1822 in the figurative sense, "violently making conformable to standard, producing uniformity by deforming force or mutilation," from Procrustes, name of the mythical robber of Attica who seized travelers, tied them to his bed, and either stretched their limbs or lopped of their legs to make them fit it. With ending as in Herculean. By 1776 as Procrustian. The figurative image, though not the exact word, was in English at least from 1580s.
The name is Greek Prokroustēs "one who stretches," from prokrouein "to beat out, stretch out," from pro "before" (see pro-) + krouein "to strike," from PIE *krou(s)- "to push, bump, strike, break" (source also of Russian krušit' "to strike, stamp," Lithuanian kraušyti "to stamp off;" Russian kroxa "morsel, crumb;" Lithuanian krušti "to stamp, push (apart)").
updated on November 29, 2020