vendetta (vĕndĕtˈə) [key] [Ital., = vengeance], feud between members of two kinship groups to avenge a wrong done to a relative. Although the term originated in Corsica, the custom has also been practiced in other parts of Italy, in other European countries, and among the Arabs. It generally reflects a society where the family is the only social unit with authority or where there is no centralized government to compel order. After a society attains cohesion and will no longer tolerate private vengeance, composition for offenses may be compelled. In time the state itself punishes antisocial acts, and a system of criminal law takes form. The vendetta may prevail also where the government is feared or distrusted to such an extent that private justice is considered more equitable. The obligation to carry on the vendetta usually rests primarily on the male who is next of kin to the wronged person. Among some peoples, vengeance may be taken on any member of the group of the person who has done the wrong. The most striking form of the vendetta is the blood feud, or the taking of a life for a life. While the vendetta is almost universally proscribed by law, it persists in areas that are remote or lack trusted police protection.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.