Definition of pillory in US English:



  • A wooden framework with holes for the head and hands, in which an offender was imprisoned and exposed to public abuse.

    • ‘The feeling against these figures was not something whipped up by the print publishers and it is worth pointing out that in May 1796 these women were threatened with the pillory by the judge Lord Kenyon.’
    • ‘The pillory was a set of stocks that imprisoned head and arms and was used to humiliate petty offenders, who would be insulted and perhaps pelted with mud by passers-by.’
    • ‘She was sentenced to the pillory and to have the offending tapestry burned before her eyes.’
    • ‘It's not, as the Daily Mail suggested, that we have reverted to the age of ‘stocks, pillories, bear pits and rotten tomatoes’, but that we refuse to applaud when the Emperor parades around stark naked.’
    • ‘The Foes were Dissenters, Protestants who did not belong to the Anglican Church, and Daniel's ironic attack on the church landed him a three-day stretch in the pillory.’
    • ‘That sort of behaviour could get her flogged, or at the vest least locked in a pillory for a while.’
    • ‘The 1563 Act also set out the penalty for causing illness by witchcraft: a year's imprisonment plus four appearances in the pillory.’
    • ‘The punishments for which may be confiscation of the fish, imprisonment, the pillory, and the offender giving up his occupation for a year and a day.’
    • ‘‘In the past, any sergeant who failed to answer the summons was guilty of an offence and liable to fines or the pillory,’ said assize organiser Maureen Singleton.’
    • ‘Thomas had come home, to a Bolton where the pillory was still a force, where unrest and distress were still to be overcome.’
    • ‘Both suitors seem confident that marriage to a shrew would prove even more humiliating than submitting to the pillory or a public whipping.’
    • ‘Prime Ministers and all high levels of UK government should be forced to spend at least one week a month in public stocks and pillories.’
    • ‘For his temerity he was sentenced to be nailed by his ears to the local pillory and responded by laying a curse on the courtroom and city.’
    • ‘The pillory was used to punish minor offenders including cheats, liars, rioters and homosexuals, by shaming them in public.’
    • ‘Minor criminals might also be punished in the village or manor by whipping, the stocks, or the pillory.’
    • ‘John Frost's 1793 trial opens a discussion of spatial shifts from the civilized sociability of the coffee house to the courts, prison, and the pillory.’
    • ‘But he puts it from him as a temptation of the Evil One, makes public confession on the pillory which had been the scene of Hester's shame, and dies in her arms.’
    • ‘The pillory was occasionally used as a penalty for free people, as for instance in the case of Samuel Thornton, a carpenter sentenced to spend four hours in the pillory in Kingston for his participation in a fraud.’
    • ‘But poorer people faced public and physical punishments, from whippings or brandings in the pillory or exposure in the stocks to the final punishment of hanging.’
    • ‘David was on very civil terms with his former opponents, being treated by them as Dr. Shebbeare was in the pillory, who was being allowed to wear a fine powdered flowing wig.’


[with object]historical
  • 1Put (someone) in a pillory.

  • 2Attack or ridicule publicly.

    ‘he found himself pilloried by members of his own party’
    • ‘But a man who, for all his faults, has actually liberated more of those people from terror and oppression than any human rights group on earth, will be pilloried, attacked, booed and maligned.’
    • ‘Nobody pillories them for their fashion statements.’
    • ‘It seems to have been grasped early on both within government and among the mainstream opposition politicians that the public pillory awaits anyone seen trying to extract political advantage from the death and suffering.’
    • ‘I believe them when they say it's what keeps them in their horrible jobs, pilloried by the public, ignored by their leadership.’
    • ‘Much points to the fact that Landowsky and some of the other main culprits could be publicly pilloried and face criminal proceedings.’
    • ‘We have come to a pretty pass when Scotland's chief quango is pilloried, just because it has forgotten to apply for £32m due to it (or, rather, to the Scottish public) from the European Union.’
    • ‘I have put a great deal of time, and no little money, into saving York City and it breaks my heart to see players who cannot, or will not, play decently get praise each week while youngsters, who are still learning the game, are pilloried.’
    • ‘A few months later, five year-old Janet steals money ‘in the first week of school’ to buy chewing gum and is savagely pilloried as a thief by Miss Botting, her teacher.’
    • ‘He and his ilk are constantly pilloried for their behaviour and slammed for showing other daft wee laddies a poor example.’
    • ‘She is publicly pilloried for crying ‘abuse!’’
    • ‘Since the satire routinely pillories the peccadilloes of public figures, Deayton's defrocking is entirely in keeping with the spirit of the show.’
    • ‘He was allegedly involved in a match-fixing scandal in Sri Lanka, pilloried by the media for making obnoxious calls to a member of the opposite sex in England.’
    • ‘It is a sad commentary on our sense of morality that women celebrities are being pilloried simply for airing their views in public interest.’
    • ‘Both left and right pilloried her accent, made fun of her ignorance and, from the national media through to the national parliament, did everything in their not insubstantial power to make her a laughing stock.’
    • ‘It is precisely because he cites statistics, writes logically and avoids ideological fervour that he has been attacked and pilloried by eco-fundamentalists and fellow travellers around the world.’
    • ‘It does seem that way and thanks to their ‘back to basics' public face, they were rightly pilloried for it.’
    • ‘He added: ‘We do need in Scotland a sensible scheme to ensure the public is safeguarded and the profession is not pilloried.’’
    • ‘No one missed in a penalty shoot-out this time, but Phil Neville, an honest and committed defender, only 23-years-old, was pilloried for conceding one.’
    • ‘The notion that international relations - even in a time of war - are less important than being publicly pilloried by angry commuters shows politics reduced to its most banal.’
    • ‘They have also been abused by a prying-eyed media and unfairly pilloried by critics who only wish they could take one step down the artistic road that these men and women have walked.’
    attack, criticize, censure, condemn, denigrate, find fault with, give a bad press to, lambaste, flay, savage, brand, stigmatize, cast a slur on, denounce
    ridicule, jeer at, sneer at, deride, show up, hold up to shame, mock, hold up to ridicule, heap scorn on, treat with contempt, scorn, make fun of, poke fun at, laugh at, make jokes about, scoff at, be sarcastic about, tease, taunt, rag, chaff, jibe at, twit
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Middle English: from Old French pilori, probably from Provençal espilori (associated by some with a Catalan word meaning ‘peephole’, of uncertain origin).