Guillotine
   , LOUISETTE
   The niceties of putting a person to death became an important topic of discussion during the French Revolution, a time when the frequency and number of persons put to death made the topic not only current but crucial. The two methods of capital punishment were hanging, the usual form of execution for the riffraff, and decapitation, a privilege offered to nobility. Many people considered both forms barbaric. With hanging, some victims did not die immediately but would writhe in pain on the gibbet. With decapitation, nervous hands sometimes missed the crucial spot, and more than one blow became necessary.
   Dr. Joseph Ignace Guillotin (1738-1814), a physician during the French Revolution, proposed in a speech on October 10, 1789, to the Constituent Assembly, of which he was a member, a more humanitarian instrument for inflicting capital punishment by decapitation. The device he recommended consisted of a large blade that fell between two upright posts, striking the back of the neck of the victim. Dr. Guillotin informed the amazed assembly: "I can whisk off your head in a twinkling, and you feel no pain." The execution device, with its oblique blade, was adopted but misnamed.
   This death-dealing device was not invented by Dr. Guillotin. It was designed by Dr. Antoine Louis, secretary of the College of Surgeons, and built by Tobias Schmidt, a German mechanic, who even supplied a bag to hold the severed head. But similar instruments of death had been used previously in other countries. Italy in the thirteenth century had a decapitator called mannaia. Edinburgh had such a device called maiden. Reports indicate that a similar beheading machine was used in the Yorkshire town of Halifax.
   Although the French device was originally called Louisette, the name guillotine was more often used. Dr. Guillotin took exception to the name and tried to change it, but the name stuck. After the good doctor's death, however, his family changed the family name legally.

Dictionary of eponyms. . 2013.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • guillotine — [ gijɔtin ] n. f. • 1789; de Guillotin, n. du médecin qui en préconisa l usage, après Louis et sa louisette 1 ♦ Instrument de supplice servant à trancher la tête des condamnés à mort par la chute d un couperet qui glisse entre deux montants… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • Guillotiné — Guillotine La guillotine. La guillotine est une machine qui était utilisée pour l’application de la peine de mort par décapitation, en France, dans certains cantons de Suisse, en Suède, en Belgique et en Allemagne. La guillotine fut utilisée pour …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Guillotine — Sf Fallbeil erw. fach. (18. Jh.) Onomastische Bildung. Entlehnt aus frz. guillotine, das zurückgeht auf den Namen des Befürworters dieser Hinrichtungsart, dem französischen Arzt Guillotin.    Ebenso nndl. guillotine, ne. guillotine, nschw.… …   Etymologisches Wörterbuch der deutschen sprache

  • guillotiné — guillotiné, ée (ghi llo ti né, née, ll mouillées) part. passé de guillotiner. Condamné à mort pour meurtre et guillotiné.    Substantivement. Un guillotiné …   Dictionnaire de la Langue Française d'Émile Littré

  • guillotine — ► NOUN 1) a machine with a heavy blade sliding vertically in grooves, used for beheading people. 2) a device with a descending or sliding blade used for cutting paper or sheet metal. 3) Brit. (in parliament) a procedure used to limit discussion… …   English terms dictionary

  • Guillotine — Guil lo*tine (g[i^]l l[ o]*t[=e]n ), v. t. [imp. & p. p. {Guillotined}; p. pr. & vb. n. {Guillotining}.] [Cf. F. guillotiner.] To behead with the guillotine. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Guillotine — Guil lo*tine (g[i^]l l[ o]*t[=e]n ), n. [F., from Guillotin, a French physician, who proposed, in the Constituent Assembly of 1789, to abolish decapitation with the ax or sword. The instrument was invented by Dr. Antoine Louis, and was called at… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Guillotine — Guillotine, die bekannte, in Frankreich übliche Hinrichtungsmaschine, aus zwei oben mit einem Querbalken verbundenen Säulen bestehend, zwischen denen ein scharfes Eisen, das durch ein in einer Kurbel laufendes Seil dirigirt wird, schnell und… …   Damen Conversations Lexikon

  • guillotine — (n.) The name of the machine in which the axe descends in grooves from a considerable height so that the stroke is certain and the head instantly severed from the body. [ Universal Magazine of Knowledge and Pleasure, January 1793], 1791, from Fr …   Etymology dictionary

  • guillotine — [gil′ə tēn΄, gē′ətēn; ] for v., also [ gil΄ə tēn′, gē΄ətēn′] n. [Fr, after J. I. Guillotin (1738 1814), Fr physician who advocated its use during the French Revolution in preference to less humane methods] 1. an instrument for beheading by means… …   English World dictionary

  • Guillotine — (spr. Gillotihn), die in der ersten Französischen Revolution in Frankreich eingeführte, auch in mehreren deutschen u. italienischen Staaten u. in Griechenland übliche Köpfmaschine. Die G. besteht aus zwei, oben mit einem Querholz verbundenen… …   Pierer's Universal-Lexikon

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”