Mafia is a word that is used to describe a type of organized crime based in Italy and America whose activities include private protection service, settling of disputes between criminals, the brokering and enforcing of illegal agreements and transactions, gambling, etc.
According to scholars Diego Gambetta and Leopoldo Franchitti, Mafia mainly provide protection services.
They use their fearsome reputation for violence to deter people from swindling, robbing, or competition with those who pay them for protection.
They provide essential service when people cannot rely on the police and the judiciary to enforce their contracts and protect their properties from thieves.
There are various Mafia organizations in general. There is the Sicilian Mafia, which is the original Mafia group that originated in the region of Sicily. There is the American Mafia, the Japanese Mafia commonly known as ‘Yakuza’ by the public, the Russian Mafia who call themselves ‘Bratva’. The ‘Ndrangheta’, which originated from the southern Italian region of Calabria, is widely considered as the richest and most powerful Mafia in the world.
The term ‘Mafia’ originates in Sicily and it originally applied only to the Sicilian Mafia, but has since expanded to encompass other organizations of similar methods and purpose.
Mafia is derived from the Sicilian adjective mafiusu, which means ‘swagger’, but can also be translated as ‘boldness’.
It is also possible that the word has roots in Arabic words. For example, mafya is a word which means place of shade(refuge)in Arabic. In the eleventh century, the Normans destroyed Saracen rule in Sicily, with Sicily becoming feudalistic.
Most Arab smallholders in the region became serfs on new estates, with some escaping to “the Mafia” which became a secret refuge for them.