Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun A device usually consisting of two upright posts supporting a crossbeam from which a noose is suspended and used for execution by hanging; a gallows tree.
  • noun A similar structure used for supporting or suspending.
  • noun Execution by hanging.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • Very; exceedingly: as, gallows poor.
  • noun Specifically, on the great sheep-raising stations of Australasia, a high wooden frame on which the carcasses of butchered cattle or sheep are suspended; a meat-gallows.
  • Reckless; dashing; showy.
  • noun A wooden frame on which criminals are executed by hanging, usually consisting of two posts and a cross-beam on the top, or of a single post with a projecting arm, from which the criminal is suspended by a rope fastened about his neck: a plural used as a singular, and having the double plural gallowses.
  • noun A similar contrivance for suspending objects.
  • noun Nautical, same as gallows-bitts.
  • noun In coal-mining, a set of timbers consisting of two upright pieces or props and a bar or crown-tree laid across their tops so as to support the roof in a level or in any other excavation.
  • noun In printing, a low trestle attached to old forms of hand printing-presses, to sustain the tympan.
  • noun A central core formed of several cornstalks interlaced diagonally (while uncut) to serve as a stool or support for cut maize which is placed about it in forming a shock.
  • noun plural A pair of braces for supporting the trousers. Also galluses.
  • noun A wretch who deserves to be hanged; a gallows-bird.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • noun A frame from which is suspended the rope with which criminals are executed by hanging, usually consisting of two upright posts and a crossbeam on the top; also, a like frame for suspending anything.
  • noun rare A wretch who deserves the gallows.
  • noun (Print.) The rest for the tympan when raised.
  • noun colloq. A pair of suspenders or braces.
  • noun [Colloq.] a person who deserves the gallows.
  • noun (Naut.) one of two or more frames amidships on deck for supporting spare spars; -- called also gallows, gallows top, gallows frame, etc.
  • noun (Naut.) Gallows bitts.
  • noun the gallows.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun Wooden framework on which persons are put to death by hanging.
  • verb Third-person singular simple present indicative form of gallow.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • noun an instrument of execution consisting of a wooden frame from which a condemned person is executed by hanging

Etymologies

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[Middle English galwes, pl. of galwe, gallows, from Old English gealga, galga.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

Old English ġealga.

Examples

  • The Germans call it gallows-humour; the French, 1'humour noir.

    The Irish Mind

  • Stephen Friedman, another London gallery, will show Glasgow-based David Shrigley, an expert in gallows humor whose works include a taxidermied dog.

    Shopping for a New Barbed-Wire Cowboy Hat

  • The ordinary gallows is comparatively humane; the victim falls through a trap and drops far enough to break his neck and he dies instantly.

    The Approaching Climax

  • But anecdotal evidence, as seen in both Reiser's real-life experience and his film adaptation, suggests teens and young adults may be the most open to incorporating humor of the type he describes as "gallows humor" or "so awful it's funny."

    The Full Feed from HuffingtonPost.com

  • Hadary's song and dance on the gallows is the one place where everything comes together in a bloodcurdling irony beyond politics and pathology.

    The Killing Of Presidents

  • Alongside the gallows is a box of miniature nooses tagged with inmate ID numbers; these were the personal collection of an employee who participated in 150 executions between 1924 and 1954.

    Next, The Death Penalty Wing

  • In addition to the laugh and I do agree with Icanhasyarn that this one looks like a gallows, which is a particularly horrific motif for a birthday cake, I also have the comfort of knowing my birthday cake - since I will be making it myself - will look ever so much more festive and happ.

    One Really IS the Loneliest Number

  • The ultimate extension of this premise, of course, is so-called gallows humor.

    dustbury.com » The Laugher curve

  • "Whether it was the voice and countenance of Mr. Tyson, or the terror of the word gallows, that affected the miscreant, his arm suddenly fell, and he stood as if struck dumb with amazement.

    A Visit to the United States in 1841

  • No one should be surprised if the first group frog-marched to the gallows is the editorial staff of the New York Times.

    Frog-marching the Media to the Gallows

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