: to haul under the keel of a ship as punishment or torture
: to rebuke severely
"The movie gives voice to the growing number of people who are concerned with corporate abuses but do not want to keelhaul Wall Street." (Alan Saracevic, The San Francisco Chronicle, May 30, 2004)
Did You Know?
In the mid-1600s, British monarchs were intent on using their powerful navy to expand their empire. Insubordination was not tolerated, and mutinous sailors were disciplined severely to discourage others from similar rebellion. "Keelhauling" was one of the worst penalties that could befall a renegade mariner. Although they definitely practiced the gruesome punishment, the British did not invent it -- the Dutch did. "Keelhaul" is a translation of the Dutch word "kielhalen," which means "to haul under the keel of a ship." Even after the practice was banned on European naval vessels in the mid-1800s, the word "keelhaul" remained in English as a term for a severe scolding.
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