action:

Gambling that is done through a bookie or other illegal means. The Mafia always demands “a piece of the action.”

administration:

In the corporate hierarchy, this is the top echelon of a Mafia family. It includes the boss, underboss, and consigliere. Like the top officers in any legitimate corporation, these are the men who make the decisions, though in the underworld, termination has more finality than a pink slip.

agita:

The Italian expression for a tummy ache. It is also used to convey a general state of free-floating anxiety.

airing:

If a Mafioso says this to you he is not inviting you to join him to savor the gentle evening breeze. It means that he is going to kill you.

alkali:

Whiskey, especially of the bootleg variety. It is slang for the word alcohol.

alky cooker:

Prohibition language for a still, a makeshift distillery to make moonshine alcohol.

alky racket:

Prohibition expression for the bootleg business. Alky is a slang expression for “alcohol” and sometimes for an alcoholic.

American way:

This is not a patriotic slogan; it is the Mafia's phrase for the peaceful coexistence of rival crime families.

amico:

A friend or associate of a crime family who is not a member of the family.

amico nostro:

The Italian phrase for “friend of ours.” It is how a member of a crime family introduces a stranger who is also a made man.

Apache Indian job:

Attack by firebomb that kills the victim and destroys the building he was in with such efficiency that identification of the body is difficult.

area man:

An organized crime official who has jurisdiction over a particular area within a crime family's turf.

The Arm:

The name for the Buffalo crime family.

assassin's special:

The preferred weapon of choice for many a Mafia hit man: A .22-caliber handgun with a silencer.

associate:

The Mafia equivalent of an office temp. He works for a crime family but is not a wise guy or a made man.

attaché casing:

Making the rounds and collecting bribes of such volume that they have to be lugged home to the don in a briefcase.

away:

When a Mafioso is doing jail time, he is simply said to be “away.” Another euphemism is the ironic “away at college.”

babania:

The drug traffic, especially heroin.

baby sitter:

A police or federal bodyguard for a “rat” who is under witness protection.

bag man:

A low-level hood who is sent on errands. He is usually either picking up or delivering money.

banana race:

A horserace that has a “sure thing” winner. In other words, the race has been fixed.

B-and-A racket:

A beer and alcohol racket; it is another expression for Prohibition.

Bangkok Connection:

The path that illegal drugs travel from Southeast Asia to the United States. The narcotics industry, long eschewed by the Mafia, eventually became one of its biggest moneymaking rackets.

barracuda:

A politically incorrect expression for an unattractive woman.

barrel murder:

When a murder victim is stuffed into a barrel and left there to decompose, or sometimes weighted down and dumped in the river or at sea.

beauty doctor:

A steel-tipped club. This particularly nasty weapon is designed to maim and mutilate the victim.

beef:

A disagreement with or grievance against someone.

big earner:

The Mafia equivalent of Salesman of the Year. A member of a crime family whose activities make a lot of money for the team.

big papa:

A slang word for the Thompson machine gun, the weapon of choice for many mobsters in the 1930s.

the books:

The “roll” of the family. When the books are closed, no new members are officially inducted. When there is an opening to join a family, the books are open.

boosters:

Small-time street thieves.

borgata:

Another name for a Mafia crime family.

boss:

Another name for the head of a Mafia family. See also don.

Boss of Bosses (Capo di tutti Capi in Italian):

The Mafia don who was the de facto head of the Commission. Outsiders assume that the Alpha Mafioso among the heads of the five families is the Boss of Bosses, but internally the term is not used, since the other four family heads would disagree with the fifth don's claim to the title.

broken:

This Mafia term has the same meaning that it has in the military: to be demoted in rank for an offense against “the family.”

brugad:

Another name for a crime family. See also borgata.

buckwheats:

A particularly nasty murder where the victim is tortured at length before being put out of his misery. This was used in revenge killings of men who had done something especially bad in the eyes of the Mafia.

buon'anima:

This Italian phrase is translated as “rest his soul.” It is obviously uttered in reference to one of the dearly departed — or with mordant irony about someone who has just been whacked.

burn:

To blow someone off, disrespect them, or a more serious snub.

bust out:

Bankruptcy the hard way. Not through abusing credit cards, but through theft and corruption by the mob. It was used as a method to destroy an enemy's livelihood.

buttlegging:

It refers to another form of bootlegging — the buying and selling of untaxed cigarettes.

button:

Another name for a Mafioso who has become a made man.

cafone:

A disreputable character, or as Shakespeare would say, “a slight, unmeritable man.”

canary:

A “stool pigeon.” Someone who “sings” to the law, betraying fellow members of the Mafia.

cane corn:

A type of bootleg alcohol made from corn and cane sugar.

capo:

The Italian word for “captain.” A middle-management Mafioso, usually in charge of a crew or two.

