[gal-ohz, -uh z]
See more synonyms for gallows on
noun, plural gal·lows·es, gal·lows.
  1. a wooden frame, consisting of a crossbeam on two uprights, on which condemned persons are executed by hanging.
  2. a similar structure from which something is suspended.
  3. execution by hanging: a crime deserving of the gallows.
  4. Also called gallows bitts. Nautical. a support on the deck of a vessel, generally one of two or more, consisting of a crosspiece on two uprights, for spars, boats, etc.

Origin of gallows

before 900; Middle English galwes, Old English g(e)algan, plural of g(e)alga gallows; cognate with German Galgen Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words for gallows

scaffold, rope, hanging, noose, potence, gibbet

Examples from the Web for gallows

Contemporary Examples of gallows

Historical Examples of gallows

  • Hurry on the accursed witches to the gallows, ere they do more mischief!

    Main Street

    Nathaniel Hawthorne

  • Yet, who would by his evidence send a brother to the gallows?

  • The street frightened her, since it led either to the gallows or to the river.

    The Secret Agent

    Joseph Conrad

  • The fear of death paralysed her efforts to escape the gallows.

    The Secret Agent

    Joseph Conrad

  • In this country the gallows is chiefly remarkable for the number of persons who escape it.

British Dictionary definitions for gallows


noun plural -lowses or -lows
  1. a wooden structure usually consisting of two upright posts with a crossbeam from which a rope is suspended, used for hanging criminals
  2. any timber structure resembling this, such as (in Australia and New Zealand) a frame for hoisting up the bodies of slaughtered cattle
  3. the gallows execution by hanging

Word Origin for gallows

C13: from Old Norse galgi, replacing Old English gealga; related to Old High German galgo
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for gallows

c.1300, plural of Middle English galwe "gallows" (mid-13c.), from Old Norse galgi "gallows," or from Old English galga (Mercian), gealga (West Saxon) "gallows;" all from Proto-Germanic *galgon- "pole" (cf. Old Frisian galga, Middle High German galge "gallows, cross," German Galgen "gallows," Gothic galga "cross"), from PIE *ghalgh- "branch, rod" (cf. Lithuanian zalga "pole, perch," Armenian dzalk "pole"). In Old English, also used of the cross of the crucifixion. Plural because made of two poles.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper