One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
An instrument of torture used for squeezing the fingers.
- ‘Other means of torture used in the Tower included the thumbscrew, the boot, the narrow-bore, the iron collar, the pilliwinks, and the brakes, a device used to break the victims' teeth.’
- ‘If you can not be reined in, pilliwinks will be applied to set you right.’
Late Middle English pyrwykes, pyrewinkes, of unknown origin.
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