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a. A secret criminal organization operating mainly in Sicily since the early 1800s and known for its intimidation of and retribution against law enforcement officials and witnesses.

b. A secret criminal organization operating mainly in the United States and Italy and engaged in illegal activities such as gambling, drug-dealing, protection, and prostitution.

2. Any of various similar criminal organizations, especially when dominated by members of the same nationality.

3. often mafiaInformal A tightly knit group of trusted associates, as of a political leader: " [He] is one of the personal mafia that [the chancellor] brought with him to Bonn" (Christian Science Monitor).

[Italian, back-formation from mafiuso, mafioso. Mafioso ; see Mafioso .]

1. (Sociology) the Mafia an international secret organization founded in Sicily, probably in opposition to tyranny. It developed into a criminal organization and in the late 19th century was carried to the US by Italian immigrants

[C19: from Sicilian dialect of Italian, literally hostility to the law, boldness, perhaps from Arabic mahyah bragging]

Ma•fi•a

(ˈmɑ fi ə, ˈmæf i ə)

1. a secret organization allegedly engaged in criminal activities in the U.S. Italy, and elsewhere.

a. (l.c. ) a spirit of hostility to the law.

b. a 19th-century secret society that acted in this spirit.

3. (l.c. ) any influential clique.

[1870–75; < Italian < Sicilian: orig. elegance, bravura, courage (orig. obscure)]

Mafia - a crime syndicate in the United States; organized in families; believed to have important relations to the Sicilian Mafia

omerta - a code of silence practiced by the Mafia; a refusal to give evidence to the police about criminal activities

crime syndicate. syndicate. mob. family - a loose affiliation of gangsters in charge of organized criminal activities

mafioso - a member of the Mafia crime syndicate in the United States

Mafia - a secret terrorist group in Sicily; originally opposed tyranny but evolved into a criminal organization in the middle of the 19th century

act of terrorism. terrorism. terrorist act - the calculated use of violence (or the threat of violence) against civilians in order to attain goals that are political or religious or ideological in nature; this is done through intimidation or coercion or instilling fear

mafioso - a member of the Sicilian Mafia