What is the term for a person who conducts illegal business? Surely it is not illegal businessman, but maybe that could work.

  • 1
    "I'm a superstitious man, and if some unlucky accident should befall him, if he should get shot in the head by a police officer, or if he should hang himself in his jail cell, or if he's struck by a bolt of lightning, then I'm going to blame some of the people in this room. And that, I do not forgive. But that aside, let me say that I swear on the souls of my grandchildren, that I will not be the one to break the peace that we have made here today." - Don Corleone, The Godfather Apr 28, 2011 at 7:39
  • 2
    There are very specific words, as many have mentioned, for specific crimes. Can you specify the illegal business?
    – Sam
    Apr 28, 2011 at 13:16

5 Answers 5


It will be in any case a criminal, maybe a career criminal. When it goes to drug business, you call it a druglord, which in himself is a kind of kingpin. You can choose your poison.

But in the end, without contest, the word which would best fit your definition is a racketeer, although career criminal or illegal businessman are not bad themselves.

  • 4
    Let's not forget loanshark, blackmailer, trafficker, gangster, pimp, conman, etc.
    – ogerard
    Apr 28, 2011 at 8:30
  • 1
    grifter, smuggler, hitman, burglar, rapist, murderer, bookie,...
    – Sam
    Apr 28, 2011 at 13:57
  • 1
    @Sam: the occupation of burglars, rapists and murderers doesn't strikes me as what we commonly call business
    – Eldroß
    Apr 28, 2011 at 14:00
  • I agree that it would be uncommon, but not out of the question. A hitman, for instance is a professional murderer. I suppose the difference is the motive. If it's profit, wouldn't it qualify as business?
    – Sam
    Apr 28, 2011 at 14:05
  • @Sam, you may have noticed that I didn't question the fact that the hitman was doing "business", I was only talking about burglars, rapists and murderers amongst the list of name you gave.
    – Eldroß
    Apr 28, 2011 at 14:07

I think crook suggests the idea of illegal business better than criminal; a criminal is anyone who commits/is convicted of committing a crime, which is too broad IMHO.

Depending on the illegal business in question, there may be more contextual suggestions...

  • I still think that racketeer hits the mark better than crook when no context are given. For me, crook doesn't mean necessary illegal business.
    – Eldroß
    Apr 28, 2011 at 14:00

A white-collar criminal

is someone who commits crimes involving business activities, mostly desk-work crimes like accounting or insurance fraud.


Assuming "to do illegal business" means "to be in control of a criminal organization", it's crime boss or crime lord.


You might be able to use the general sense (not just of liquor) of bootlegger. See the definition for bootleg:

to produce, reproduce, or distribute illicitly or without authorization

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge that you have read and understand our privacy policy and code of conduct.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.