Meaning of thug in English:


Pronunciation /θʌɡ/

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  • 1A violent, aggressive person, especially one who is a criminal.

    ‘he was attacked by a gang of thugs’
    • ‘A frail widow was brutally robbed of her life savings in her own home by a violent thug who left her with a broken arm and leg.’
    • ‘He said tougher standards were needed to crack down on thugs and drunken yobs.’
    • ‘Three schoolboys on a day out were stabbed by a gang of thugs.’
    • ‘I am sick of the mindless thugs who think they have a right to disrupt other people's lives.’
    • ‘The peaceful majority should never again have to suffer at the hands of mindless thugs.’
    • ‘A footballer today told how he was beaten up by a gang of thugs who left him unable to play for his team.’
    • ‘Drastic measures need to be taken such as dusk to dawn curfews on thugs and yobs roaming our neighbourhood.’
    • ‘A public meeting is to be held to discuss the rising tide of violence involving young thugs.’
    • ‘Hooligans behave like thugs smashing up anyone and everything in their paths.’
    • ‘There is no reason why a thug should be immune from the ordinary criminal law.’
    • ‘Even though he looks like a thug, he is not necessarily a thug.’
    • ‘The thugs raided the village and began firing their guns to terrorise the farmers.’
    • ‘One of his ancestors suppressed a riot by laying low a man called Murphy, a thug at the head of a mob who was wielding a wire whip.’
    ruffian, hoodlum, bully boy, bully, bandit, mugger, gangster, terrorist, gunman, murderer, killer, hitman, assassin, hooligan, vandal, Yardie
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  • 2

    (also Thug)
    historical A member of a group or organization of robbers and assassins in India who waylaid and strangled their victims, usually travellers, and stole their belongings. They were suppressed by the British in the 1830s.

    ‘In 7th century India members of the Thug cult would ritually strangle passers-by as sacrifices to the Hindu deity, Kali.’
    • ‘The Thugs strangle their victims, steal their possessions, and bury them in pre-dug pits.’
    • ‘The original Thugs were bands of roving criminals in India who strangled and robbed travellers.’
    • ‘A thoughtful comparative analysis of three religious groups, the Zealots, Assassins, and Thugs, by David Rapoport, indicates at least as many differences as similarities between them, particularly in the matter of intention.’
    • ‘The search for bandits and Thugs is based on the author's search through the records, reports and literature concerning crime and criminality in India during the 1800s.’


Early 19th century (in thug (sense 2)): from Hindi ṭhag ‘swindler, thief’, based on Sanskrit sthagati ‘he covers or conceals’. thug (sense 1) arose in the mid 19th century.