noun, plural ghet·tos, ghet·toes.

  1. a section of a city, especially a thickly populated slum area, inhabited predominantly by members of an ethnic or other minority group, often as a result of social or economic restrictions, pressures, or hardships.
  2. (formerly, in most European countries) a section of a city in which all Jews were required to live.
  3. a section predominantly inhabited by Jews.
  4. any mode of living, working, etc., that results from stereotyping or biased treatment: job ghettos for women; ghettos for the elderly.


  1. pertaining to or characteristic of life in a ghetto or the people who live there: ghetto culture.
  2. Slang: Often Disparaging and Offensive. noting something that is considered to be unrefined, low-class, cheap, or inferior: Her furniture is so ghetto!

noun plural -tos or -toes

  1. sociol a densely populated slum area of a city inhabited by a socially and economically deprived minority
  2. an area in a European city in which Jews were formerly required to live
  3. a group or class of people that is segregated in some way

1610s, “part of a city to which Jews were restricted,” especially in Italy, from Italian ghetto “part of a city to which Jews are restricted,” various theories of its origin include: Yiddish get “deed of separation;” special use of Venetian getto “foundry” (there was one near the site of that city’s ghetto in 1516); a clipped word from Egitto “Egypt,” from Latin Aegyptus (presumably in memory of the exile); or Italian borghetto “small section of a town” (diminutive of borgo, of Germanic origin, see borough). Extended by 1899 to crowded urban quarters of other minority groups (especially blacks in U.S. cities). As an adjective by 1903 (modern slang usage from 1999). Ghetto-blaster “large, portable stereo” is from 1982.

Originally, areas of medieval cities in which Jews (see also Jews) were compelled to live. Today the term usually refers to sections of American cities inhabited by the poor. (See inner city.)

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