- A machine used during (and after) the French Revolution for beheading people condemned to death, by means of a heavy sharp blade that slid down within vertical guides. By extension, "guillotine" refers to any shearing machine or instrument (such as a paper cutter, a book trimmer, etc.) that is like a guillotine in its action. The word "guillotine" is named for a French physician, Joseph Ignace Guillotin (1738-1814). Appalled by the cruel methods (such as torture) by which people were then executed, Dr. Guillotin argued before the French National Assembly in 1789 that painless and private beheading by machine should become the standard means for capital punishment in a civilized society such as in France. (The good doctor did not invent the machine; he merely advocated its use.) The National Assembly endorsed Dr. Guillotin's proposal on March 20, 1792. But, much to the doctor's dismay, the guillotine came almost immediately into public use and great abuse. The use of the guillotine was only abolished in France on October 9, 1981. The humanely-oriented Dr. Guillotin's name had long since become inextricably associated with the inhumane use of his machine. A surgical instrument used to cut off the tonsils was called the guillotine.
* * *An instrument in the shape of a metal ring through which runs a sliding knifeblade, used in excising a tonsil. [Fr. an instrument for execution by decapitation]
* * *guil·lo·tine 'gil-ə-.tēn, 'gē-ə-.tēn n a surgical instrument that consists of a ring and handle with a knife blade which slides down the handle and across the ring and that is used for cutting out a protruding structure (as a tonsil) capable of being placed in the ringGuil·lo·tin gē-yȯ-tan Joseph-Ignace (1738-1814)French surgeon. Guillotin was a member of the National Assembly during the time of the French Revolution. In 1789 he proposed the passage of a law requiring that all death sentences be carried out by decapitation, a practice up to that time reserved for the nobility. At the time decapitation was perceived to be a humane method of execution, and its uniform application was intended as a statement of egalitarian ideals. Various decapitation devices had been in use for centuries, but an improvement was commissioned, and subsequently introduced in 1792. Gradually the device became known as the guillotine as it became associated with the man who had advocated it as a humane instrument of capital punishment. The surgical instrument known as the guillotine is so called because it features a similar sliding-blade action.
* * *1. an instrument used for removing the tonsils. It is loop-shaped and contains a sliding knife blade.2. an encircling suture to control the escape of fluid or blood from an orifice or to close a gap.
* * *guil·lo·tine (geґo-tēn) [Fr.] an instrument for excising a tonsil or the uvula.
Medical dictionary. 2011.