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branks

[brangks] /bræŋks/
noun, (used with a plural verb)
1.
Sometimes, brank. a device consisting of a headpiece with a flat, iron bit to restrain the tongue, formerly used to punish scolds.
Origin
1585-1595
1585-95; perhaps to be identified with Middle English bernak bridle, snaffle; see barnacle2

brank

[brangk] /bræŋk/
verb (used without object)
1.
to hold up and toss the head, as a horse when spurning the bit or prancing.
2.
to bridle; restrain.
Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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British Dictionary definitions for branks

branks

/bræŋks/
plural noun
1.
(formerly) an iron bridle used to restrain scolding women
Word Origin
C16: of unknown origin
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
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Word Origin and History for branks
n.

1590s, of unknown origin, perhaps from North Sea Germanic. An instrument of punishment for women, originally Scottish, it was a kind of iron cage for the head with a metal bit attached to still the tongue.

Paide for caring a woman throughe the towne for skoulding, with branks, 4d. ["Municipal Accounts of Newcastle," 1595]
"Ungallant, and unmercifully severe, as this species of torture seems to be, Dr. Plot, in his History of Staffordshire, much prefers it to the cucking stool, which, he says, 'not only endangers the health of the party, but also gives the tongue liberty 'twixt every dip.' " [Brockett, "A Glossary of North Country Words,"1829].

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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12
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