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Definition of the Salem witch trials from the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary

 

the Salem witch trials

 
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a series of trials in 1692 in Salem, Massachusetts, of people accused of being witches (= women thought to have evil magic powers). They began after a group of young girls started behaving in a crazy way and saying that they were 'possessed' (= controlled by an evil spirit). People in the town were quick to accuse each other, and the trials ended with 20 people being executed, on very little evidence. Arthur Miller used the trials as the basis for his play The Crucible (1953).