If a punishment is considered Draconian you can be certain that it is particularly or overly harsh.

As any parent knows, meting out penalties is always difficult. No video games for a month! Grounded for a year!

For schools, businesses and governments it is also a vexed question of what ‘punishment fits the crime’. Too harsh and the measures might be called ‘Draconian’.

Around 621 BC, Draco, the chief magistrate of Athens, had no trouble deciding on suitable penalties. For him, the harsher the better! The death penalty was the punishment for even the most trivial crimes.

Draco produced Athens’ first written set of laws, which included these harsh punishments. They were widely challenged and in 594 BC the death penalty laws were repealed by Solon. He only retained those laws which imposed the death penalty for homicide.

The adjective Draconian was coined in the 19th century to describe overly harsh or brutal forms of punishment.

Interestingly, Draconian replaced the word draconic, which not only referred back to Draco but also to the Greek Drakon, meaning dragon.