A gangster is a criminal who is, or at some point almost invariably becomes, a member of a persistent violent crime organization, such as a gang. As an adjective it can be used as an unflattering depiction of the violent and devious methods commonly used by mobsters, and the derived form gangsterism implies such methods as practice or habit. The term gangster is most commonly used in reference to members of the criminal organizations associated with American prohibition and the American offshoot of the Italian Cosa Nostra, the Mafia (sometimes called the Mob), such as the Chicago Outfit and the Five Families, and individuals such as Al Capone and Bugsy Siegel.
Gangsters are typically organized criminals who are actively engaged in crime as a group activity or enterprise for power, pleasure, or profit. The visibility of activities of gangsters can range from the low-level such as drug-trafficking or protection rackets, which are prone to be "under the radar", to the in-your-face spectacular, such as the UK's multi-million Brinks Mat robbery. Gangsters often run their operations as businesses insofar as they offer a "product" or "service", albeit an illegal one, or, as is sometimes the case, a legitimate business operating as a front for criminal activity.
Some gangsters, sometimes called thugs, engage in extortion, intimidation, and bribery to wield influence over labor unions. They are also known for attempting to manipulate the decisions of civil institutions, such as court cases and political elections. Gangsters are frequently romanticized in popular culture in films such as The Godfather series and TV shows like The Sopranos. In the controversial gangsta rap genre of music the term "gangster" is associated with having power and being street smart, being admirable. As a result of this the term "gangster" is sometimes used (probably somewhat facetiously) as a compliment. This term is also often abbreviated as "G", rather than project the whole spelling of the word.
Some well known gangsters include Ma Barker, Al Capone, Mickey Cohen, Ellsworth Johnson, Johnny Dio, John Gotti, Bugs Moran, Bernardo Provenzano, Ronnie and Reggie Kray, Ronnie Biggs, and Bugsy Siegel.