thug

[thuhg]
noun
1.
a cruel or vicious ruffian, robber, or murderer.
2.
(sometimes initial capital letter) one of a former group of professional robbers and murderers in India who strangled their victims.

Origin:
1800–10; < Hindi thag literally, rogue, cheat

thuggery [thuhg-uh-ree] , noun
thuggish, adjective
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World English Dictionary
thug (θʌɡ)
 
n
1.  a tough and violent man, esp a criminal
2.  (sometimes capital) (formerly) a member of an organization of robbers and assassins in India who typically strangled their victims
 
[C19: from Hindi thag thief, from Sanskrit sthaga scoundrel, from sthagati to conceal]
 
'thuggery
 
n
 
'thuggish
 
adj

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
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Etymonline
Word Origin & History

thug
1810, "member of a gang of murderers and robbers in India who strangled their victims," from Marathi thag, thak "cheat, swindler," Hindi thag, perhaps from Skt. sthaga-s "cunning, fraudulent," possibly from sthagayati "(he) covers, conceals," from PIE base *(s)teg- "cover" (see
stegosaurus). Transferred sense of "ruffian, cutthroat" first recorded 1839. The more correct Indian name is phanseegur, and the activity was described in Eng. as far back as c.1665. Rigorously prosecuted by the British from 1831, they were driven from existence, but the process extended over the rest of the 19c.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Encyclopedia Britannica
Encyclopedia

thug

member of a well-organized confederacy of professional assassins who traveled in gangs throughout India for several hundred years. (The earliest authenticated mention of the thugs is found in Ziya'-ud-Din Barani, History of Firuz Shah, dated about 1356.) The thugs would insinuate themselves into the confidence of wayfarers and, when a favourable opportunity presented itself, strangle them by throwing a handkerchief or noose around their necks. They then plundered and buried them. All this was done according to certain ancient and rigidly prescribed forms and after the performance of special religious rites, in which the consecration of the pickax and the sacrifice of sugar formed a prominent part. Although the thugs traced their origin to seven Muslim tribes, Hindus appear to have been associated with them at an early period; at any rate, their religious creed and practices as worshipers of Kali, the Hindu goddess of destruction, showed no influence of Islam. The fraternity possessed a jargon of its own (Ramasi) and signs by which its members recognized each other

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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Example sentences
It's often a puzzle to me how one plant can be well-behaved and valued in one
  area but a thug in another region.
Today he's staring at the face of a thug on the screen of his gunmetal-gray
  laptop.
His former image of brutal thug has turned into builder.
Pro basketball doesn't have a drug problem or a thug problem.
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