peine forte et dure

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Law French, from Middle French peine forte et dure (severe and hard punishment).


Giles Corey, pressed to death by rocks on 1692 September 19 during the Salem witch trials.
An 1868 engraving of a prisoner crushed in India under an elephant’s foot.

peine forte et dure (uncountable)

  1. (law, now historical) Crushing, an old form of punishment (torture) in which the prisoner's body was pressed with heavy weights.
    • 1839, Edgar Allan Poe, William Wilson:
      It was a solid structure, with massy door, sooner than open which in the absence of the ‘Dominie’, we would all have willingly perished by the peine forte et dure.