AskDefine | Define lapidate

Dictionary Definition



1 kill by throwing stones at; "Adulterers should be stoned according to the Koran" [syn: stone]
2 throw stones at

User Contributed Dictionary



From etyl la lapidātus, past participle of lapidō, from lapis


  1. to stone, sometimes to death
  2. to throw stones at

Related terms


  • Finnish: kivittää (1,2)
  • French: lapider



  1. Form of Second-person plural present tense, lapidare
  2. Form of Second-person plural imperative, lapidare#Italian|lapidare

Extensive Definition

Stoning, or lapidation, refers to a form of capital punishment whereby an organized group throws stones at the convicted individual until the person dies.
Stoning has been used throughout history in a number of places, both in the form of community justice and also as a judicial form of capital punishment. The practice is referred to in Greek history, as well as Christian, Jewish, and Islamic texts.

Secular use

Religious use

Bible and Judaism

The Old Testament of Christianity, which is the Tanakh of the Jews and as such a common book of religious reference, prescribes death by stoning for a long series of offenses, including:
  • Adultery (specifically in the case of an engaged woman having sex with a man other than her fiancé) (Deuteronomy 22:23-24)
  • Having sex with animals ("bestiality")
  • Engaging in idolatry or seducing others to do so
  • Breaking the Shabbat
  • Cursing God
  • Goring (animals) (Exodus 21-28)
  • "Rebellion" against parents Deuteronomy (21,21)
There are, however, only scarce mentions of such a punishment being actually inflicted. A detailed recorded case of stoning occurs in the Book of Joshua (7, 24) when an officer named Achan (עכן) was caught looting in Jericho, a conquered Canaanite city. Under the mores reflected in that book, massacring the Canaanites was an acceptable and indeed praiseworthy act, but disobedience to God's command by taking loot to oneself was an act heinous enough that not only Achan himself but also his entire family were stoned to death by the gathered Hebrews, as a punishment. As manifest also in Jewish sources contemporary with and prior to early Christianity, particularly the Mishnah, doubts were growing in Jewish society about the morality of capital punishment in general and stoning in particular. According to Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel in the time when the religious courts had authority over capital punishment, a court that executed more than 1 person in 70 years was a "bloody court". In the following centuries the leading Jewish sages imposed so many restrictions on the actual implementation of capital punishment - especially, many difficult to fulfill conditions for a testimony to be admissible - as to make the imposition of capital punishment virtually impossible in practice.
According to the Talmud stoning must be an instant death with the first stone being so heavy it must be heaved off a cliff to inflict the fatal blow.

In Islam

"Within sharia law, there is a specific set of offences known as the Hadd offences. These are crimes punished by specific penalties, such as stoning, lashes or the severing of a hand. The penalties for Hadd offences are not universally adopted as law in Islamic countries."
As with many religions today, not all holy books reference a particular topic. Islamic scholars argue both sides of stoning within Islam, but regardless, many cases of stoning continue to this day. However, unlike Judaism where for capital punishment to take place two reputable witnesses must witness the Hadd offense including stoning Hadd, in Islam stoning (which is the penalty for committing adultery under marriage wedlock only) is the only capital punishment which requires four witnesses "accusers" to admit that they saw the defenders sexually interact. It is also important to note that in Islam a person whom admit adultery can be the witness upon himself only, yet according to sharia law he must oath on himself four times before he can be punished with the appropriate punishment which is stoning if the person is under wedlock or lashing a 100 lash if the person is not under wedlock. Husbands can also launch a charge against their spouses, and have (in support) no evidence but their own,- their solitary evidence (can be received) if they bear witness four times (with an oath) by Allah that they are solemnly telling the truth; And the fifth (oath) (should be) that they solemnly invoke the curse of Allah on themselves if they tell a lie;But it would avert the punishment from the wife, if she bears witness four times (with an oath) By Allah, that (her husband) is telling a lie; And the fifth (oath) should be that she solemnly invokes the wrath of Allah on herself if (her accuser) is telling the truth; Verse 24.006 - 24.009. The last possible way for stoning as penalty for adultery under wedlock is that a woman concealing under marriage wedlock, considering that DNA is not accepted as an evidence in shar'ia law.

Usage today

Among the world's countries with Muslim majorities, very few (the unofficial sharia court which runs in parallel with judicial court) exercise this form of punishment; when they do, they often face criticism.
As most areas of Afghanistan, aside from the capital, Kabul, are controlled locally by warlords or tribal leaders, the Afghan legal system depends highly on an individual communities' local culture and the political and/or religious ideology of its leaders. Stoning also occurs in lawless areas, where vigilantes decide to commit the act for religious and/or political purposes.
The Iranian judiciary has officially placed a moratorium on stoning, although the punishment remains on the books. Stoning had occurred in Iran, for crimes including but not limited to adultery. "The penalty for adultery under Article 83 of the penal code, called the Law of Hodoud is flogging (100 lashes of the whip) for unmarried male and female offenders. Married offenders may be punished by stoning regardless of their gender. Exact figures cannot be found on numbers.
Stoning is available as a punishment under Sharia in Nigeria. The most famous case is that of Amina Lawal, who was sentenced to death for having sex out-of-wedlock, as she is not married and found herself pregnant.
The death sentences through stoning of the years 2001 and 2002 in northern Nigeria sparked international discussion on Sharia’s imposition of stoning. Between 2000 and 2001 twelve northern Nigerian states officially declared Sharia to be their criminal code, even though many of its regulations conflict with the Nigerian constitution. The introduction of Sharia law directly and indirectly led to many violent riots.
Islamic law in Pakistan still allows stoning as a form of punishment, however, no such executions have taken place in the country.
Saudi Arabia, Sudan, United Arab Emirates
Sentences to stoning or stonings without a sentence were also reported within the last years from Sudan, Saudi-Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

