Definition of branks in English:


plural noun

  • An instrument of punishment for a scolding woman, consisting of an iron framework for the head and a sharp metal gag for restraining the tongue.

    • ‘I am glad John Winthorp and John Carver did not bring cumbrous and cruel iron branks to America.’
    • ‘In the Americas, the branks were a type of humiliation punishment, while in medieval Europe, they were used more as a torture device.’
    • ‘These branks and the stocks are examples of implements of corporal punishment used in early modern Glasgow.’
    • ‘The branks were also padlocked on women convicted of witchcraft and condemned to die at the stake - but for a different reason.’
    • ‘As punishment, the branks was locked about the women's heads to humiliate them and teach them their place.’


Mid 16th century: origin uncertain; compare with German Pranger ‘a pillory or bit for a horse’ and Dutch prang ‘a fetter’; also with late Middle English barnacle(s), denoting a powerful bit for restraining a horse.