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Douglas Harper's Etymology Dictionary

thug

1810, "member of a gang of murderers and robbers in India who strangled their victims," from Marathi thag, thak "cheat, swindler," Hindi thag, perhaps from Sanskrit sthaga-s "cunning, fraudulent," from sthagayati "(he) covers, conceals," perhaps from PIE root *(s)teg- (2) "to cover" (see stegosaurus).\n\nThe thugs roamed about the country in bands of from 10 to 100, usually in the disguise of peddlers or pilgrims, gaining the confidence of other travelers, whom they strangled, when a favorable opportunity presented itself, with a handkerchief, an unwound turban, or a noosed cord. The shedding of blood was seldom resorted to. The motive of the thugs was not so much lust of plunder as a certain religious fanaticism. The bodies of their victims were hidden in graves dug with a consecrated pickax, and of their spoil one third was devoted to the goddess Kali, whom they worshiped.

[Century Dictionary]

\nThe more correct Indian name is phanseegur (from phansi "noose"), and the activity was described in English as far back as c.1665. Rigorously prosecuted by the British from 1831, they were driven from existence by century's end. Transferred sense of "ruffian, cutthroat, violent lowbrow" is from 1839.
Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English

thug

noun
COLLOCATIONS FROM CORPUS
■ ADJECTIVE
young
▪ Police call for crackdown on young thugs.
▪ First he began to shy away from the crowd of young street thug arsonist gunslingers.
▪ A brain-damaged policeman fights for his life after young thugs threw a half-brick through his patrol car windscreen.
EXAMPLES FROM OTHER ENTRIES
▪ A gang of thugs was waiting for him round the back. He didn't have a chance.
▪ A policeman is fighting for his life after young thugs threw a brick through his patrol car windscreen.
EXAMPLES FROM CORPUS
▪ It's the one-off thug who normally panics and lashes out.
▪ Seeking vengeance, he employs two Dickensian thugs, with startling and bleakly hilarious results.
▪ The thugs pounced as Tony McLoughlin prepared to open up the school shortly after 7am.
The Collaborative International Dictionary

Thug

Thug \Thug\ (th[u^]g; 277), n. [Hind. thag a deceiver, robber.]

  1. One of an association of robbers and murderers in India who practiced murder by stealthy approaches, and from religious motives. They have been nearly exterminated by the British government.

  2. An assassin; a ruffian; a rough. ``Thugs and midnight rounders.''
    --The Century.

Wiktionary

thug

n. 1 A criminal with an intimidating and unseemly appearance and mannerisms, who treats others violently and roughly, especially for hire. 2 (context dated English) One of a band of assassins formerly active in northern India who worshipped http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kali and offered their victims to her.

WordNet

thug

n. an aggressive and violent young criminal [syn: hood, hoodlum, goon, punk, tough, toughie, strong-armer]

Wikipedia

Thug

Thug may refer to:

Usage examples of "thug".

In the living room, Proctor began to overturn furniture, tear paintings from the walls, and smash bibelots, further developing the scenario that would lead the police away from any consideration that the intruder might have been other than a common drug-pumped thug.

Most of them were just caulkers, not even thugs like the Matteoni brothers.

Lord Bentinck appointed a special Commissioner for the Suppression of Thuggee and Dacoity, William Sleeman, and his investigations and interrogations of informers revealed the full extent of the activities of the secret society of THUGS.

He hurried us off the bridge and back to the debarkation hatch, then through and out, flanked by an honour guard of two methed-up thugs even younger and twitchier than he was.

CHAPTER XI - DEATH BELOW LOCKED with two thugs like Skate and Dingbat, The Shadow held advantages that his antagonists did not suspect.

Train was pretty sure he could handle Jack if he was in I that trailer, and while he would have preferred to keep Gutter with him, he wanted the Dobe between him and those two thugs down below.

He met up with a hired killer, a thug named Ramon Dutra, and hired him as one of our party.

Rather than the expert on the interior he had claimed to be, Dutra had turned out to be a murderous thug who had sometimes gone upriver to hide out from the law.

Buried in the stories was the fact that the total number of robberies in Dade has actually increased, meaning the thugs are merely redirecting their felonious energies toward local residents.

Through the rising dust of fractured stone, Boba Fett could hear the screams and shouts of the Shell Hutts and their hired thugs as one pillar and then another toppled into the center of the hall, bringing down a section of roof and exposing the dark sky of Circumtore.

Even with thugs scattered and fightless, departure by the high roof was no longer wise.

What had soured the raid was the fact that Fleech had been killed along with a few other lesser thugs who, wounded in some earlier fray, had tried to shoot it out with the invading police.

The once proud and strutting Duce was now no more than a Gauleiter of Lombardy, rescued from imprisonment by Nazi thugs, and propped up by Hitler and the S.

It was the motionless body of the thug that Goofer had posted in the rear alcove.

The Lone Tiger had slugged that fellow, on arrival, while the thug had been watching the conference between Goofer and Kremp.