 24 Dec. 2022 See More

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.

Word History


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


from attributive of ghetto entry 1

First Known Use


1611, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1892, in the meaning defined above


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.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 Mar. 2023.

Kids Definition


plural ghettos also ghettoes
: a part of a city in which Jews were formerly required to live
: a part of a city in which members of a minority group live especially because of social, legal, or economic pressure
Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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