Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Scolding Definition:

A medieval offense; women who were verbally disputative; who incited or agitated against the public peace.

Related Terms: Ducking Stool, Common Scold, Scold

The convicted were called common scolds, or just scolds or even shrews.

Of scoldJowitt wrote:


"A troublesome and angry woman who, by brawling and wrangling amongst her neighbours, breaks the public peace, increases discord and becomes a public nuisance...."

Andrews, in his book Old Time Punishments explains why the medieval English even cared about scolding and scolds:

"It is clear, from a careful study of the history of medieval times, that virtue and amiability amongst the middle and lower classes, generally speaking, did not prevail. The free use of the tongue gave rise to riots and feuds to such an extent that it is difficult for us to realize at the present day. A strong feeling against scolding woman came down to a late."

He also quotes from a 1467 Leicester city ordinance which provided that:

"… scolds to be punished by the Mayor on a cuck-stool before their own doors and then carried to the four gates of the town."

Usual punishment for scolding was either cucking stool or a ducking stool or even the imposition of a brank for a period of time. For men who incited unrest or were disputative, the typical punishment was a period of time in the stocks or the brank.


  • Andrews, William, Old Time Punishments (New York: Dorset Press, 1990).

Categories & Topics:

Always looking up definitions? Save time with our search provider (modern browsers only)

If you find an error or omission in Duhaime's Law Dictionary, or if you have suggestion for a legal term, we'd love to hear from you!