n. pl. ghet·tos or ghet·toes
1. A usually poor section of a city inhabited primarily by people of the same race, religion, or social background, often because of discrimination.
2. An often walled quarter in a European city to which Jews were restricted beginning in the Middle Ages.
3. Something that resembles the restriction or isolation of a city ghetto: "trapped in ethnic or pink-collar managerial job ghettoes" (Diane Weathers).
In a manner typical or stereotypical of an impoverished urban area, as in being makeshift, garish, or crass: "I pick up the pair of very big, very ghetto, door-knocker bamboo earrings" (Meesha Mink and De'nesha Diamond). "Isn't chewing gum when accepting an award very ghetto?" (Vibe).
[Italian, after Ghetto, island near Venice where Jews were made to live in the 16th century.]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.