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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 22, 2003
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2
a real gangster. organized crime. gangsters now and days think their tough just becuz they are poor. crips, bloods, street gangs are all fake wannabe's. the mafia is the real gangsters.
pat aka bob dont know shit. stupid motherfucker, they may not still be around but they were the first and only real gangsters.
by SMgangsta760 January 15, 2005
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3
The mafia has been around for thousands of years, way before these ghetto gangs
by Jersey kid February 14, 2008
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5
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 26, 2003
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