Ask Difference

Gang vs. Mafia — What's the Difference?

Edited by Tayyaba Rehman — By Fiza Rafique — Updated on October 10, 2023
A gang is a group involved in criminal activities, while the Mafia specifically refers to Italian or Italian-American organized crime syndicates.
Gang vs. Mafia — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Gang and Mafia

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Key Differences

Gangs and the Mafia both relate to organized crime, but they have their distinct nuances and origins. A gang, in its broadest definition, is a group of individuals who come together, often based on shared interests or backgrounds, and may involve themselves in illicit activities. Their formation can be spontaneous and can stem from various reasons such as territory disputes, shared objectives, or mutual protection. On the other hand, the Mafia is a historically-rooted organized crime entity, originating from Italy, with structured hierarchies and specific codes of conduct.
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Oct 10, 2023
The term "Mafia" carries with it a cultural and historical weight, often synonymous with the Sicilian Mafia, a secret criminal society originating in the 19th century in Sicily. This organization is known for its rigorous hierarchical structure, omertà (code of silence), and involvement in a variety of criminal enterprises. In contrast, a gang may not necessarily have such stringent structures or codes, and its activities can be varied, ranging from street-level crimes to more organized ventures.
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Oct 10, 2023
Gangs can be found worldwide, adapting to local conditions, motivations, and opportunities. They might be street gangs, prison gangs, or even motorcycle gangs. The activities and motivations behind each gang can differ greatly. Mafia, though having its roots in Italy, has become synonymous with high-level organized crime, and its influence has expanded internationally, especially with the Italian-American Mafia in the United States.
Fiza Rafique
Oct 10, 2023
It's crucial to note that while all Mafia groups can be described as gangs due to their involvement in organized crime, not all gangs qualify as a Mafia. The Mafia has a unique cultural, historical, and organizational context that separates it from other criminal groups. A local group involved in petty theft or minor drug dealing is a gang, but without the specific attributes and heritage of the Mafia, it remains distinct from this renowned criminal organization.
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Oct 10, 2023

Comparison Chart

Definition

A group involved in illicit activities.
An Italian or Italian-American organized crime syndicate.
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Oct 10, 2023
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Origins

Can form spontaneously based on shared interests.
Historically rooted, originating from Sicily in the 19th century.
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Oct 10, 2023

Structural Complexity

Varies, from loose associations to structured groups.
Typically has a strict hierarchical structure and codes of conduct.
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Oct 10, 2023

Presence

Global, adapting to local conditions and motivations.
Originated in Italy, but has global influences, especially in the U.S.
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Oct 10, 2023

Activities

Can range from street-level crimes to more organized ventures.
High-level organized crime, with activities like extortion, money laundering, etc.
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Oct 10, 2023

Compare with Definitions

Gang

An assembly of people with shared interests or activities, not always criminal.
He hung out with a gang of bikers.
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Oct 10, 2023

Mafia

A structured organized crime syndicate of Italian origin.
The Sicilian Mafia has influenced organized crime globally.
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Oct 10, 2023

Gang

A group acting together for a shared purpose.
The gang of thieves was caught on camera.
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Oct 10, 2023

Mafia

A term denoting high-level organized crime syndicates.
The Russian Mafia has expanded its operations internationally.
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Oct 10, 2023

Gang

A gang is a group or society of associates, friends or members of a family with a defined leadership and internal organization that identifies with or claims control over territory in a community and engages, either individually or collectively, in illegal, and possibly violent, behavior. Gangs arose in America by the middle of the nineteenth century and were a concern for city leaders from the time they appeared.
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Aug 06, 2021

Mafia

A criminal organization with deep historical and cultural roots in Italy.
The influence of the Mafia in Sicily dates back centuries.
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Oct 10, 2023

Gang

A group of criminals or hoodlums who band together for mutual protection and profit.
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Aug 06, 2021

Mafia

A secretive criminal society with strict hierarchies and codes.
Witnesses were afraid to testify against the Mafia due to threats.
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Oct 10, 2023

Gang

A group of adolescents who band together, especially a group of delinquents.
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Mafia

