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From head +‎ -s- +‎ -man.


headsman (plural headsmen)

  1. An executioner whose method of dispatching the condemned is decapitation.
    • 1603, John Florio, transl.; Michel de Montaigne, The Essayes, [], printed at London: [] Edward Blount [], OCLC 946730821:
      , I.40:
      And of those base-minded jesters or buffons, some have beene seene, that even at the point of death would never leave their jesting and scoffing. He whom the heads-man threw off from the Gallowes cried out, ‘Row the Gally,’ which was his ordinarie by-word.
    • 1885, Gilbert & Sullivan, The Mikado
      And made him Headsman, for we said, / "Who's next to be decapited / Cannot cut off another's head / Until he's cut his own off []"
  2. (mining, historical) A boy who was not strong enough to put on his own, and was thus assisted by a younger boy called a foal.