This question is of the form "If the answer is this then what should the question have been?"

I'm looking for is a list containing things like:

  • The Yakuza (Japan)
  • The Triads (China)
  • Drug Cartels (South America)
  • The Mafia (US, 20th Century, now waning)
  • etc.

Note that this is the answer list that I would give ... perhaps other people with more knowledge would give a different list.

  • Maybe there's another name for the various Drug Cartels.
  • Maybe there's another group in China, as well as the Triads.
  • Maybe The Yakuza have been waning, just like the Triads.

Basically these are names that might come up in an action film as "Someone ended up in the wrong place at the wrong time, and got stuck in the middle of an international turf war between {The Yakuza} and {The Triads}.

Or "There was an internal fight between 2 branches of {The Mafia}"

What term identifies these Groups of Organisations?

  • This might not help you much (hence not an answer) but mafia (possibly with a lowercase m as I've used) is often used generically. Examples of -mafias I've seen described this way include Jewish, Russian and Chechen.
    – Chris H
    Nov 11, 2017 at 7:28
  • 1
    If the group tends to be violent then "gang" is often used in the US.
    – Hot Licks
    Nov 11, 2017 at 13:05
  • Organized crime organizations. (sounds a bit repetitious, I know). Nov 11, 2017 at 14:25
  • 2
    "crime syndicate" possibly. Wikipedia has a List of criminal enterprises, gangs and syndicates I don't know if there is some difference between the three terms. Nov 11, 2017 at 14:58
  • What would be wrong with (large) organised crime groups, please? Please note that none of those Maybe… examples would work, whether or not it was true. Nov 25, 2017 at 0:02

2 Answers 2


Criminal organization

From Wikipedia:

A criminal organization or gang can also be referred to as a mafia, mob, or crime syndicate; the network, subculture and community of criminals may be referred to as the underworld.


I’d always regarded Cartel as the generic term, by definition its application isn’t specific to criminal groups, though I’d say that’s the generally accepted implication.

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