A witch-hunt or witch purge is a search for people labelled "witches" or evidence of witchcraft, often involving moral panic or mass hysteria. The classical period of witch-hunts in Early Modern Europe and Colonial North America took place in the Early Modern period or about 1450 to 1750, spanning the upheavals of the Reformation and the Thirty Years' War, resulting in an estimated 35,000 to 100,000 executions. Including illegal and summary executions it is estimated 200,000 or more "witches" were tortured, burnt or hanged in the Western world from 1500 until around 1800. The last executions of people convicted as witches in Europe took place in the 18th century. In other regions, like Africa and Asia, contemporary witch-hunts have been reported from Sub-Saharan Africa and Papua New Guinea and official legislation against witchcraft is still found in Saudi Arabia and Cameroon today.
In current language, "witch hunt" metaphorically means an investigation usually conducted with much publicity, supposedly to uncover subversive activity, disloyalty and so on, but really to weaken political opposition.