Lynching redux

Michael Quinion wordseditor at WORLDWIDEWORDS.ORG
Tue Aug 2 16:43:03 UTC 2005

> When you use the word "lynch" you do not imply a hanging; rather you
> state that the killing in question was both vigilante-style and

>From an historical perspective, I'd agree that lynching didn't imply
hanging. But equally it didn't imply death either.

The first appearance in print of the term that I know of is in a
humorous article in The New-England Magazine of October 1835 under
the title of The Inconveniences of Being Lynched; the storyteller was
tarred and feathered on suspicion of being an abolitionist. A news
item in the New York Daily Express in 1843 refers to a man 'lately
taken from his house at night by some of his neighbors and severely
lynched', which sounds as though a harsh punishment was inflicted but
one short of death, since it is hard to severely execute somebody.

Would I not be right in suggesting that some comparatively recent
examples of the term have returned to this sense? Or does it always
imply death?

Michael Quinion
Editor, World Wide Words
E-mail: wordseditor at

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