The term Mafia was originally used in Italy by the media and law enforcement to describe criminal groups in Sicily. The origins of the term are debatable. Like the Sicilian Mafia, the American Mafia didn't use the term Mafia to describe itself. Neither group has a formal name and instead used the term Cosa Nostra (Italian for our thing) when referring to themselves. When Italian immigrants started forming organized crime groups in America, the American press borrowed the term Mafia from Italy and it became the predominant name used by law enforcement and the public.
Mafia properly refers to either the Sicilian or American Mafia. In modern usage, when referring to the Mafia, there may be several meanings, including a local area's Italian organized crime element, the Mafia family of a major city, the entire Mafia of the United States, or the original Sicilian Mafia. Widespread recognition of the word has led to its use in the names of other criminal organizations, such as Russian Mafia, Mexican Mafia or Jewish Mafia, as well as non-criminal organizations, such as the term Irish Mafia (not to be confused with the Irish Mob, also referred to as the Irish Mafia), applied to John F. Kennedy's political team.
Read more about this topic: La Cosa Nostra
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