AskDefine | Define garrote

Dictionary Definition

garrote n : an instrument of execution for execution by strangulation [syn: garotte, garrotte, iron collar] v : strangle with an iron collar; "people were garrotted during the Inquisition in Spain" [syn: garrotte, garotte, scrag]

User Contributed Dictionary


Alternative spellings


From garrote



  1. an iron collar formerly used in Spain to execute people by strangulation
    • 2004: Chris Wallace, Character: Profiles in Presidential Courage
      The Spanish had responded to the insurgency with characteristic brutality. They gave rebels the "usual four shots in the back" or the garrote - an iron collar tightened around the victim's neck with a screw until he was strangled to death.
  2. something, especially a cord or wire, used for strangulation
    The mob boss was known for having his enemies executed with a garrotte of piano wire.


  1. to execute by strangulation
  2. to kill using a garrote

See also

Extensive Definition

A garrote or garrote vil (a Spanish word; alternative spellings include garotte and garrotte) is a handheld weapon, most often referring to a ligature of chain, rope, scarf, wire or fishing line used to strangle someone to death. The term especially refers to an execution device, but is sometimes used in assassination because it can be completely silent. In addition, the garrote is used by some military units. Members of the French Foreign Legion are trained in its use. The garrote was employed by Thuggees, who used a yellow scarf called a Rumaal. A garrote can be made out of many different materials, including ropes, tie wraps, fishing lines, nylon, and even guitar strings and piano wire.
Some incidents of garrotting have involved a stick used to tighten the garrote; the Spanish name actually refers to that very 'rod', so it is a pars pro toto where the eponymous component may actually be absent. In Spanish, the name can also be applied to a rope and stick used to compress a member as a torture device or to reanimate the victim. One of the reasons possession of a nunchaku is illegal in many jurisdictions is that it can easily be employed as a garrote in some configurations.
In British criminal law, garrotte also was a defined type of violent robbery using at least physical threat against the victims.

Use as an execution device

The garrote particularly refers to the execution device used by the Spaniards until the end of Francisco Franco's dictatorship as recently as 1974. In Spain, it was abolished, as well as the death penalty, in 1978 with the new constitution. Originally, it was an execution where the convict was killed by hitting him with a club ("garrote" in Spanish). Later, it was refined and consisted of a seat to restrain the condemned person while the executioner tightened a metal band around his neck with a crank or a wheel until suffocation of the condemned. Some versions of this device incorporated a fixed metal blade or spike directed at the spinal cord, to hasten the breaking of the neck. Such a device can be seen in the James Bond films The World Is Not Enough & From Russia with Love. The spiked version, called the Catalan garrote, was used as late as 1940 (as well as being used by other Spanish colonies until shortly after the 1898 Spanish-American War). The garrote was not abolished in the Philippines after that Spanish colony was captured by the Americans in 1898. The most notable victims of the garrote in the Philippines was the trio of native priests, the Gomburza, for their alleged participation in the Cavite Mutiny.
In modern times, much media attention was given to the murder of JonBenét Ramsey who was sexually abused and strangled with a garrote.


The garotte (latin laqueus) is known to have been used in the first century BC in Rome. It is referred to in accounts of the Catiline conspiracy where conspirators including Publius Cornelius Lentulus Sura were strangled with a laqueus in the Tullianum and the implement is shown in some early reliefs eg. Répertoire de Reliefs grecs et romains, tome I, p.341 (1919). See It was also used in the Middle Ages in Spain and Portugal. It was employed during the conquista of Latin America, as attested by the execution of the Inca emperor Atahualpa. In the 1810s the earliest known metallic versions of garrottes appeared, and started to be used in Spain. On 28 April 1828 they would be declared the single civilian execution method in Spain. The Portuguese Penal Code, in 1851, would include it as an execution method (substituting hanging), but it would never be used under that provision (the death penalty in times of peace was abolished in Portugal in 1867, the last execution there having taken place in 1849).
In May 1897, the last public garrotting was carried out in Spain, in Barcelona. After that, all executions would be held in private inside prisons (even if the press took photos of some of them).
The last civilian executions in Spain were those of Pilar Prades in May 1959 and José María Járabo in July 1959. Recent legislation had made many crimes belong to military legislation (like robbery-murder); thus, for some years, prosecutors would rarely request civilian executions. Several executions would still be carried out in Spain, 8 of them in the 1970s: the January 1972 firing squad execution of robber-murderer Pedro Martínez Expósito, the March 1974 garrottings of Heinz Ches (real name Georg Michael Welzel) and Salvador Puig Antich, both accused of killing police officers (theirs were the last garrottings in Spain and in the world) and the firing squad executions of five militants from ETA and FRAP in September 1975.
With the 1973 Penal Code, prosecutors once again started requesting execution in civilian cases. If the death penalty had not been abolished in 1978 after dictator Francisco Franco's death, civilian executions would most likely have resumed. The last man to be sentenced to death by garrotting was José Luis Cerveto in October 1977, for a double robbery-murder in May 1974 (he was also a pedophile). He requested that the democratic government execute him, but his sentence was commuted. Another prisoner whose civilian death sentence was commuted by the new government was businessman Juan Ballot, for the hired murder of his wife in Navarra in November 1973. The writer Camilo José Cela requested from the Consejo General del Poder Judicial the garrote that was kept in storage and had been used for Puig Antich. It was displayed for a time in the room that the Cela Foundation devoted to his novel La familia de Pascual Duarte, until Puig Antich's family asked for its removal.
Andorra, in 1990, was the last country to abolish the death penalty by garrotting, though this method had been unused there since the late 19th century, and the only execution in Andorra in the 20th century, that of Antoni Arenis for double fratricide in 1943, was carried out by firing squad because of the unavailability of a garrote executioner at that moment.
The garrote was sometimes used in England to execute religious heretics before they were burned at the stake.


See also

garrote in Catalan: Garrot vil
garrote in Czech: Garota
garrote in Danish: Garrotte
garrote in German: Garrotte
garrote in Spanish: Garrote vil
garrote in Esperanto: Garoto
garrote in French: Lacet étrangleur
garrote in Icelandic: Hálsjárn
garrote in Italian: Garrota
garrote in Dutch: Garrote
garrote in Norwegian: Garotte
garrote in Polish: Garota
garrote in Portuguese: Garrote
garrote in Russian: Гаррота
garrote in Swedish: Garrottering
garrote in Ukrainian: Гаррота

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

asphyxia, asphyxiate, asphyxiation, behead, beheading, bowstring, burke, burking, burn, burning, capital punishment, choke, choking, crucifixion, crucify, decapitate, decapitation, decollate, decollation, defenestrate, defenestration, drown, drowning, electrocute, electrocution, execute, execution, fusillade, gassing, guillotine, hanging, hemlock, inflict capital punishment, judicial murder, lapidate, lapidation, necktie party, poisoning, put to death, shoot, shooting, smother, smotheration, smothering, stifle, stifling, stone, stoning, stop the breath, strangle, strangling, strangulation, suffocate, suffocation, the ax, the block, the chair, the gallows, the gas chamber, the guillotine, the hot seat, the rope, throttle, throttling
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