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scarlet letter (plural scarlet letters)

  1. (historical) A letter A in scarlet cloth required to be worn by those convicted of adultery in 17th-century Puritan New England.
    • 1850, Nathaniel Hawthorne, (title):
      The Scarlet Letter.
    • 2012, Faramerz Dabhoiwala, The Origins of Sex, Penguin 2013, p. 44:
      In the early seventeenth century, all the colonies of New England enacted harsh laws against unchastity: banishment, imprisonment, severe public flogging, the wearing of scarlet letters and other shaming garments for the rest of one's life.