gallows bird

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From gallows +‎ bird. Compare virtually identical German construction Galgenvogel (literally gallows-fowl" or "gallows-bird), and French construction gibier de potence, as well as similar English jailbird.


gallows bird (plural gallows birds)

  1. (archaic) A person who deserves, or is likely, to be hanged.
    Synonyms: hangdog, wag-halter; see also Thesaurus:gallows bird
    • 1943, Esther Hoskins Forbes, Johnny Tremain:
      Everybody along Long Wharf knows you called him a gallows bird. He's not used to it.
    • 2012, Sebastian Brant, The Ship of Fools:
      The story of the man who bit off his father's nose for rearing him as a gallows bird is as old as Aesop, but no known source before Brant mentions the son's name.
    • 2015, Paul Steinberg, Speak You Also: A Holocaust Memoir:
      Before me stood not Philippe but a gallows bird no respectable citizen would want to meet up with on a lonely road.

Related terms[edit]