Ok, I recommended many definitions for deletion. It seems everybody has thier personal version of mafia's history. I am Sicilian and the study of the Mafias (we prefer plural vs one single mafia) is one of my interests, as a Sicilian and as a student. Also... I'm no member of any "family" you may think of.

The word itself has rather obscure origins, and its history and meaning is totally unrelated with modern concept of mafia.

Modern Mafias have so many different aspects I couldn't say if one is wronger than others. Nowadays the term "Mafia" can be rightly (and sadly) related to almost every socio-political aspect of our lives. We could say the word itself has gained a more general and complex meaning since its migration from Sicily to USA.

As regards the word itself: its origin can be traced back in the centuries. Sure it had something to do with the many invasions Sicily was exposed to. During the ages, Sicily has been invaded by pretty much ALL of the peoples in the Mediterranean Area: Greeks, Romans, Normands (~French), Arabs, Spanish, Italians nowadays. This gave the island's culture an inmense richness, but as a side effect created among Sicilians some sort of silent "brotherhood" against anyone coming from the outside world.

This "brotherhood", meaning protection of the masses from the invasors, lately degenerated into an oppression of the masses. The term mafia, originally indicating (not meaning) a group of people "respected" for being charismatic members of that brotherhood, slightly but inesorably turned into a synonym for organized crime.

My personal idea is that the two different meanings still coexist in Sicilian culture, often originating a confusig and ambiguous mix.

As regards the "international" meaning... well I guess everybody has a very distorted prespective, maybe the best definition is "Those loud mouth Italian criminals talking with gestures like in the class A movie The Godfather"!
Sicilian never say the word "mafia". really, I never heard a Sicilian call it mafia. We use periphrases, I bet you'll never catch it unless you're Sicilian
by prof December 23, 2003
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The mafia has been around for thousands of years, way before these ghetto gangs
by Jersey kid February 14, 2008
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Businesspeople who usually operate outside the law in order to maximize their profits. Murder, extortion, threats to families, theft, fraud, bootlegging, and broken kneecaps are regular business practices.
The MAFIA is not dead. It is simply hiding in plain sight.
by AYB June 27, 2003
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The Mafia is a criminal syndicate dating back many years. It originally, well, originated in Sicily, and expanded. It was first a group for people that needed protection from the goverment, other people, et cetera. It is a very strongly structed and organized group, with several "Don's", who are the bosses. One must be Sicilian or Italian on the fathers side to join the Mafia. Rumours circulate that the initiation rite is one must hold spread blood on the picture of a saint or other holy figure, and then hold it as it burns.
There is also an American Mafia or sorts, some like the above, call the 'Cosa Nostra' translating into "our thing". Organized much the same way as the Sicilian Mafia, it deals in drugs, prostitution, money laundering, white collar crime, violence, and extortion. It has grown very powerful, especially in Chicago, Detroit, and New York City. Until changed, under the 'moustache Petes' the Mafia would only do buisness with those of Sicilian ancestory, although under 'Lucky' Luciano (also created the Mafia's 'Murder, Inc.) it now deals with other people of other nationalities.
See also the Red Mafiya(Russian Mafia)
Cosa Nostra
And of course, as boldly stated, the Bush Administration.
'Lucky' Luciano, was one of the Mafia's Don's in New York.
by Ryan J. F. October 26, 2006
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an italian gang that originated in sicily and is now mostly found in the new york tri-state area.they consider themselves to be a family and they have specific duties while in this family and specific places to be .they mug,murder. and have other wars with mafias.they are also highly respected. they originally immigrated from sicilly and went to new york citys upper east side some crimes they dont commit are mostly sex crimes and kidnapping,they do hold some people hostage.they do not commit crimes against children.
1.my grandfather was killed because he was in the mafia and he was constantly performing hits

2.this place is more crowded than a mafia funeral
by mizguidette May 11, 2010
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Crazier than the bloods and the crips put together and unlike the bloods and the crips they have brains
Jim: Another guy got killed execution style today, he tried to fuck with the mafia and they killed him
Tom: Those guys are crazier than the bloods and crips put together
Jim: yea, plus you can't outsmart them like bloods and cirps
Tom: right, white people aren't complete dumbasses
Jim: could u imagine an asain mafia they could kung-fu ur ass death and they are smart as hell.
by Deshawn Thomas February 8, 2006
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