AskDefine | Define crushing

Dictionary Definition

crushing adj : physically or spiritually devastating; often used in combination; "a crushing blow"; "a crushing rejection"; "bone-crushing" [syn: devastating] n : forceful prevention; putting down by power or authority; "the suppression of heresy"; "the quelling of the rebellion"; "the stifling of all dissent" [syn: suppression, quelling, stifling]

User Contributed Dictionary




  1. present participle of crush


  1. That crushes; overwhelming.


  1. The action of the verb to crush.
  2. A former method of execution.

Extensive Definition

This article is about the method of execution. See crusher for a description of the manufacturing process and mechanisms for it.
Death by crushing or pressing is a method of execution which has a long history during which the techniques used varied greatly from place to place. This form of execution is no longer sanctioned by any governing body.
A common method of death throughout South and South-East Asia for over 4,000 years of recorded history, and perhaps before that, was crushing by elephants. The Romans and Carthaginians also used this method on occasion.
Crushing is also reported from Pre-Columbian America, notably in the Aztec empire.

Crushing under common law

Peine forte et dure (Law French for "hard and forceful punishment") was a method of torture formerly used in the common law legal system, where a defendant who refused to plead ("stood mute") would be subjected to having heavier and heavier stones placed upon his or her chest until a plea was entered, or as the weight of the stones on the chest became too great for the condemned to breathe, fatal suffocation would occur.
The common law courts originally took a very limited view of their own jurisdiction. They considered themselves to lack jurisdiction over a defendant until he had voluntarily submitted to it by entering a plea seeking judgment from the court. Obviously, a criminal justice system that punished only those who volunteered for punishment was unworkable; this was the means chosen to coerce them.
Many defendants charged with capital offences nonetheless refused to plead, since thereby they would escape forfeiture of property, and their heirs would still inherit their estate; but if the defendant pled guilty and was executed, their heirs would inherit nothing, their property escheating to the Crown. Peine forte et dure was abolished in the United Kingdom in 1772, although the last known actual use of the practice was in 1741. In 1772 refusing to plead was deemed to be equivalent to pleading guilty. This was changed in 1827 to being deemed a plea of not guilty. Today, in all common law jurisdictions, standing mute is treated by the courts as equivalent to a plea of Not Guilty.
The most famous case in the United Kingdom was that of Roman Catholic martyr Saint Margaret Clitherow, who was pressed to death on March 25, 1586, after refusing to plead to the charge of having harboured Catholic (then outlawed) priests in her house (in order to avoid a trial in which her own children would be obliged to give evidence).
The only executee of peine forte et dure in American history was Giles Corey, who was pressed to death on September 19, 1692, during the Salem witch trials, after he refused to enter a plea in the judicial proceeding. According to legend, his last words as he was being crushed were "More weight", and he was thought to be dead as the weight was applied. This is referred to in Arthur Miller's political drama The Crucible, where Giles Corey is pressed to death after refusing to plead "aye or nay" to the charge of witchcraft. In the film version of this play, the screenplay also written by Arthur Miller, Corey is crushed to death for refusing to reveal the name of a source of information.

See also


crushing in German: Zerquetschen
crushing in French: Peine forte et dure
crushing in Norwegian: Pressing (straff)
crushing in Polish: Zmiażdżenie
crushing in Russian: Peine forte et dure
crushing in Chinese: 踏刑

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

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