Definition of gangster noun from the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary



BrE BrE//ˈɡæŋstə(r)//
; NAmE NAmE//ˈɡæŋstər//
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a member of a group of violent criminals Chicago gangsters See related entries: Criminals CulturegangsIn US history gangs were often associated with the Wild West, the western part of the US during the period when people were beginning to move there. People like Jesse James became famous for leading gangs which committed crimes like robbing banks. People involved in organized crime, particularly during the 1920s and 1930s, were called gangsters. The word gang is no longer used to refer to the group known as the Mafia, though members of the Mafia are often involved in gangland killings. Gangs involved in organized criminal activity were less of a problem in Britain, though in the 1960s the Kray twins ran a gang in the East End of London and triads, gangs similar to the Mafia, operate in some Chinese communities in Britain. Criminal gangs involved in human trafficking, bringing people to the UK illegally and making them work for very little pay are an increasing problem.In Britain and the US gang now usually means a street gang, a group of young people in an inner-city area. Gangs have their own parts of the city and keep other gangs out of them. They may show which parts of the city they control by tagging, spraying paint in particular designs on the walls in the area. People who belong to such gangs are called gang members. Crimes commonly associated with street gangs include selling drugs and, in the US, drive-by shootings, when they shoot a member of another gang while driving past, often injuring other people at the same time. In Britain violent crime related to rival gangs, especially stabbing, injuring people with a knife, is increasing. In Britain in the 1960s and 1970s gangs of white skinheads caused fear among ethnic minority groups. In recent years Asian and West Indian gangs have been established in places such as London. Birmingham and Manchester. Many of these gangs were formed originally to defend the local community, but then became involved in criminal activity. There are also football gangs, groups of supporters who attack rival fans at big matches, though this problem has become less serious in recent years.
See the Oxford Advanced American Dictionary entry: gangster