burn at the stake

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burn at the stake

1. Literally, to execute someone by tying them to a stake and setting them on fire (a common punishment for heretics in the Middle Ages). A noun or pronoun can be used between "burn" and "at." Is it true that Joan of Arc was burned at the stake?
2. By extension, to punish someone harshly or excessively. A noun or pronoun can be used between "burn" and "at." The kids definitely should not have broken curfew, but don't burn them at the stake for it. I think the board wants to burn the ex-CEO at the stake for his corrupt business practices.
See also: burn, stake

the stake

Execution by being burned alive while tied to a large wooden stake. The township found her guilty of witchcraft and sentenced her to the stake.
See also: stake

burn someone at the stake

 
1. Lit. to set fire to a person tied to a post (as a form of execution). They used to burn witches at the stake.
2. Fig. to chastise or denounce someone severely or excessively. Stop yelling. I made a simple mistake, and you're burning me at the stake for it. Sally only spilled her milk. There is no need to shout. Don't burn her at the stake for it.
See also: burn, stake

burn at the stake

Execute someone by tying to a stake and burning; also, punish severely. This expression refers to a method used in the Middle Ages for putting heretics to death, but now it is used as a hyperbolic metaphor for harsh punishment, as in She was sure she'd be burned at the stake for losing the contract. In fact, the stake can be used loosely for any extreme punishment. William Makepeace Thackeray so used it in Henry Esmond (1852): "'I know I would go to the stake for you,' said Harry."
See also: burn, stake