Jump to content

Kiss of death (mafia)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The kiss of death (Italian: Il bacio della morte) is the sign given by a mafioso boss or caporegime that signifies that a member of the crime family has been marked for death, usually as a result of some perceived betrayal.[1] It is unclear how much is based on fact and how much on the imagination of authors, but it remains a cultural meme[2][3] and appears in literature and films. Illustrative is the scene in the film The Valachi Papers when Vito Genovese (Lino Ventura) gives the kiss of death to Joe Valachi (Charles Bronson) to inform him that his betrayal of "the family" is known, and that he will be executed.

The "kiss" has also been used as a terror tactic to aid in extortion or debt collection by reducing victims to a state of panic where they will commit to anything to save their lives.[1]


The exact origin is unknown, but an Italian source identifies the bacio della morte as the kiss given to the assassin delegated to "execute" a death sentence, as if to seal the solemn judgment and to wish success on the assignment. Some believe it refers to the kiss of Judas which was given to Jesus to betray him to the soldiers seeking him out.[4] Its use goes back to at least the early 19th century in Sicily.[5]

In real life[edit]

In literature[edit]

In film[edit]

On television[edit]


  1. ^ a b Sifakis, Carl (2005). "Kiss of death: Mafia murder signal". The Mafia Encyclopedia. New York: Facts On File. pp. 245–246. ISBN 978-0-8160-5694-1.
  2. ^ McNeill, Daniel (2000). The Face: A Natural History. Boston, Massachusetts: Little Brown. p. 46. ISBN 978-0-316-58812-6., originally published in 1998.
  3. ^ Metaphorically, it has come to mean anything that is a forerunner of failure or termination, or something that causes a future failure. "American Idioms (Meanings and Origins): Kiss of death". Archived from the original on 15 July 2011.
  4. ^ "Modi di dire: I (Idioms: I)" (in Italian). Libero. Archived from the original on 13 February 2010.
  5. ^ L'espresso (1979), in Italian, Volume 25, Issues 26-34, page 86
  6. ^ Dietche, Scott M. (2009). The Everything Mafia Book: True-life accounts of legendary figures, infamous crime families, and nefarious deeds. Avon, Massachusetts: Adams Media. pp. 188–189. ISBN 978-1-59869-779-7.
  7. ^ Rudolf, Robert (1993). Mafia Wiseguys: The Mob That Took on the Feds. New York: SPI Books. p. 41. ISBN 978-1-56171-195-6.
  8. ^ Kelly, G. Milton (October 1, 1963). "Valachi To Tell Of Gang War For Power". Warsaw Times-Union. Retrieved 28 May 2012.
  9. ^ "Bart the Murderer". The Simpsons. Archive. Archived from the original on 28 June 2011.
  10. ^ "Mayored to the Mob". The Simpsons Archive.

Further reading[edit]