I was just reading this communique:

We got to the moat - crowds were huge. Went up to the Merchant Marine Memorial on Tower Hill. On the site of the gibbet.

I initially thought of giblet (wrong!) and then gallows. I read this extensive entry about gibbeting but am no closer to understanding the distinction between gibbet and gallows.

  • The gallows is a gibbet used to hang people. Gibbeting is the display afterwards in some kind of cage
    – mplungjan
    Nov 12, 2014 at 12:45
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    Or were they different in the number of uprights?
    – TimR
    Nov 12, 2014 at 12:47
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    @FumbleFingers The last public execution in England was that of Michael Barrett (aka Fenian), an Irish nationalist who killed 12 people in Clerkenwell. It was in 1868. Someone is bound to be wondering when these grisly things stopped so I offer that by way of useful information.
    – WS2
    Nov 12, 2014 at 13:33
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    @FumbleFingers I have just realised that this year marked the 50th anniversary of the last execution of any kind in the UK. The last two to go to the gallows were in August 1964, one in Liverpool and the other in Manchester. I am surprised not to have seen any programmes in the media etc. on the subject.
    – WS2
    Nov 12, 2014 at 16:59
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    @FumbleFingers I was an 8 year-old child at the time of the Craig-Bentley case. Around the same time John Chrisie (Rillington Place) was brought to trial for murders which had previously been assumed to have been the work of Timothy Evans, hanged 1949. I was greatly troubled by all this as a child, especially with adults around me clamouring for execution of these various people.
    – WS2
    Nov 12, 2014 at 17:40

2 Answers 2


A gallows is a means of execution by hanging.
A gibbet is a similar device used for displaying to corpse after death.

Usually the corpse would be placed in a cage. Sometimes penalty was carried out using the gibbet, placing a convicted person in the cage alive, either for a limited period or more likely until death (with the corpse probably being left after death as an example "pour encourager les autres").

The devices look similar (though there could be significant differences in the construction of either), but had different purposes.

  • Please try to support with a definitive source.
    – Kris
    Nov 12, 2014 at 13:58
  • @Kris See for example en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gibbeting "Gibbeting was a common law punishment, which a judge could impose in addition to execution"; and en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gallows "A gallows (or scaffold) is a frame, typically wooden, used for execution by hanging, or as a means of torture before execution"
    – ChrisW
    Nov 12, 2014 at 14:16
  • That information is better incorporated within the answer for everyone's easy visibility.
    – Kris
    Nov 12, 2014 at 14:18

1828 Websters Dictionary:

Gibbet GIB'BET, noun A gallows; a post or machine in form of a gallows, on which notorious malefactors are hanged in chains, and on which their bodies are suffered to remain, as spectacles in terrorem.

  1. Any traverse beam.

GIB'BET, verb transitive To hang and expose on a gibbet or gallows.

  1. To hang or expose on anything going travers, as the beam of a gibbet

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