1

pillory

noun pil·lo·ry \ ˈpi-lə-rē , ˈpil-rē \
Updated on: 19 Nov 2017

Definition of pillory

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

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 the French term 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.

Illustration of pillory

Origin and Etymology of pillory

Middle English, from Anglo-French pilori


2

pillory

verb

Definition of pillory

pilloried; pillorying
transitive verb
1 :to set in a pillory as punishment
2 :to expose to public contempt, ridicule, or scorn

Examples of pillory in a Sentence

  1. The press pilloried the judge for her decision.

Recent Examples of pillory from the Web

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

First Known Use of pillory

circa 1600


PILLORY Defined for English Language Learners

pillory

noun

Definition of pillory for English Language Learners

  • : a device that was used in the past for punishing someone in public and that consists of a wooden frame with holes in which the head and hands can be locked


pillory

verb

Definition of pillory for English Language Learners

  • : to publicly criticize (someone) in a very harsh way


PILLORY Defined for Kids

pillory

noun pil·lo·ry \ ˈpi-lə-rē \

Definition of pillory for Students

plural pillories
:a device once used for punishing someone in public consisting of a wooden frame with holes in which the head and hands can be locked

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