Capo di tutti Capi:

The Italian expression meaning “Boss of Bosses.”

caporegime:

A lieutenant in a crime family. Unlike the military, where a captain is the superior officer to a lieutenant, the caporegime outranks the capo.

captains of industry:

An early name for the Commission, or National Syndicate. Perhaps used as an ironic term by the Mafia, comparing themselves with the Carnegies, Vander-bilts, and other legitimate businessmen whom the Mafia believed to be, in their own way, as ruthless and corrupt as themselves.

carpet:

Another phrase for a meeting held between two or more Mafia families to settle disputes. Perhaps a variation of the slang expression “called on the carpet.”

case:

Checking out a site of a planned robbery or hit, as in “casing the joint.”

cement coffin:

This is when a murder victim is stuffed into a tub or barrel that is filled with cement and dumped in whatever body of water is most convenient.

cement overcoat:

Similar to cement coffin.

cement shoes:

In this instance, only the feet are encased in cement until it hardens, then the victim is buried at sea, sometimes while still alive.

chairman:

A consultant or adviser to the Commission.

chairman of the board:

Another term for don, boss, or head of a crime family. Also a nickname given to Old Blue Eyes himself, Frank Sinatra.

chased:

To be outcast by the Mafia.

che bruta:

An Italian phrase that means “how ugly you are.”

che peccato:

An Italian phrase that means “what a pity, what a shame.”

chiacchierone:

An Italian phrase that means “chatterbox.”

chief corrupter:

The member of a crime family whose job it is to corrupt police, judges, elected officials, and others.

CI:

Law enforcement term for a confidential informant.

cleaning:

The efforts that a mobster takes to avoid being followed by any enemy or the law. It involves eluding a tail, or someone following the mobster in a car or on foot or by other means.

clip:

To kill someone.

clock:

To monitor someone's activities; keeping an eye on a person. To hit someone in the face.

code of silence:

See Omerta.

Col tempo la foglia di gelso diventa seta:

An Italian phrase that means “Time and patience change the mulberry leaf to satin.”

comare:

A Mafia girlfriend. A term of endearment.

The Combination:

A 1930s name for the Mafia.

come heavy:

To arrive on the scene carrying a gun. If a Mafioso is told to “come heavy,” he knows that there is likely to be gunplay.

come in:

An audience with the don when he requests your presence. This is an invitation you can't refuse.

The Commission:

The Mafia leadership made up of the bosses of the five New York families — Gambino, Genovese, Luc-chese, Colombo, and Bonanno.

compare:

A pal, chum, or a buddy in Mafia lingo.

connected:

A person who regularly does business with the Mafia but is not a member of a family.

consigliere:

The counselor or adviser to the don, often but not always an attorney.

contract:

a hit ordered on a specific person, usually accompanied by a monetary award.

Cosa Nostra:

The Italian phrase literally meaning “Our Thing,” which is what the Mafia calls itself. The phrase came to national attention during the Valachi hearings.

crew:

A band of Mafia soldiers that reports to a capo. Crews engage in all manner of mischief, including heists and hijacking. Some crews can also report to a soldier, or in some cases a well-connected associate.

cugine:

An ambitious and youthful Mafioso whose goal is to be “made.” Though he is valuable, he is also regarded with a wary eye by the elder gangsters, since he may also be a threat sometime down the line. See also Young Turks.

