scarlet letter n. a license plate that indicates the automobile’s owner has been convicted of driving while drunk. Etymological Note: This is a more specific sense of scarlet letter ‘a badge or symbol worn to indicate the bearer has committed a crime,’ often used figuratively. It originated in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s 1850 book The Scarlet Letter, in which a scarlet-colored A was worn as punishment for adultery. (source: Double-Tongued Dictionary)

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