any of various tightly knit Japanese criminal organizations having a ritualistic, strict code of honor.
such organizations collectively.
a member of such an organization; gangster.
1960-65; < Japanese: racketeer, gambler, good-for-nothing, useless, from the name of a game in which the worst hand is of three cards marked ya eight, ku nine (< Middle Chinese, equivalent to Chinesejiǒu), and -za three (combining form of sa(n) < Middle Chinese, equivalent to Chinesesān)
traditional Japanese organized crime cartel, lit. "eight-nine-three" (ya, ku, sa) the losing hand in the traditional baccarat-like Japanese card game Oicho-Kabu. The notion may be "good for nothing," or "bad luck" (in someone who runs afoul of them), or it may be a reference to the fact that a player who draws this hand requires great skill to win.