on pain of

on pain of

With the threat of undergoing something extremely bad or unpleasant as a punishment. Often used in the phrase "on pain of death." The prisoners were forced to march on pain of death from the POW camp across the burning desert. On pain of having our pay docked, we were told we had to come in every Saturday until further notice to take care of the backlog of work.
See also: of, on, pain
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.

on pain of

Also, under pain of. Subject to the penalty of a specific punishment. For example, The air traffic controllers knew that going on strike was on pain of losing their jobs . At one time this idiom often invoked death as the penalty, a usage that is largely hyperbolic today, as in We'd better be back on time, under pain of death. [Late 1300s]
See also: of, on, pain
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.

on/under pain of something

(formal) with the threat of having something done to you as a punishment if you do not obey a command: They were forbidden on pain of death to talk to any of the other prisoners.We were told to pay within three days, on pain of a €1 000 fine if we didn’t.
See also: of, on, pain, something
Farlex Partner Idioms Dictionary © Farlex 2017
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