One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
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.
- ‘As punishment, the branks was locked about the women's heads to humiliate them and teach them their place.’
- ‘The branks were also padlocked on women convicted of witchcraft and condemned to die at the stake - but for a different reason.’
- ‘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.’
- ‘I am glad John Winthorp and John Carver did not bring cumbrous and cruel iron branks to America.’
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.
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