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[get-oh] /ˈgɛt oʊ/
noun, plural ghettos, ghettoes.
a section of a city, especially a thickly populated slum area, inhabited predominantly by members of an ethnic or other minority group, often as a result of social or economic restrictions, pressures, or hardships.
(formerly, in most European countries) a section of a city in which all Jews were required to live.
a section predominantly inhabited by Jews.
any mode of living, working, etc., that results from stereotyping or biased treatment:
job ghettos for women; ghettos for the elderly.
pertaining to or characteristic of life in a ghetto or the people who live there:
ghetto culture.
Slang: Often Disparaging and Offensive. noting something that is considered to be unrefined, low-class, cheap, or inferior:
Her furniture is so ghetto!
Origin of ghetto
1605-15; < Italian, orig. the name of an island near Venice where Jews were forced to reside in the 16th century < Venetian, literally, foundry for artillery (giving the island its name), noun derivative of ghettare to throw < Vulgar Latin *jectāre; see jet1 Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for ghettos
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Their spirits were liberated and in thought they no longer lived in ghettos.

    The Jewish State Theodor Herzl
  • This was the first ray that penetrated the ghettos from without.

  • Nearly a million of these people are crowded into the New York ghettos.

    Our Foreigners Samuel P. Orth
  • Down almost to our own time the ghettos have existed in Europe, and popular tumults against them continue to occur.

  • Missions and chapels in the slums and synagogues in the ghettos have carried religion to the lowest classes.

    Society Henry Kalloch Rowe
  • Thereat arose a new and stranger commotion throughout all the ghettos, Jewries, and Mellahs.

British Dictionary definitions for ghettos


noun (pl) -tos, -toes
(sociol) a densely populated slum area of a city inhabited by a socially and economically deprived minority
an area in a European city in which Jews were formerly required to live
a group or class of people that is segregated in some way
Word Origin
C17: from Italian, perhaps shortened from borghetto, diminutive of borgo settlement outside a walled city; or from the Venetian ghetto the medieval iron-founding district, largely inhabited by Jews
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for ghettos



1610s, "part of a city to which Jews were restricted," especially in Italy, from Italian ghetto "part of a city to which Jews are restricted," various theories of its origin include: Yiddish get "deed of separation;" special use of Venetian getto "foundry" (there was one near the site of that city's ghetto in 1516); a clipped word from Egitto "Egypt," from Latin Aegyptus (presumably in memory of the exile); or Italian borghetto "small section of a town" (diminutive of borgo, of Germanic origin, see borough). Extended by 1899 to crowded urban quarters of other minority groups (especially blacks in U.S. cities). As an adjective by 1903 (modern slang usage from 1999). Ghetto-blaster "large, portable stereo" is from 1982.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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ghettos in Culture

ghettos definition

Originally, areas of medieval cities in which Jews were compelled to live. Today the term usually refers to sections of American cities inhabited by the poor. (See inner city.)

The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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