A mafia is a type of organized crime syndicate whose primary activities are protection racketeering, arbitrating disputes between criminals, and brokering and enforcing illegal agreements and transactions. Mafias often engage in secondary activities such as gambling, loan sharking, drug-trafficking, prostitution, and fraud.
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Aug 06, 2021

Gang

(Informal) A group of people who associate regularly on a social basis
The whole gang from the office went to a clambake.
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Mafia

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.
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Gang

A group of laborers organized together on one job or under one foreperson
A railroad gang.
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Mafia

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.
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Gang

A matched or coordinated set, as of tools
A gang of chisels.
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Mafia

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

A pack of wolves or wild dogs.
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Mafia

Often mafia(Informal) 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).
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Gang

A herd, especially of buffalo or elk.
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Mafia

A hierarchically structured secret organisation engaged in illegal activities like distribution of narcotics, gambling and extortion.
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Gang

Variant of gangue.
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Mafia

A crime syndicate.
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Gang

To band together as a group or gang.
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Mafia

A trusted group of associates, as of a political leader.
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Gang

To arrange or assemble into a group, as for simultaneous operation or production
Gang several pages onto one printing plate.
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Mafia

An entity which attempts to control a specified arena.
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Gang

To attack as an organized group.
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Mafia

See maffia, maffioso.
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Gang

To go; walk; proceed.
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Mafia

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

(transitive) To attach similar items together to form a larger unit.
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Mafia

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

Pronunciation spelling of gan
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Mafia

Any tightly knit group of trusted associates
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Gang

A number going in company; a number of friends or persons associated for a particular purpose.
The Gashouse Gang
The gang from our office is going out for drinks Friday night.
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Aug 06, 2021

Mafia

An organized crime group, especially of Italian or Italian-American heritage.
The Mafia's code of silence made investigations challenging.
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Oct 10, 2023

Gang

A group of laborers under one foreman; a squad.
A gang of sailors; a railroad gang; a labor gang or pool.
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Aug 06, 2021

Gang

A criminal group with a common cultural background and identifying features, often associated with a particular section of a city.
A youth gang; a neighborhood gang; motorcycle gang.
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Gang

A group of criminals or alleged criminals who band together for mutual protection and profit.
The Winter Hill Gang was quite proficient at murdering rival mobsters in order to take over their rackets.
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Aug 06, 2021

Gang

A group of politicians united in furtherance of a political goal.
The Gang of Four was led by Jiang Qing, the fourth wife of Mao Zedong.
Not all members of the Gang of Six are consistent in their opposition to filibuster.
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Aug 06, 2021

Gang

(US) A chain gang.
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Gang

A combination of similar tools or implements arranged so as, by acting together, to save time or labor; a set.
A gang of saws; a gang of plows; a gang drill; gang milling.
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Gang

A set; all required for an outfit.
A new gang of stays.
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Gang

(electrics) A number of switches or other electrical devices wired into one unit and covered by one faceplate.
An outlet gang box; a double gang switch.
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Aug 06, 2021

Gang

(electrics) A group of wires attached as a bundle.
A gang of wires
Do a drop for the telephone gang, then another drop for the Internet gang, both through the ceiling of the wiring closet.
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Aug 06, 2021

Gang

A going, journey; a course, path, track.
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Gang

(obsolete) An outhouse: an outbuilding used as a lavatory.
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Gang

To go; to walk.
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Gang

A going; a course.
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Gang

A number going in company; hence, a company, or a number of persons associated for a particular purpose; a group of laborers under one foreman; a squad; as, a gang of sailors; a chain gang; a gang of thieves.
Fiza Rafique
Aug 06, 2021

Gang

A combination of similar implements arranged so as, by acting together, to save time or labor; a set; as, a gang of saws, or of plows.
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Aug 06, 2021

Gang

A set; all required for an outfit; as, a new gang of stays.
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Aug 06, 2021

Gang

The mineral substance which incloses a vein; a matrix; a gangue.
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Aug 06, 2021