CW:

An FBI term that stands for “cooperating witness.”

deadbeat:

Someone who does not pay his debts or is habitually late.

deli:

Abbreviated version of the word delegate, as in union delegate.

dime:

The slang expression for $1,000.

district man:

A crime family officer whose turf covers a small section of a city or suburban area.

do a piece of work:

To kill someone.

dollar:

Another slang expression for $1,000.

double-decker coffin:

A coffin with a false bottom that accommodates two bodies. The paying customer is in the top tier, and the victim of a mob hit whom the Mafia would like to secretly bury is hidden below. Joe Bonanno was one of the first mobsters to use this method of disposal.

drop a dime:

To rat someone out, or to call the police on a mobster.

drop man:

A low-level hood who picks up the bets from the numbers runner.

earner:

A moneymaker for a crime family. See also big earner.

eat alone:

To be a greedy gangster and keep the loot for yourself, not allowing others to “wet their beaks.”

elder statesman:

Another name for the boss of a crime family.

empty suit:

A Mafioso wannabe, a hanger-on who is regarded with contempt by the members of the family due to his incompetence.

enforcer:

A tough guy who uses violence to send a message from his Mafia superiors. See also muscle.

envelope:

Money paid for protection or bribery, handed over in an envelope.

executioner:

An unusually direct Mafia phrase meaning “hit man.”

facia bruta:

An Italian expression that means “ugly face.”

The feds:

The federal government, specifically its law enforcement wing. It has been the longtime bane of the Mafia's existence.

fence:

A person who takes stolen merchandise and is able to sell it without attracting the attention of the authorities. Oftentimes a fence has a storefront or pawnshop to move items.

field man:

A mobster-manager who supervises a group of numbers runners.

fifth estate:

Another name for organized crime.

finger:

To inform on a person and report them to the Mafia. This could be for a lesser offense or for a hit.

The five families:

The Bonanno, Colombo, Gambino, Genovese, and Lucchese crime families located in New York City. These are the most powerful organized crime units in the country.

five times thirty-eight:

To be shot five times with a .38-caliber revolver. Mafia hit men often empty their guns into their target. Better safe than sorry.

forbidden fruit:

This term refers to a “good” Italian girl who attracts the attention of an amorous Mafioso.

fratellanza:

The Italian word for “brotherhood”; another name for the Mafia.

friend of mine:

The expression for someone who is not a member of the crime family but is deemed trustworthy.

friend of ours:

What one “made” man says when introducing another “made” man to the family. It means the other person is a made member and not an associate.

fugazi:

A slang expression for anything that is counterfeit, including counterfeit currency, made famous in the movie Donnie Brasco.

G:

Shorthand for the government. FBI agents were called “G-Men” in the Golden Age of Mafia misbehavior.

gaff:

A crooked person and unrepentant con man and thief.

gangbuster:

A law enforcement officer at the federal, state, or local level whose mandate is to battle organized crime. Eliot Ness and Thomas E. Dewey were two famous gangbusters. So was Rudy Giuliani before he became mayor of New York City.

gangland:

A generic name for organized crime. It was also the nickname for Chicago during the Al Capone years.

get a place ready:

A nice way of saying that a place should be prepared to dispose of a person who is soon to be whacked.

gift:

A euphemism for a bribe.

gira diment:

An Italian phrase that means “going crazy.”

give a pass:

This is something that a Mafioso would be happy to hear. It means that he has been granted a stay of execution. In other words, he is not going to be whacked.

giveup:

The percentage of a mobster's ill-gotten earnings that he must hand over to his bosses. Just like any business, the bosses in the boardroom make the big money while the working stiffs get the scraps from the table.

godfather:

Another name for don, which entered the vernacular through Mario Puzo's novel and Francis Ford Coppo-la's trilogy of the same name.

going:

This refers to a person who has been targeted to be murdered.

going south:

When a mobster goes “on the lam” to avoid the feds.

goner:

A person who had been marked for murder by the Mafia.

goodfellas:

Another name for wise guys. Also the title of one of the most realistic Mafia movies.

good people:

The term that mobsters use for someone who is easy to deal with, that is, someone who will not have to be whacked anytime soon.

goombah:

A Sicilian slang word for “buddy.”

goon:

Another term for leg breaker and muscle.

graft:

Money paid to corrupt politicians, policemen, and judges for favors and to look the other way.

guests of the state:

A euphemism for being in jail.

gumod/gumar:

A term of endearment for the girlfriend or mistress of a gangster. Most Mafiosi have a kept woman on the side.

hack:

Mafia slang for a prison guard, not an underpaid freelance writer.

half-assed wise guy:

A wannabe who seeks entry into a crime family.

ham-and-cheese sandwich:

Graft paid to a union official.

handbook:

The mobster who sponsors a bookie's gambling operation.

head crusher:

Yet another colorful name for leg breaker, muscle, and goon.

headhunter:

A gun for hire. A contract killer; hit man.

heat:

Pressure and scrutiny from the law.

hijack:

To steal goods and products, usually from a vehicle. Hijacking stuff from airports before it gets to its final destination is a common Mafia enterprise.

hit:

To kill someone.

hit man:

The assassin who does the hit.

hitmobile:

The vehicle the hit man drives, always a nondescript car to avoid attention.

