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
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.

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
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.

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
The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer. Copyright © 2003, 1997 by The Christine Ammer 1992 Trust. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
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References in periodicals archive ?
by looking at texts by African American writers not usually discussed in conjunction with one another and at the legal and historical contexts in which they were produced." The range is wide both chronologically and generically, from Judge Daniel Horsmanden's account of the "legal" handing and burning at the stake of thirty-one slaves and free blacks accused of conspiring to burn and loot New York City in 1741, to slave narratives, and to extensive treatment of works by Delany, Chesnutt, Hopkins, Johnson, Schuyler, Du Bois, Fisher, Hurston, Wright, Motley, Himes, Ellison, and others, not to mention black comics and gangsta rap, all in the context of American law and jurisprudence.
To dismiss them all as an affront to Christianity is a harkening back to the bad old days of religious persecution, burning at the stake of "heretics," and the Spanish Inquisition.
Finally, charges of disobedience, then heresy, brought his excommunication from the Church and his burning at the stake. His surviving sermons give some indication of why he was able to win adherents among the people and among such artists as Botticelli, Pico della Mirandola, Ficino, and the young Michelangelo.