Gang

A group of teenagers or young adults forming a more or less formalized group associating for social purposes, in some cases requiring initiation rites to join; as, a teen gang; a youth gang; a street gang.
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Aug 06, 2021

Gang

A group of persons organized for criminal purposes; a criminal organization; as, the Parker gang.
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Gang

An association of criminals;
Police tried to break up the gang
A pack of thieves
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Gang

An informal body of friends;
He still hangs out with the same crowd
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Gang

An organized group of workmen
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Gang

Tool consisting of a combination of implements arranged to work together
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Gang

Act as an organized group
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Gang

A group of individuals associating for criminal activities.
The local police are working to dismantle the new street gang.
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Oct 10, 2023

Gang

A cohesive group, often involved in illicit actions.
The gang was responsible for a series of robberies.
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Gang

An organized group, often youth, involved in crime.
The city has seen a rise in gang violence this year.
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Common Curiosities

Is the structure of a gang always less organized than that of the Mafia?

Not necessarily. Some gangs can be highly organized, but the Mafia is known for its strict hierarchies and codes.
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Is omertà associated with gangs or the Mafia?

Omertà, the code of silence, is specifically associated with the Mafia.
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Oct 10, 2023

Can a group be both a gang and a Mafia?

Yes, a Mafia is a specific type of gang with its unique attributes.
Fiza Rafique
Oct 10, 2023

Is every criminal group a Mafia?

No, while every Mafia is a criminal group, not every criminal group qualifies as a Mafia.
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Oct 10, 2023

Does the term "Mafia" only apply to Italian criminal organizations?

While the term originated with Italian crime syndicates, it's sometimes used more broadly to describe similar organized crime groups, especially in the U.S.
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Oct 10, 2023

Can a small group of teenagers involved in minor thefts be termed as a Mafia?

No, they would more appropriately be termed a gang. The Mafia has specific historical, structural, and cultural connotations.
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Oct 10, 2023

Are all gangs involved in violent activities?

No, while many gangs are involved in violence, their activities can range from non-violent crimes like theft to violent offenses.
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Oct 10, 2023

Are Mafias always involved in high-level crimes?

Mafias are typically associated with high-level organized crime, but their activities can vary.
Fiza Rafique
Oct 10, 2023

Can all Mafias be termed as gangs?

Yes, since they are organized groups involved in crime, they can be termed as gangs.
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Oct 10, 2023

Which has a broader presence, gang or Mafia?

Gangs have a broader presence as they can form anywhere based on various motivations, while the Mafia has specific origins.
Fiza Rafique
Oct 10, 2023

Are the terms "gang" and "Mafia" interchangeable?

No, while all Mafias can be termed gangs, not all gangs have the specific attributes of a Mafia.
Fiza Rafique
Oct 10, 2023

Do gangs have codes of conduct like the Mafia's omertà?

Some gangs might have their codes or rules, but omertà is specific to the Mafia.
Fiza Rafique
Oct 10, 2023

Is the term "gang" only associated with crime?

Primarily, yes, but it can also refer to a group of people with shared interests or activities, not always criminal.
Fiza Rafique
Oct 10, 2023

Where did the Mafia originate?

The Mafia originated in Sicily in the 19th century.
Fiza Rafique
Oct 10, 2023

Can the word "gang" be used in a non-criminal context?

Yes, it can refer to a group of people with shared interests, though it often implies some form of cohesion or association.
Fiza Rafique
Oct 10, 2023

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Fiza Rafique
Fiza Rafique is a skilled content writer at AskDifference.com, where she meticulously refines and enhances written pieces. Drawing from her vast editorial expertise, Fiza ensures clarity, accuracy, and precision in every article. Passionate about language, she continually seeks to elevate the quality of content for readers worldwide.
Tayyaba Rehman is a distinguished writer, currently serving as a primary contributor to askdifference.com. As a researcher in semantics and etymology, Tayyaba's passion for the complexity of languages and their distinctions has found a perfect home on the platform. Tayyaba delves into the intricacies of language, distinguishing between commonly confused words and phrases, thereby providing clarity for readers worldwide.

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