The Honored Society:

A reverential name for the Sicilian Mafia.

hot place:

A location that the Mafia suspects or knows is being targeted by the feds and is probably under surveillance by camera and wiretaps.

ice:

Another of the many synonyms for murder.

ice pick kill:

Just what it sounds like. An ice pick is jammed into the ear and enters the brain of the victim.

independent:

A bookie that is not a Mafioso but pays a tribute to be allowed to stay in business. Kind of like a 7–11 franchise operation.

in the wind:

A person who has disappeared into the Witness Protection Program. They are “gone with the wind.”

Italian rope trick:

Not as charming as it sounds. Strangulation by a rope.

jamook:

An insulting expression. A jamook is basically a dope.

joint:

A slang expression for prison.

juice:

The interest charged on a loan from a loan shark, which is invariably higher than your worst credit card company. Anything over 25 percent interest is illegal, which is why some credit card companies stop at 24.99 percent.

kickback:

Payoff given to the law to look the other way and to avoid the inconvenience of raids.

kiss of death:

A mobster kisses another in a public place. This is not an expression of affection. It means that the Mafioso being kissed is in danger of getting whacked if he doesn't play ball.

lammest:

A person who has gone “on the lam,” meaning he has gone on the run or into hiding to avoid arrest by the police or the wrath of the Mafia.

large:

Slang expression for $1,000.

LCN:

The acronym for La Cosa Nostra.

Little Joe:

This is an assassination technique reserved for compulsive gamblers in over their heads to the loan shark. They are shot four times in the head in two rows of two shots.

loan shark:

A person who loans money with a higher interest rate than your friendly neighborhood credit card company.

made guy:

A hoodlum who is made an official and trusted member of a crime family. The prerequisite for admission is usually to kill someone.

madonn':

This is an expression of surprise.

mafie:

Sicilian gangs that terrorized the peasants and townsfolk back in the Old Country. This was the genesis of the modern Mafia.

make a marriage:

When two mobsters are brought together for family business.

make one's bones:

Making a killing, quite literally, in order to become a “made” man in the Mafia.

mannagge:

This means going to the mattresses in a mob war.

mattresses, going to:

Term meaning getting prepared for a long and drawn-out gang war.

the meets:

When the Mafia families get together to discuss business.

mercy room:

Mafia slang for the emergency room of a hospital.

message job:

This means to shoot someone in a particular body part to send a message to his buddies as to why he was killed.

mezza morta:

An Italian phrase that means “half dead.”

middle:

In gambling parlance, this is a “sure thing.” This is a bet you cannot lose.

middling:

Reselling stolen merchandise that “fell off the back of a truck.”

mobbed up:

Someone who is either “connected” to the Mafia or involved with them in some shady dealings.

Moe Green Special:

Moe Green was a character in The Godfather who was shot in the eye. The character gave the name to this type of Mafia hit.

mortadella:

Another Mafia insult, it literally means an Italian sausage.

motorcade murders:

Drive-by shootings are not a modern phenomenon. During the 1920s there were numerous celebrated drive-bys.

muscle:

Low-level Mafiosi who are the bodyguards, enforcers. Those who are called upon by their superiors to use violence to get the point across.

Mustache Petes:

Name given to an old-fashioned or conservative Mafioso. Though the true Petes were wiped out in gangland wars in the late 1920s and early 1930s, the name still applies to some older mobsters.

nickel:

The Mafia monetary denomination that means $500.

OC:

The acronym for organized crime.

off:

Another synonym for murdering someone.

off the record:

Doing something that is not sanctioned by the family.

The Office:

The nickname for the New England Mafia.

old man:

An affectionate name for the don.

Omerta:

The code of silence that a Mafioso takes when he is initiated into a crime family. Breaking the vow is punishable by death.

on the record:

Doing something that has the approval of the family.

oobatz, u'pazzu:

An Italian expression meaning “crazy.”

The Outfit:

The name for the Chicago Mafia branch.

parakeet:

A not very politically correct term for a good-looking woman.

Partnership:

Name for the Detroit mafia family.

payola:

Another word for graft. Payoffs to corrupt officials to ensure their cooperation.

pazzo:

The Italian word meaning “crazy” or “nuts.”

piacere:

An Italian phrase that means “Pleasure to meet you.”

piece:

Slang for a gun, as in “packing a piece.”

piece of work:

A contract to assassinate a person.

pigeon:

As in stool pigeon, an informant who betrays the Mafia by going to the cops.

pinched:

Meaning to be arrested.

pop:

Another word for murder.

pre-hits:

Ancillary targets in a major hit. It is wise to whack the associates of a bigwig, lest they try to seek vengeance when their don is killed.

problem:

An expression for someone who has caused a problem and is worthy of being whacked.

The Program:

Shorthand for the Witness Protection Program.

put the X on:

To mark for murder. See finger.

put to sleep:

The Mafia probably has more euphemisms than any other organization for murder. This is another.

racket:

Any illegal business. There was the bootleg racket, gambling racket, prostitution racket, and so on.

rat:

A mobster who violates the sacred code of Omerta.

respect:

Something demanded by all Mafiosi. The Mafia brand of respect is, of course, based on fear of getting whacked.

RICO:

Passed into law in 1970, the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act gives prosecutors latitude to get tougher sentences for criminals if it is proven that they are members of an organized crime family.

right arm:

See underboss.

rub out:

Another in the lengthy litany of Mafia synonyms for murder.

screw:

Mafia name for a prison guard.

serious headache:

Mafiosi have an ironic penchant for understatement. It means a bullet in the head.

shills:

The characters you see in a gambling situation who are winning and making it look easy. They are plants to lure in unsuspecting gamblers.

shiv:

Prison slang for a knife made of anything available.

shylock:

Another term for loan shark. Shylock is a character in William Shakespeare's play The Merchant of Venice.

Sicilian necktie:

Piano wire used to strangle the Mafioso's target.

sit-down:

A meeting among high-level Mafiosi to settle disputes and grievances before violence ensues.

skim:

Taking money off the top, usually from gambling profits, so it is not reported to the IRS as taxable income. One of the Mafia's biggest scams was skimming profits from Vegas casinos.

skipper:

Another name for a capo.

snitch:

Another word for someone who is revealing things he shouldn't. A snitch can be relaying information to the police or to another Mafia family.

soldier:

An infantryman in a Mafia crime family. He is a low-level member of the organization and reports to the capo.

sottocapo:

The Italian name for “underboss,” the second in command in the Mafia family.

spring cleaning:

This refers to getting rid of the evidence after a crime has been committed.

stand-up guy:

Someone who is eminently trustworthy and will not “rat out” other mobsters under any circumstances.

stone killer:

An especially sadistic and ruthless professional assassin.

stoolie:

See pigeon.

straightened out:

To become a “made man,” that is, inducted into a Mafia family.

swag:

Another word for stolen property.

take for a ride:

If you are taken for a ride, chances are you won't be coming back.

tax:

A euphemism for taking a cut of another's Mafioso's booty.

telephone solicitor:

A bookmaker, or bookie, who takes bets over the phone.

through the eye:

As in a bullet in the eye.

through the mouth:

As in a bullet in the mouth. This is a form of execution administered to turncoats and stoolies.

trunk music:

This would not be music to your ears. This is the Mafia euphemism for the decomposing flesh of a murder victim stuffed into the trunk of a car.

underboss:

Second in command in a Mafia family.

underworld:

Not the Hades of Greek mythology. This is a generic expression for the world of organized crime.

usury:

Lending money and collecting interest. It was once banned by the Catholic Church but is a common practice by your credit card company and the corner loan shark. And the interest rate is not all that's different between the two.

va fa napole:

An Italian expression that literally means “go to Naples” but is used to convey the sentiment “go to hell.”

vig:

The excessive interest of a loan shark, measured in points.

walking book:

A bookmaker who does not have an office. He makes the rounds to visit his clients.

walk-talk, take a walk:

To have a discussion in a public place, such as a golf course, to avoid the possibility that listening devices might pick up the conversation.

waste management business:

A slang expression for organized crime.

whack:

To commit murder.

wise guys:

Mafiosi who are not “made men,” hence not admitted to the inner sanctum.

Young Turks:

Aggressive and ambitious young Mafiosi who are a threat to the older established dons.

zips:

A term used to describe Sicilian Mafiosi operating in America. Originally a put-down, the term morphed into a catch-all term for any Italian mobster made overseas.

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