|A set of hanafuda cards|
The name Yakuza meaning Japanese gangsters comes from "893"
(yattsu, ku, san). This name originates from a card
game called oichokabu (
A player's score in this game is decided by adding the scores on several cards and using only the smallest digit. Because 8 + 9 + 3 = 20 = 0 points, "8-9-3" means "no points". So the original meaning of yakuza (ya for yattsu, eight, ku for "nine" and za for san, "three" was "no points" or "useless". Later, this meaning changed to "useless people" or "gambling people".
See also What are Japanese number puns? for how Japanese uses words as mnemonics for numbers.
Edited from posts by Jack Oatmon, KATOH Motoshi and Koji Kawakami.
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