1 : a wooden frame for public punishment having 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 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.
"When I was in college in the 1980s, the general store down the road shamed deadbeats by posting their bounced checks next to the cash register. It was a pillory of sorts, a wall of shame." — Dwight Garner, Esquire, September 2017
"The really offensive thing about the bailouts was … that Congress and the White House and the Treasury and the Fed were more or less making things up as they went along. This bank got rescued, that one didn't. This firm got a bailout on generous terms, that one got the pillory." — Stephen Spruiell and Kevin D. Williamson, The National Review, 5 Apr. 2010
Test Your Vocabulary with M-W Quizzes
Test Your Vocabulary
Fill in the blanks to complete a word that means "an object of ridicule": _ a _ g _ _ n _ s _ oc _.VIEW THE ANSWER
Theme music by Joshua Stamper ©2006 New Jerusalem Music/ASCAP