Slang dictionary

bound and gagged

[ bound n gagd ]

What does bound and gagged mean?

Bound and gagged is used in a literal way to describe a person who has been tied up (bound) and has had something placed in or over their mouth (gagged). This is typically done to prevent them from moving, escaping, or speaking, as in the case of someone who has been kidnapped or who is being held captive. This literal sense of the phrase is typically used in police reports or news reports about incidents in which someone has been restrained in such a way.

Bound and gagged is also used figuratively to describe someone who has been silenced or prevented from speaking freely in some way. For example, people might describe themselves as being bound and gagged due to being restricted from speaking openly by legal restraints (such as a gag order, a nondisclosure agreement, or a ruling in a lawsuit) or pressure from other people or groups, such as their employer.

Example: It seems like he has been bound and gagged by the newspaper after all the controversy over his opinion piece.

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Where does bound and gagged come from?

Bound is the past tense of the verb bind, which means “to tie up or otherwise secure with some form of restraints, especially around the wrists, arms, ankles, and legs.” Binding someone in this way is typically done to prevent them from moving or escaping. Gagged is the past tense of the verb gag, which in this case means “to put something in someone’s mouth to prevent them from speaking.” When bound and gagged is used literally, gagged is used generally to indicate that something has been done to prevent someone from speaking, such as placing tape over their mouth.

Bound and gagged has been used literally since at least the early 1700s. The figurative sense of bound and gagged has been used since at least the early 1900s.

Examples of bound and gagged

Australian police have charged a man extradited from the United States with murder in the death of a Thai national, whose body was found bound and gagged on the side of a Sydney road.
@AP, April 14, 2019
Shortly thereafter, Seale was dragged out of the courtroom by half a dozen marshals and came back bound and gagged.
Andrew R. Chow, TIME, October 16, 2020

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Who uses bound and gagged?

The literal sense of bound and gagged is often found in police reports and news reports. Its figurative sense is often used in contexts in which a person claims that they are being silenced for political reasons or to prevent them from speaking the truth about some kind of misconduct.

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Note

This is not meant to be a formal definition of bound and gagged like most terms we define on Dictionary.com, but is rather an informal word summary that hopefully touches upon the key aspects of the meaning and usage of bound and gagged that will help our users expand their word mastery.