peine forte et dure

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English[edit]

Etymology[edit]

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

Noun[edit]

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.