The Meaning of Lynching: What It Is and How To Use It

Lynching is a term with a terrible past. Do you know how this term has been used throughout history? This article will teach you what lynching means.

Your writing, at its best

Compose bold, clear, mistake-free, writing with Grammarly's AI-powered writing assistant

The word lynching refers to a racist and jarringly violent action that sadly is still perpetrated in the present day. Read on to learn more about this history of this word, but only do so if you’re prepared for upsetting or triggering content.

What Does the Word Lynching Mean?

According to Facing History, lynching is a verb which refers to three or more people in a mob who illegally kill someone without court sanction or legal sanction. These violent crimes were predominantly performed by white people against Black people during the late-19th and 20th centuries in the United States of America. 

Lynching was most common in Mississippi, Virginia, Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana, Missouri, South Carolina, Indiana, Arkansas, and Texas. You may notice that the phenomenon of racial terrorism and acts of violence was focused in Southern states that fought for slavery in the Civil War.

The forms of lynching include hanging from trees, mutilation, torture, desecration, tarring and feathering, decapitation, or burning alive. The person who is being lynched was often given a criminal accusation, arrested, and then hunted down and killed. These were frequently public spectacles that were watched by large crowds, and the criminal accusations were largely fabricated.

African Americans were subject to lynching by white mobs and were never given due process of the law. Police officers often attended or participated in the public execution rather than sending the accused to jail. 

Lynching still happens today, though perhaps not always in the way it occurred during Civil War era, late 19th, and early 20th century. White supremacists and racist people still exist in large numbers, and there have been numerous recent stories about people committing lynchings even in this day and age.

What Are Translations of the Word Lynching?

While lynching may seem like a chiefly American term due to its association with slavery and the rights of the African American community in the United States, this term actually has translations in several different languages. 

Word Sense provides a list of numerous different translations in different languages for the word lynching. If you plan to discuss a lawless and unjust public execution with a person in another language, knowing these translations can be useful. 

  • Swedish: lyncha‎
  • French: lyncher‎
  • Roman: lȉnčovati‎
  • Portuguese: linchar‎
  • Polish: linczować‎, zlinczować‎
  • German: lynchen‎
  • Czech: lynčovat‎
  • Cyrillic: ли̏нчовати‎
  • Mandarin: 執行私刑‎, 执行私刑‎ (zhíxíng sīxíng)
  • Esperanto: linĉi‎
  • Galician: linchar‎
  • Finnish: lynkata‎
  • Japanese: リンチを加える‎ (rinchi-o kuwaeru), 私刑を加える‎ (shikei-o kuwaeru)
  • Dutch: lynchen‎
  • Irish: linseáil‎
  • Hungarian: meglincsel‎
  • Spanish: linchar‎
  • Russian: линчева́ть‎, расправля́ться самосу́дом‎

What Is the Etymology of the Word Lynching?

According to NAACP and Britannica, it is likely that the term lynch came from Charles Lynch, who headed his own court during the American Revolution to punish loyalists. He first used the term Lynch’s law, which evolved into the verb lynching. Some argue it was named for Captain William Lynch.

The NAACP was key in fighting lynchings in America by boycotting businesses, writing newspaper articles, and advocating for political protections for Black Americans. The first Anti-Lynching bill was introduced to Congress in 1918 by Congressman Leonidas Dyer of Missouri. This was known as the Dyer Bill, but it was later defeated during a Senate filibuster.

While the bill was not passed, the number of lynchings did significantly decrease every year starting in the 1930s due to the activism by the NAACP and other groups that actively opposed lynching. There were also general progressive shifts in the views of the people, which could have contributed to lower lynching rates.

Statistics of Lynching in the United States from 1900-1925

Look at the difference in the number of lynchings by the year between white people and Black people from the years 1900 to 1925. There is a very serious discrepancy between the number of Black people who were killed by lynching each year in the United States. This list of statistics from UMKC makes it very clear that lynchings in the United States were racially motivated.

YearNo. of WhiteNo. of BlackTotal Lynchings

What Are Synonyms for the Word Lynching?

Lynching has a very specific connotation due to its association with the Black community in America. If you are looking for a word that does not have these connotations and simply talks about the killing or execution of a person, you can opt for one of the below synonyms of lynching provided by Power Thesaurus:

  • abate
  • abolish
  • and quarter
  • annihilate
  • asphyxiate
  • assassinate
  • behead
  • bereave of life
  • cause death
  • decapitate
  • destroy
  • dispatch
  • do away with
  • electrocute
  • execute
  • execute illegally
  • exterminate
  • guillotine
  • hang
  • hoist
  • kill
  • liquidate
  • mob
  • murder
  • noose
  • poison
  • put away
  • put to death
  • put to sleep
  • sacrifice
  • send to the gallows
  • slay
  • stretch
  • string
  • swing


To recap, the word lynching refers to mob action or mob violence against an alleged transgressor. This execution style was predominant during the 19th and early 20th centuries, largely in relation to innocent Black Americans.


  1. Lynch Translations | Word Sense 
  2. Lynch synonyms – 261 Words and Phrases for Lynch | Power Thesaurus 
  3. The Origins of Lynching Culture in the United States | Facing History and Ourselves 
  4. lynching | Definition, History, & Facts | Britannica 
  5. Lynching Statistics by Year | UMKC Law