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Gallows

Gallows , the apparatus for executing the sentence of death by hanging. It usually consists of two upright posts and a crossbeam but sometimes consists of a single upright with a beam projecting from the top. The Roman gallows was the cross , and, in the older translations of the Bible , gallows was used to describe the cross upon which Jesus was crucified Ulfilas uses the term galga in his Gothic Testament. Another form of gallows in the Middle Ages was found at Montfaucon near Paris. This was a square structure formed of columns of masonry connected in each tier with crosspieces of wood. Beneath the gallows were pits into which the bodies fell after disarticulation by exposure to the weather. In the traditional usage of the gallows, the condemned stands on a platform or drop introduced in England in , the rope hangs from the crossbeam, and the noose at its end is placed around the neck. Hanging is achieved when the body drops several feet, the knot in the noose being so adjusted that the spinal cord is broken by the fall and death is instantaneous. Earlier versions of the process were far less merciful. Sometimes the condemned man stood in a cart, which was drawn away from under him; sometimes he had to mount a ladder, from which he was thrust by the hangman.
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Gallows were thus widely used for public weighing scales for large objects such as sacks of grain or minerals, usually positioned in markets or toll gates. In modern usage it has come to mean almost exclusively a scaffold or gibbet used for execution by hanging. Public weighing gallows were often large permanent tripods in market squares, posts and cross beams, or a cantilevered beam projecting from the side of a building adjoining a market or toll gate or point, usually with a fixed hook for supporting the weighing scales. This points to the earlier execution style in which a person sentenced to death had been tied to a bent-down tree and then released. Occasionally, improvised gallows were used, usually by hanging the condemned from a tree or street light. Hangings from such improvised gallows are usually lynchings rather than judicial executions. In Afghanistan, the Taliban used football goals as gallows. Gallows may be permanent to act as a deterrent and grim symbol of the power of high justice the French word for gallows, potence , stems from the Latin word potentia , meaning "power". Many old prints of European cities show such a permanent gallows erected on a prominent hill outside the walls, or more commonly near the castle or other seat of justice. In the modern era the gallows were often installed inside a prison; freestanding on a scaffold in the yard, erected at ground level over a pit, enclosed in a small shed of stone, brick or wood, built into the gallery of a prison wing with the beam resting in brackets on opposite walls , or in a purpose-built execution suite of rooms within the wing.

To save this word, you'll need to log in. Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Also, my experience with people who have lived through very dark things do have [a] great sense of humor often, and very often in the middle of darkness, there's a kind of gallows ' humor. Despotism Soon Followed. Send us feedback. See more words from the same century Dictionary Entries near gallows Galloway gallowglass gallow-grass gallows gallows bird gallows bitt gallows humor. Accessed 15 Aug. Keep scrolling for more More Definitions for gallows gallows. Please tell us where you read or heard it including the quote, if possible. Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way. Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!

Gallows , the apparatus for executing the sentence of death by hanging. It usually consists of two upright posts and a crossbeam but sometimes consists of a single upright with a beam projecting from the top.

The Roman gallows was the cross , and, in the older translations of the Bible , gallows was used to describe the cross upon which Jesus was crucified Ulfilas uses the term galga in his Gothic Testament. Another form of gallows in the Middle Ages was found at Montfaucon near Paris. This was a square structure formed of columns of masonry connected in each tier with crosspieces of wood.

Beneath the gallows were pits into which the bodies fell after disarticulation by exposure to the weather. In the traditional usage of the gallows, the condemned stands on a platform or drop introduced in England in , the rope hangs from the crossbeam, and the noose at its end is placed around the neck.

Hanging is achieved when the body drops several feet, the knot in the noose being so adjusted that the spinal cord is broken by the fall and death is instantaneous. Earlier versions of the process were far less merciful. Sometimes the condemned man stood in a cart, which was drawn away from under him; sometimes he had to mount a ladder, from which he was thrust by the hangman.

Until prisoners in England were sometimes hanged by being drawn up from the platform by a heavy weight at the other end of the rope. Death in these cases was by strangulation. Until , hangings were public affairs in Britain. After this date, and until the abolition of capital punishment in , executions were private. The gallows were erected in a chamber or enclosed space set apart for the purpose inside the prison grounds.

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Subscribe today. Learn More in these related Britannica articles:. Capital punishment , execution of an offender sentenced to death after conviction by a court of law of a criminal offense. Capital punishment should be distinguished from extrajudicial executions carried out without due process of law.

The term death penalty is sometimes used interchangeably with capital punishment ,…. Hanging , execution by strangling or breaking the neck by a suspended noose.

The traditional method, still in use on the continent of Europe, involves suspending the victim from a gallows or crossbeam until he has died of asphyxiation.

Elsewhere, the condemned person stands on a trapdoor, and when the trap…. Ancient Rome , the state centred on the city of Rome.

This article discusses the period from the founding of the city and the regal period, which began in bc , through the events leading to the founding of the republic in bc , the establishment of the empire in 27…. History at your fingertips. Sign up here to see what happened On This Day , every day in your inbox! Email address. By signing up, you agree to our Privacy Notice.

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