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Old 08-04-2009, 02:58 AM
Join Date: Jun 2005
Posts: 14,292
How did "The Mob" come to mean organized crime?

If you think about it, the term "the mob" doesn't really make sense in reference to organized crime. A criminal organization is by definition the opposite of a mob; it's a small elite group, as opposed to a large crowd of common people which is what "mob" literally means. So how did the term come to mean what it now does?
Old 08-04-2009, 03:10 AM
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Join Date: May 2000
Posts: 26,897
I asked a similar question once that got some good responses. I was going to say that it was a while ago but it looks like it was a really long time ago. It doesn't directly answer your question but it should help.

"What is the difference between "The Mob" and the Mafia?"
Old 08-04-2009, 04:41 AM
Join Date: Nov 2003
Location: England
Posts: 2,696
Here, the 'mob' always meant the Army.
Old 08-04-2009, 06:31 AM
Join Date: Mar 2002
Location: Troynovant
Posts: 7,874
It's a natural progression from the original sense of the word mob.

Initially mob was a contraction of the Latin phrase mobile vulgus, the fickle crowd. First cite for this in OED is 1688, under the definition 'a disorderly or riotous crowd, a rabble'.

Clearly it's not a large jump in sense to apply the term to a rabble of criminals, and this specific sense has an earliest cite of 1826 in OED.

5. a. A gang of criminals, esp. thieves.

1826 in G. C. Ingleton True Patriots All (1952) 109 The trial of Brady's mob.
A century later we find it being used in the originally American sense of a gang of organized criminals.

5. b. spec. orig. U.S. An organized association or gang of violent criminals; an organization engaged in large-scale criminal activity. Also (usu. as the Mob): the Mafia.

1927 Amer. Speech 2 385/1 Any kind of a gang was known as a push, a word credited to Australia, but I think it is a sister of the mob of the city underworld. 1929 D. HAMMETT Red Harvest ix. 91 He was in on the Keystone Trust knock-over in Philly two years ago, when Scissors Haggerty's mob croaked two messengers.

Last edited by aldiboronti; 08-04-2009 at 06:32 AM.
Old 08-04-2009, 12:57 PM
Join Date: Aug 2008
Location: Nevada
Posts: 2,162 says 1839 in Australia, 1927 in US.

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