In Judaism

In the Torah, stoning is specifically prescribed as the method of execution for crimes such as blasphemy, apostasy and one form of adultery (under very specific conditions).
However, the Talmud limits the use of the death penalty to Jewish criminals who: (a) while about to do the crime were warned not to commit the crime while in the presence of two witnesses (and only individuals who meet a strict list of standards are considered acceptable witnesses); and (b) having been warned, committed the crime in front of the same two witnesses.
You must certainly put him to death. Your hand must be the first in putting him to death, and then the hands of all the people. You shall stone him to death, because he tried to turn you away from the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt out of the land of slavery.Deuteronomy(13:9-10)
The Talmudic restriction on how stoning is to be carried out differs from the type of stoning commonly assumed, such as the type implied by the Gospel of John chapter 8 in the New Testament. According to the Jewish Oral Law, after the Jewish criminal has been determined as guilty before the Great Sanhedrin, the two valid witnesses and the sentenced criminal go to the edge of a high place. From there the two witnesses are to push the criminal off. After the criminal has fallen, the two witnesses are to drop a large boulder onto the criminal - requiring both of the witnesses to lift the boulder together. If the criminal did not die from the fall or from the crushing of the large boulder, then any people in the surrounding area are to quickly cause him to die by stoning with whatever rocks they can find.

Well known examples

Groups against the practice of stoning

Stoning has been condemned by every human rights organization. Some groups, such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, oppose all capital punishment, including stoning. Other groups, such as and RAWA (Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan), oppose stoning per se as an especially "cruel" practice.
Specific sentences of stoning, such as the Amina Lawal case, have often generated international protest. Groups like Human Rights Watch, while in sympathy with these protests, have raised a concern that the Western focus on stoning as an especially "exotic" or "barbaric" act distracts from what they view as the larger problems of capital punishment. They argue that the "more fundamental human rights issue in Nigeria is the dysfunctional justice system."

Stoning in literature

  • Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery" depicts a lottery in which one member of a small, isolated American community is stoned to death ritually each year as a sacrifice. It explores themes of scapegoating, man's inherent evil and the destructive nature of observing ancient, outdated rituals.
  • Robert A. Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land reaches its climax with a stoning execution.

Stoning in film and television

  • Seven Sleepers (English translation), 2005 - A series running on Iranian TV, in which medieval (300-400 AD) Jews stone Christians.
  • A Stoning in Fulham County, 1988 - A made-for-TV movie surrounding the vigilante stoning in an American Amish community.
  • Sleeper Cell, 2005 - A Showtime original series. Members of the cell execute (by stoning) one of their members for talking openly with his uncle about planned terrorist attacks.
  • Monty Python's Life of Brian presents a Jesus of Nazareth-era stoning in a humorous context, ending with a massive boulder being dropped on the Jewish official, not the victim.
  • In the Doctor Who story "The Mysterious Planet", the Sixth Doctor is stoned.
  • On the HBO prison show Oz, inmate William Giles was sentenced to death. Giles requested that he be stoned to death. This request caused capital punishment to be briefly overturned, only to be brought back with stricter rules.
  • Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery" made into a short (20 minute) film by Larry Yust in 1969 as part of an educational release for Encyclopaedia Britannica's "Short Story Showcase".
  • In the cartoon American Dad! the family was sentenced to be stoned after many sins done by various members of the family.
  • The film The Kite Runner depicts the stoning of an adulteress in a public stadium during a football match, by the Taliban.

See also

lapidate in Arabic: رجم
lapidate in Catalan: Lapidació
lapidate in Czech: Poprava ukamenováním
lapidate in Danish: Stening
lapidate in German: Steinigung
lapidate in Estonian: Kividega surnuksloopimine
lapidate in Spanish: Lapidación
lapidate in Esperanto: Ŝtonumado
lapidate in Persian: سنگسار
lapidate in French: Lapidation
lapidate in Korean: 투석형
lapidate in Italian: Lapidazione
lapidate in Hebrew: ארבע מיתות בית דין
lapidate in Dutch: Steniging
lapidate in Japanese: 石打ち
lapidate in Norwegian: Steining
lapidate in Norwegian Nynorsk: Steining
lapidate in Polish: Ukamienowanie
lapidate in Portuguese: Lapidação (pena de morte)
lapidate in Russian: Побиение камнями
lapidate in Finnish: Kivitys
lapidate in Swedish: Stening
lapidate in Turkish: Recm
lapidate in Chinese: 石刑
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