FAST Area Studies Website
Department of Translation Studies, University of Tampere, Finland
Is your shylock (who brags about being a big earner for the borgata)
threatening to do a piece of work because you haven't paid your vig, and
you don't know what the hell he's talking about? You've come to the right
place. This text is taken mostly from The Mafia Handbook, by
Douglas Le Vien, Jr. and Juliet Papa, © Penguin Books 1993, and an article
in the 26 March 1992 Los Angeles Times by John J. Goldman.
- administration: the upper-level power structure of an
organized crime Family, composed of the boss, underboss, and
- associate: an almost-there; someone who works with and
for wiseguys, but who hasn't been sworn in as a member of the
- babania: Heroin, as in dealing. Lucrative but risky for
mob insiders because if they're busted, long prison terms might
compel them to cut a deal and squeal.
- babbo: A dope, idiot, useless underling.
- beef: a complaint or disagreement within the
organization, usually discussed during a sit-down with higher-ups
in the Family.
- big earner: someone who makes a lot of money for
the Family. A LOT of money.
- books, the: euphemism for membership in the Family,
since nothing is ever written down. When there is an availability
(when someone dies), the books are "opened." When no
one is being "made," the books are "closed."
- borgata: a crime Family; brugad.
- boss: the head of the crime Family; he is the only one
who gives permission to "whack" or "make"
someone, and he makes money from all Family operations; synonyms:
- Boss of Bosses; Capo di tutti capi: While no one
proclaims himself the Boss of Bosses anymore, the press awards
this title to whomever they feel is the boss of the strongest of
the five Families of New York, who is also said to preside over Commission meetings.
- broken: demoted in rank; "knocked down."
- brugad: a crime family; borgata.
- burn: to murder; synonyms: break an egg, clip, do a
piece of work, hit, ice, pop, put out a contract on, whack.
- button: a "made" member of the Mafia;
soldier, wiseguy, goodfella, Man of Honor.
- cafone: a phony or embarrassment
to himself and others; "gavone" (slang pronunciation)
- capo: ranking member of a Family who
heads a crew (or group) of soldiers; a skipper, short for
- Capo di tutti capi: see Boss of Bosses
- chased: to be banished from the Mafia and barred from
associating or doing business with any made members. The
punishment is merciful in that the offender is spared death.
- cleaning: taking the necessary steps (driving around,
stopping in various locations) to avoid being followed.
- clip: to murder; see burn
- clock: to keep track of someone's movements and
- comare: a Mafia
mistress; "goumada" (slang pronunciation).
- come in: To go see the boss when summoned.
- Commission, The: the Mafia
"ruling body", typically a panel made up of the bosses
of the five New York Families, Gambino, Genovese, Lucchese,
Colombo, and Bonanno sometimes with representatives from other
U.S. Families, such as Chicago.
- compare: crony, close pal, buddy.
Literally, "godfather" in Italian.
- consigliere: the counselor in
a crime Family; advises boss and handles disputes within the
- contract: a murder assignment.
- Cosa Nostra: Italian for "this thing of
ours," a mob family, the Mafia.
- crew: a group of soldiers that takes orders from a
- cugine: a young toughguy looking to be made.
- do a piece of work: to murder; see burn.
- earner: someone whose expertise is making money for the
- empty suit: someone with nothing to offer who tries to
hang around with mobsters.
- enforcer: a person who threatens, maims, or kills
someone who doesn't cooperate with Family rules or deals.
- fence: someone with worldwide outlets to liquidate
- friend of mine: introduction of a third person who is
not a member of the Family but who can be vouched for by a Family
- friend of ours: introduction of one made member to
- gavone: see cafone.
- get a place ready: To find a burial site.
- gift: A bribe, sometimes for a juror.
- give a pass: To grant a reprieve from being whacked.
- going: About to be whacked.
- going south: stealing, passing money under the table,
going on the lam.
- goombah, goomba, gumba: Sicilian
slang for the Italian compare;
- goumada: see comare.
- hard-on with a suitcase: mob lawyer; feminine: half a
hard-on with a suitcase.
- hot place: a location suspected of being the target of
law enforcement or surveillance.
- ice: to murder; see burn.
- joint, the: prison; synonyms: the can, the pen, go away
- loanshark: someone who lends mob money at an exorbitant
interest rate; a shylock.
- made: to be sworn into La Cosa Nostra; synonyms: to be
"straightened out," to get your button.
- make a marriage: to bring two parties together for
legitimate or illegitimate Family issues.
- mattresses, hitting the, taking to the: going to war
with a rival Family or gang.
- meat eater: a corrupt cop (not exclusively mobspeak).
- Mustache Petes: Old fashioned or older generation
- nut, the: mobspeak for "the bottom line";
also the gross profit figure.
- Omertá: the code of silence and one of the premier
vows taken when being sworn into the Family. Violation is
punishable by death.
- off the record: an action taken without the knowledge
or approval of the Family.
- on the record: an action sanctioned by the Family.
- piece: a gun.
- pinched: arrested.
- pop: to murder; see burn
- problem: A liability, someone likely to be whacked.
- rat: a member who violates Omertá; synonyms: squealer,
canary, snitch, stool pigeon, yellow dog.
- shylock: see loanshark
- sit-down: a meeting with the Family administration to
- skim: Tax-free gambling profits, as in the money taken
that is not reported to the IRS.
- skipper: a capo.
- stand-up guy: someone who refuses to rat out the Family
no matter what the pressure, offer, or threat.
- swag: stolen goods, also an acronym for "stolen
without a gun."
- vig: the interest payment on a loan
from a loanshark (short for "vigorish"). Synonym:
- vouch for: to personally guarantee--with one's
life--the reputation of someone dealing with the Family.
- walk talk, take a walk: to conduct a sensitive
discussion while striding up and down the block to avoid being
overheard on those pesky eavesdropping devices.
- whack: to murder; see burn.
- Young Turks: Younger, less traditional generation of
Mafiosi. Less likely to live by the old rules.
- Zips: American Mafiosi's derogatory term for
This glossary has been reformatted from an original at the former
<www.gotti.com> website, no longer online as of October 1999. The
information is supplied here as examples of terminology stereotypically
associated with the Mafia in the United States, and often by
extension with the larger Italian-American community. The glossary is
intended only as examples of usage in popular media; it does not imply
value judgment of any sort.
FAST Glossary Center
Last Updated 25 April 2010