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A tumbril or Cucking stool.
A tumbril (cart), carrying prisoners to a guillotine.

Alternative forms[edit]


From Old French tumberel (in Anglo-Latin tumberellus), from tomber, tumber (to fall).



tumbril (plural tumbrils)

  1. A kind of medieval torture device, later associated with a cucking stool.
  2. A cart which opens at the back to release its load.
    • 1800, The Times, 17 Mar 1800, p.3 col. B:
      They then confined the Dean, while they rifled the house of every valuable article, as well as plate and money; all that was portable they loaded on Mr. Carleton’s own tumbril, to which they harnessed his horse []
    • 1994, Cormac McCarthy, The Crossing:
      They’d rigged a makeshift tent of sheeting over the little tumbril of a cart and they’d put up a sign at the front that gave her history and the number of people she was known to have eaten.
    • 1997, Don DeLillo, Underworld:
      This is a sixteenth-century work done by a Flemish master, Pieter Bruegel, and it is called The Triumph of Death [] He studies the tumbrel filled with skulls.
  3. A cart used to carry condemned prisoners to their death, especially to the guillotine during the French Revolution.
    • 1848, The Times, 26 Jun 1848, p.4 col. B:
      It is now ascertained that the tumbrel and the torches which figured in the massacre-scene of the 23d of February were prepared beforehand []
    • 2002, Colin Jones, The Great Nation, Penguin 2003, p. 370:
      If there would be former freemasons on the Committee of Public Safety during the Terror, they would be numbered too in the ranks of the émigré armies and counter-revolutionary Chouan rebels, and in tumbrils bound for the guillotine.
  4. (Britain, obsolete) A basket or cage of osiers, willows, or the like, to hold hay and other food for sheep.