From Italian omertà – even though a further etymology is disputed – italianization of Sicilian umirtà (“the quality of being humble, quiet, soft”). Some see it as a southern dialectal variant of umiltà (“humility”), from Latin humilitās, from humilis (“humble”), from humus (“ground, soil”), in which case it is a doublet of humility. Other sources (as the OED) interpret it as a Sicilian calque (loan translation) of Spanish hombredad (“manliness”), altered to fit Sicilian omu (“man”); in this latter case though “ummirità” should be the natural phonological output.
- (crime) A code of silence amongst members of a criminal organization (especially the Mafia) that forbids divulging insider secrets to law enforcement, often also followed outside of the organization in fear of retaliation; extensively, any code of silence.
- 2005 March 4, Boston Globe:
- Patriarca pleaded guilty in December 1991 to racketeering and conspiracy charges, but he refused to admit he was a member of the Mafia, clinging to his vow of ‘omerta’ to the secret organization.
- 2006 October 27, Los Angeles Times:
- There was a time that high-profile killings such as the 1968 assassinations of Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. brought passionate cries for limitations on handguns. A bipartisan omerta now smothers the issue.
- 2016 October 1, “How the FDA Manipulates the Media”, in Scientific American:
- The FDA was not pleased that the omertà had been broken.
omertà f (invariable)
- (rare, dialectal, southern Italy) Alternative form of
- (crime) an omertà or any code of silence
- Synonym: (wall of silence) reticenza
- (by extension, derogatory) a form of solidarity among members of a group, consisting in hiding compromising truths; a wall of silence