A lynching is an unlawful murder by an angry mob of people. Throughout history, dominant groups have used lynchings as a way of controlling minorities.
When people take the law into their own hands and decide to punish a suspected criminal — or merely a person who's seen as challenging the status quo — the result can unfortunately be a lynching. Lynchings have most often involved hanging, especially during the period of racially motivated lynchings in the American South. The word lynching and its related verb, lynch, come from Captain William Lynch, who took control of imposing and policing order in Virginia during the Revolutionary War.