pillory

1 of 2

noun

pil·​lo·​ry ˈpi-lə-rē How to pronounce pillory (audio)
ˈpil-rē
plural pillories
1
: a device formerly used for publicly punishing offenders consisting of a wooden frame with holes in which the head and hands can be locked
2
: a means for exposing one to public scorn or ridicule

Illustration of pillory

Illustration of pillory
  • pillory 1

pillory

2 of 2

verb

pilloried; pillorying

transitive verb

1
: to set in a pillory as punishment
2
: to expose to public contempt, ridicule, or scorn

Did you know?

In days gone by, criminals who got caught might well have found themselves in the stocks (which held the feet or both feet and hands) or a pillory. Both of those forms of punishment—and the words that name them—have been around since the Middle Ages. We latched onto pillory from the Anglo-French pilori, which has the same meaning as our English term but the exact origins of which are uncertain. For centuries, pillory referred only to the wooden frame used to hold a ne'er-do-well, but by the early 1600s, folks had turned the word into a verb for the act of putting someone in a pillory. Within a century, they had further expanded the verb to cover any process that led to as much public humiliation as being pilloried.

Examples of pillory in a Sentence

Verb The press pilloried the judge for her decision.
Recent Examples on the Web
Noun
Andy Borowitz, The New York Times best-selling author whose column was recently cut from The New Yorker amid layoffs, spares liberals and progressives but pillories conservatives. Richard E. Vatz, Baltimore Sun, 9 Jan. 2024 The pillory for hosts restarting production in defiance of their writers’ picket lines is getting crowded. James Poniewozik, New York Times, 18 Sep. 2023 In it, the strip lays out various torture methods listed by pain level: thumbscrews, the rack, the pillory, the Iron Maiden. Rachel Desantis, Peoplemag, 12 Sep. 2023 In 2010, after seeing crude oil hemorrhaging from the floor of the Gulf of Mexico, fish and seabirds marinating in black sludge, and Big Oil on the public pillory, the notion of gouging the deep ocean floor for fossil fuels seems reckless, if not criminal. Mac Margolis, Discover Magazine, 17 Jan. 2011 England fully abolished the pillory by 1837, along with many nearby countries and most U.S. territories by that time. Tree Meinch, Discover Magazine, 12 Feb. 2021 The Roots of Humiliation Long before the internet, people who violated moral codes in a society would get fastened to a pillar, stocks or pillory, a device in which the offender’s head and hands were locked in a wooden frame. Tree Meinch, Discover Magazine, 12 Feb. 2021 He was fined, endured public humiliation in a pillory and was then thrown in prison. Roger J. Kreuz, The Conversation, 15 Sep. 2020 He was convicted and sentenced to stand in the pillory and to be branded on the hand with the letters S.S. (for slave stealer). al, 23 Aug. 2019
Verb
For his mistake in judgment, he should just be pilloried. Emily Jacobs, Washington Examiner, 14 Jan. 2024 Every era now heralded as golden was once pilloried as corny dreck. Kate Knibbs, WIRED, 23 Dec. 2023 For this affirmation, Gregorian was pilloried in the national press, accused of fascism and political correctness. TIME, 19 Dec. 2023 Biden was pilloried in the Middle East for expressing doubts about the number of Palestinian casualties because the Gaza Health Ministry, like other official functions, is run by Hamas. Mohamad El Chamaa, Washington Post, 23 Nov. 2023 The novelty of the network, once pilloried for the sins of sexism, exploitation, and artlessness, has long dissipated; Bravo is now a synecdoche for a recognizable postmodern entertainment. Doreen St. Félix, The New Yorker, 17 Nov. 2023 And why is everyone from a top Hollywood agent to an Oscar-winning actress to a rising franchise star being pilloried for criticizing Israel and/or speaking up about Palestinian human rights? Marlow Stern, Rolling Stone, 26 Nov. 2023 The gourmet products on sale, which today include (per King) a $10 jar of meatballs for dogs, have been pilloried for embodying a quintessentially Californian foodie snobbishness. Benjamin Schneider, Los Angeles Times, 13 Nov. 2023 But companies that offer shallow, disingenuous commitments to societal betterment can expect to be pilloried by both the right and the left—along with their consumers, employees, and the public at large. Ruth Umoh, Fortune, 4 Oct. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'pillory.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

Etymology

Noun

Middle English, from Anglo-French pilori

First Known Use

Noun

13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Verb

circa 1600, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of pillory was in the 13th century

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Dictionary Entries Near pillory

Cite this Entry

“Pillory.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/pillory. Accessed 29 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition

pillory

noun
pil·​lo·​ry
ˈpil-(ə-)rē
plural pillories
1
: a device formerly used for the public punishment of wrongdoers that consists of a wooden frame with holes in which the head and hands can be locked
2
: exposure to public scorn or ridicule
pillory verb

More from Merriam-Webster on pillory

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