A witch-hunt or a witch purge is a search for people who have been labelled "witches" or a search for evidence of witchcraft, and it often involves a moral panic or mass hysteria. There are often various self-perpetuating processes, such as threats and torture being used to coerce "confessions", causing increased beliefs in the existence of witches, more moral panic and mass hysteria, and increased witch-hunting.
The classical period of witch-hunts in Early Modern Europe and Colonial North America took place about 1450 to 1750, resulting in an estimated 35,000 to 100,000 executions. 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 and official legislation against witchcraft is still found in some countries.
In current language, "witch-hunt" metaphorically means an investigation that is usually conducted with much publicity, supposedly to uncover negative activities, but really to be used for propaganda purposes.