Legal Dictionary


Legal Definition of pillory

A medieval punishment and restraining device made of moveable and adjustable boards through which a prisoner's head or limbs were pinned.


  1. Pillories were often fixed to the ground in a city's main square and on market days, local criminals were exhibited. Citizens were given license to throw things at the prisoners. As such, this method of punishment was not just humiliating but often led to serious injury or death. For the government, this was a public statement serving to warn others of the consequences of crime. England abolished the pillory as a form of punishment in 1837.

Definition of pillory


  • IPA: /pɪlə(ɹ)i/ SAMPA: /pIl@(r)i:/ (UK)


pillory (plural pillories)

  1. A framework on a post, with holes for the hands and head, used as a means of punishment and humiliation.


pillory (third-person singular simple present pillories, present participle pillorying, simple past and past participle pilloried)

  1. (transitive) To put in a pillory.
  2. (transitive) To subject to humiliation, scorn, ridicule or abuse.
  3. (transitive) To criticize harshly.

Further reading

The pillory was a device made of a wooden or metal framework erected on a post, with holes for securing the head and hands, formerly used for punishment by public humiliation and often further physical abuse, sometimes lethal. The pillory is related to the stocks.

The word is documented in English since 1274 (attested in Anglo-Latin from c. 1189), and stems from Old French pellori (1168; modern French pilori), itself from medieval Latin pilloria, of uncertain origin, perhaps a diminutive of Latin pila "pillar, stone barrier."


  1. Wiktionary. Published under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.


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