Definition of gallows in US English:


plural noun

  • 1usually treated as singular A structure, typically of two uprights and a crosspiece, for the hanging of criminals.

    • ‘How about Deacon Brodie's, a pub that honours a man who was hanged on a gallows of his own design?’
    • ‘When the hangings became private a portable gallows was used in the North West laneway from 1861 until 1883.’
    • ‘Clearly there was a permanent gallows in St. Andrew.’
    • ‘They stood by a gallows holding ropes which were strung over a pulley to become a noose holding up a body.’
    • ‘Scores of gallows were erected in the city and public hangings became common place.’
    • ‘A gallows was erected in front of the city gates.’
    • ‘After that, the SS officers set up gallows and had hangings during each roll call.’
    • ‘On the same basis, skiers should be warned that those plank things on their feet could cause them to slide downhill rather rapidly and hangmen that their gallows were a bit unsafe because of that ruddy great trapdoor.’
    • ‘There are concerns scaffolding could be used to construct gallows from which protesters would be suspended on motorways to halt traffic.’
    • ‘A convent (with flash webpage) was founded close by the site of the old gallows, and a small group of snooker-playing nuns still pray for the souls of the dead.’
    • ‘This togetherness is useful, as the prison is considering building a nine-passenger gallows.’
    • ‘The second is that an expectant and sceptical mob is starting to gather, with what looks ominously like a gallows and a hanging rope.’
    • ‘The Tyburn, on the Tadcaster Road side of Knavesmire, was where York's gallows were situated from 1379 until 1812.’
    • ‘One Sunday night, while all the villagers slept, workers began constructing a gallows that was forty feet high.’
    • ‘They have applied to Highland Council to build a 50 ft high gallows at the site in Ballachulish where James of the Glen was executed in 1752 for a murder he did not commit.’
    • ‘A gallows is a structure used customarily to hang criminals.’
    • ‘The gallows are situated behind a tiled building, which is now being demolished.’
    • ‘The gallows were ready, having been carefully inspected, constructed, and tested overnight.’
    • ‘The gallows had almost been completed when her reprieve came through.’
    • ‘Ultimately he was tried, convicted and swung from a gallows, the last person hanged in Alberta.’
    gibbet, scaffold
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1the gallows Execution by hanging.
      ‘saved from the gallows by a last-minute reprieve’
      • ‘It grew from the humane desire of judges to alleviate the severity of the law in an age when many crimes were still classified as felonies, for which the punishment was death by the gallows.’
      • ‘No one can be safe for long from people who have no respect for human rights and think nothing of killing innocent people or sending them to prison or to the gallows in their lust for power.’
      • ‘Does she remember that you once went back to 1795 to save her from the gallows?’
      • ‘He talks freely and very colourfully about facing the gallows, his life in jail and the fortunate turn of events that enabled him to transform his life.’
      • ‘Acquitting a woman on ground of insanity may have saved her from the gallows, or a lengthy prison term, but it also stripped her crime of meaning.’
      • ‘The young man once saved an Aboriginal fairground attendant from the gallows.’
      • ‘For this ‘crime,’ which no one understands but Selma and the audience, American justice will sentence her to the gallows.’
      • ‘He was never likely to denounce the Downing Street snake-pit and order its inmates to the gallows.’
      • ‘He found it remarkable that such a statement could be a credible account of his words, and began moving heaven and earth to save him from the gallows.’
      • ‘In 1975 the British government ruled that only certain types of crime were punishable by the gallows.’
      • ‘But even if he saves her from the gallows she will still have a lengthy prison term before her.’
      • ‘Fourteen were killed, but subsequent trials led to transportation to Tasmania, not the gallows.’
      • ‘His evidence at the war trials saved him from the gallows.’
      • ‘Appeals to save such brave but desperate men from the gallows occasionally struck a chord with the wealthy and patriotic.’
      • ‘If a woman miscarried, went into labor early, or had trouble hiring a midwife, she could be sent to the gallows.’
      • ‘He staked everything on his ability to convince a judge to sentence the pair to life imprisonment and save them from the gallows.’
      • ‘He will either face the gallows or a long-term detention.’
      • ‘Bessie felt like a prisoner awaiting the gallows.’
      • ‘Thus, they could avoid fines, whippings, imprisonment, or worse, the gallows!’
      • ‘When it plays the good guy and saves people from the gallows it is seen as colonial.’
      hanging, being hanged, the noose, the rope, the gibbet, the scaffold
      View synonyms


Old English galga, gealga, of Germanic origin; related to Dutch galg and German Galgen; reinforced in Middle English by Old Norse gálgi.