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Etymology 1[edit]

From Middle English galwes, galewes, plural of galwe, galowe, from Old English gealga, from Proto-West Germanic *galgō, from Proto-Germanic *galgô, from Proto-Indo-European *ǵʰalgʰ-, *ǵʰalg- (long switch, rod, shaft, pole, perch). The plural construction probably refers to the vertical and horizontal beams.

Compare West Frisian galge, Dutch galg, German Galgen, Danish galge, Icelandic gálgi.

For the pronunciation /ˈɡæləs/, compare bellows, bodice.


gallows (plural gallows or (rare) gallowses)

  1. Wooden framework on which persons are put to death by hanging. [from 1300s]
    • 1728, Thomas Otway, “The Atheist, or, the Second Part of the Solider's Fortune”, in The Works of Mr. Thomas Otway, volume 2, London, page 37:
      No, Sir, 'tis fear of Hanging. Who would not ſteal, or do Murder, every time his Fingers itch'd at it, were it not for fear of the Gallows?
  2. (colloquial, obsolete) A wretch who deserves to be hanged.
  3. (printing, obsolete) The rest for the tympan when raised.
  4. (colloquial, obsolete) Suspenders; braces.
    • 1882, George William Sheldon, The Story of the Volunteer Fire Department of the City of New York, page 67:
      The last pair of "gallowses" made by Mr. Gratacap was an order from Mr. Brokaw, the clothier.
  5. Any contrivance with posts and crossbeam for suspending objects.
    • 1971, Mario Puzo, Francis Ford Coppola, The Godfather (screenplay, third draft)
      Lit by the moonlight through the window, he can see a FIGURE in the hospital bed alone in the room, and under a transparent oxygen tent. [] Tubes hang from a steel gallows beside the bed, and run to his nose and mouth.
  6. The main frame of a beam engine.
Derived terms[edit]

Etymology 2[edit]



  1. third-person singular simple present indicative of gallow