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 Her grandson, meanwhile, expressed shock at seeing for the first time the noose hanging from a gallows meant for Pence. Amanda Erickson, Washington Post, 10 June 2022 From the looks of things, there is another car whose appointment with the gallows pole is drawing near. Jack Fitzgerald, Car and Driver, 14 July 2022 After watching footage of insurrectionists carrying Confederate flags into the U.S. Capitol last year and erecting a gallows on the grounds outside, Tracy Brown started thinking about buying a gun for her protection. Justin Phillips, San Francisco Chronicle, 17 Apr. 2022 Thursday’s session was expected to divulge new evidence about the danger Pence faced with a makeshift gallows on the Capitol grounds as the vice president fled with senators into hiding. Lisa Mascaro And Mary Clare Jalonick, Chicago Tribune, 16 June 2022 The gallows are not usually a place for nuance, but the play asks big questions about crime and punishment without shoving the audience toward an answer. Christopher Barnard, Vogue, 9 June 2022 While the core five went to the gallows, other sentences were commuted to transportation to Australia, and one man was released. William Anthony Hay, WSJ, 17 June 2022 But as rioters called for his execution and erected gallows outside the Capitol building, Pence refused to leave the Capitol complex. Lindsay Chervinsky, The Conversation, 17 June 2022 Outside, angry Trump supporters had erected a mock gallows. Maggie Haberman, New York Times, 3 June 2022 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 See More

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.

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

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Dictionary Entries Near gallows



gallows bird

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Last Updated

16 Sep 2022

Cite this Entry

“Gallows.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 Sep. 2022.

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More Definitions for gallows


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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