gal·​lows | \ ˈga-(ˌ)lōz How to pronounce gallows (audio) , -ləz, in sense 3 also -ləs \
plural gallows or gallowses

Definition of gallows

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1a : a frame usually of two upright posts and a transverse beam from which criminals are hanged

called also gallows tree

b : the punishment of hanging
2 : a structure consisting of an upright frame with a crosspiece



Definition of gallows (Entry 2 of 2)

: deserving the gallows

Examples of gallows in a Sentence

Noun He was sentenced to death on the gallows.
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun The protesters interrupted the certification of Biden's win over Trump, constructed a mock gallows in front of the Capitol and called for the hanging of Vice President Mike Pence, who was overseeing the proceedings inside. Mary Clare Jalonick And Lisa Mascaro, Star Tribune, 28 May 2021 The protesters constructed a mock gallows in front of the Capitol and called for the hanging of Vice President Mike Pence, who was overseeing the certification of the presidential vote., 28 May 2021 The protesters interrupted the certification of Biden’s win over Trump, constructed a mock gallows in front of the Capitol and called for the hanging of Vice President Mike Pence, who was overseeing the proceedings inside. The Salt Lake Tribune, 28 May 2021 In the weeks before supporters of then-President Donald Trump assaulted the U.S. Capitol, forum commenters debated how best to build a gallows for hanging - or simply terrifying - members of Congress deemed disloyal. Craig Timberg, Anchorage Daily News, 16 Apr. 2021 And major questions remain about how a wooden gallows, with stairs and a platform, was constructed on the Capitol lawn; something that is unlikely to have been built with objects laying around outside the Capitol. Sarah D. Wire, Los Angeles Times, 27 May 2021 In one photo, taken by a reporter from USA Today, a woman draped in a Trump flag stands on the wooden gallows, clutching the unambiguous symbol of white supremacist terror. Hannah Gais, The New Republic, 18 May 2021 Members of the mob erected gallows on the National Mall, overran security, and set off to hang the vice president. Steve Volk, Rolling Stone, 12 May 2021 The child laborers in the Beggar King’s sweatshop have been making Maladie Barbies that come complete with their own gallows. Amanda Whiting, Vulture, 9 May 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective The song’s narrator has been sentenced to death, and in each verse, a member of her family arrives beneath the shade of the gallows tree, not to save her, but to watch the rope tighten around her throat. Chris Richards, Washington Post, 7 Apr. 2020 The gallows humorists of the day, mimicking flight attendants, told travelers to turn back their watches to the 1950s. Alan Cowell, New York Times, 6 Sep. 2019 Not the waking up in the embrace of corpses under a gallows part. Dana Snitzky, Longreads, 13 Aug. 2019 As a lot of people have this gallows sense of humor doing impossibly difficult things. Gogo Lidz, Newsweek, 18 June 2015 At the other extreme, William Hooper conjures apocalyptic scenes with a gallows sense of humor. Michael Upchurch, The Seattle Times, 13 Sep. 2017 However, behind this delightful French treat lies a dark past as Buttes Chaumont was once a former trash dump and gallows ground. Josh Lee, Vogue, 31 Aug. 2017 Welcome to Braggsville’ Here’s a setup for a gallows-humor joke: Seattle Times Staff, The Seattle Times, 31 May 2017 Now, amid all the hand-wringing, anger and exasperation, the crisis is bolstering Brazil’s tradition of gallows humor, fueling a mix of satire and existential resignation. Simon Romero, New York Times, 26 May 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'gallows.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of gallows


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


15th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for gallows


Middle English galwes, galwes, plural of galwe, going back to Old English galga, gealga, going back to Germanic *galgōn "pole, stake, pole on which a condemned person was hung" (whence Old Saxon galgo "gallows, stake," Old High German galga, galgo, Old Norse galgi, Gothic galga "stake, cross"), going back to dialectal Indo-European *ǵholgh-, whence also Lithuanian žalgà "thin stake" and perhaps Armenian jałk

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Time Traveler for gallows

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The first known use of gallows was before the 12th century

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Statistics for gallows

Last Updated

12 Jun 2021

Cite this Entry

“Gallows.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 26 Jul. 2021.

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More Definitions for gallows



English Language Learners Definition of gallows

: a structure on which a criminal who has been sentenced to death is killed by being hanged


gal·​lows | \ ˈga-lōz How to pronounce gallows (audio) \
plural gallows or gallowses

Kids Definition of gallows

: a structure from which criminals are hanged

More from Merriam-Webster on gallows

Nglish: Translation of gallows for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of gallows for Arabic Speakers


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