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[pil-uh-ree] /ˈpɪl ə ri/
noun, plural pillories.
a wooden framework erected on a post, with holes for securing the head and hands, formerly used to expose an offender to public derision.
verb (used with object), pilloried, pillorying.
to set in the pillory.
to expose to public derision, ridicule, or abuse:
The candidate mercilessly pilloried his opponent.
Origin of pillory
1225-75; Middle English pyllory < Old French pilori, perhaps < Medieval Latin pīlōrium, equivalent to Latin pīl(a) pillar (see pile1) + -ōrium -ory2, though Romance variants such as Provençal espillori suggest a less transparent source
Related forms
unpilloried, adjective
Can be confused
pillar, pillory, pillow. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for pillory
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • The public exhibition of offenders in the pillory was not calculated to refine the manners of the people.

    The Age of Pope John Dennis
  • "He'll put you in the pillory of his verse for this," laughed Collis.

    The Lion's Skin Rafael Sabatini
  • With unaccustomed lenity it punished a first conviction with the pillory only.

  • He informs us that there was a pillory at Wallingford in 1231, and probably earlier.

    Bygone Punishments William Andrews
  • The use of the pillory in New England extended into this century.

  • He stood two hours in the pillory, and had his forehead branded.

    Bygone Punishments William Andrews
  • Cursing and swearing were openly punished at the market crosses, by the shame of the pillory, and by fines.

British Dictionary definitions for pillory


noun (pl) -ries
a wooden framework into which offenders were formerly locked by the neck and wrists and exposed to public abuse and ridicule
exposure to public scorn or abuse
verb (transitive) -ries, -rying, -ried
to expose to public scorn or ridicule
to punish by putting in a pillory
Word Origin
C13: from Anglo-Latin pillorium, from Old French pilori, of uncertain origin; related to Provençal espillori
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 pillory

late 13c. (attested in Anglo-Latin from late 12c.), from Old French pilori "pillory" (mid-12c.), related to Medieval Latin pilloria, of uncertain origin, perhaps a diminutive of Latin pila "pillar, stone barrier" (see pillar), but OED finds this proposed derivation "phonologically unsuitable."


c.1600, from pillory (n.). Figurative sense of "expose publicly to ridicule or abuse" is from 1690s. Related: Pilloried.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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