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[thuhg] /θʌg/
a cruel or vicious ruffian, robber, or murderer.
(sometimes initial capital letter) one of a former group of professional robbers and murderers in India who strangled their victims.
Origin of thug
1800-10; < Hindi thag literally, rogue, cheat
Related forms
[thuhg-uh-ree] /ˈθʌg ə ri/ (Show IPA),
thuggish, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for thugs
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Maybe I can't fight half a dozen thugs of your gang, but I can handle you, all right, without any help!

    Black Star's Campaign Johnston McCulley
  • Ned buzzed by, picked up two of the thugs, and hauled them off to the cells.

    Arm of the Law Harry Harrison
  • They were not thugs, they were neither sanguinary nor thievish.

    Romantic Spain John Augustus O'Shea
  • The thugs lay in wait for the men with pokes from the "inside."

    The Trail of '98 Robert W. Service
  • In the case of the thugs this was a pickaxe, but with the Dacoits it was an axe with a highly-tempered edge.

    Prisoners Their Own Warders J. F. A. McNair
British Dictionary definitions for thugs


a tough and violent man, esp a criminal
(sometimes capital) (formerly) a member of an organization of robbers and assassins in India who typically strangled their victims
Derived Forms
thuggery, noun
thuggish, adjective
Word Origin
C19: from Hindi thag thief, from Sanskrit sthaga scoundrel, from sthagati to conceal
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 thugs



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 Sanskrit sthaga-s "cunning, fraudulent," possibly from sthagayati "(he) covers, conceals," from PIE root *(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 English 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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