Mobspeak Glossary

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. Learn what all that mobspeak means!

This text is taken mostly from both The Mafia Handbook by Douglas Le Vien, Jr. and Juliet Papa, Penguin Books 1993, and an article printed on 3-26-92 from the Los Angeles Times by John J. Goldman. So I'm too lazy to make up my own stuff. At least I admit it when I plagiarize. (Comments by original author, not R.A.)




administration: the upper-level power structure of an organized crime Family, composed of the boss, underboss, and consigliere.

associate: an almost-there; someone who works with and for wiseguys, but who hasn't been sworn in as a member of the Family.

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. Usage: "These babania guys. They go, they get 848, 150 years (in prison). They're in there."--Gotti.

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: don, chairman.

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 capodecina.

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 activities.

comare: a Mafia mistress; "goumada" (slang pronunciation).

come in: To go see the boss when summoned. Usage:

    Gravano: "There were complaints he wasn't coming in."

    Gleeson: "So what did you do?"

    Gravano: "We killed him."

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 ranks.

contract: a murder assignment.

Cosa Nostra: Italian for "this thing of ours," "our thing," a mob family, the Mafia.

crew: a group of soldiers that takes orders from a capo.

cugine: a young toughguy looking to be made.

Cyborgata(tm): A word coined by a reader of the John Gotti Tribute Page. Cyberspace + borgata = Online Crime Family.

do a piece of work: to murder; see burn.

earner: someone whose expertise is making money for the Family.

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 swag.

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 member.

friend of ours: introduction of one made member to another.

gavone: see cafone.

get a place ready: To find a burial site.

gift: A bribe, sometimes for a juror. Jurors in two previous trials of Gambino family members (supposedly) received these, resulting in the inability of both juries to reach a guilty verdict.

give a pass: To grant a reprieve from being whacked. Usage: "Stay in Staten Island, lay low, and I will give you a pass."--Gravano.

going: About to be whacked. Usage: "Right after the trial, he was going."--Salvatore Gravano.

going south: stealing, passing money under the table, going on the lam.

goombah, goomba, gumba: Sicilian slang for the Italian compare; plural: goombata

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 to college.

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 Mafiosi.

nut, the: mobspeak for "the bottom line"; also the gross profit figure.

Omertà: 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. Usage, from the trial:

    Gravano: "He started taking drugs and became a problem."

    Prosecutor John Gleeson: "Did you do anything once you perceived this problem?"

    Gravano: "Yes."

    Gleeson: "What did you do?"

    Gravano: "We killed him."

rat: a member who violates Omertà; synonyms: squealer, canary, snitch, stool pigeon, yellow dog.

shylock: see loanshark

sit-down: a meeting with the Family administration to settle disputes.

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.

vig: the interest payment on a loan from a loanshark (short for "vigorish"). Synonym: juice.

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. Usage: "Sammy tells me you and him took a walk about a concrete plant in New Jersey."--Gotti.

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 Sicilian Mafiosi.


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