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omertà (as practised by the Mafia) a code of silence about criminal activity and a refusal to give evidence to the police. Recorded from the late 19th century, the word is Italian, and is either a regional variation of Italian umiltà ‘humility’ (with reference to the Mafia code which enjoins submission of the group to the leader as well as silence on all Mafia concerns), or Old Spanish hombredad ‘manliness’.