draw and quarter

Idioms & Phrases

draw and quarter

Punish severely, as in Mom'll draw and quarter me if even one scratch appears on her new car. This expression alludes to two brutal forms of execution practiced in the past. In one the victim was drawn by a horse to a gallows, hanged, and then cut into four pieces and scattered; in the other the victim was hanged, disemboweled while still alive (drawn), and then beheaded and dismembered. In both the victim was said to be . Today the term is usually used hyperbolically.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
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