Word Confusion: Hanged versus Hung

Posted September 21, 2015 by Kathy Davie in Author Resources, Self-Editing, Word Confusions, Writing

Revised as of 18 February 2018

The word confusion over hanged versus hung came up in John Sandford’s Storm Prey, 20, and I was curious.

Letty is wondering about “he hanged up on me” or “she was really hanged up on that guy” or “he is really well hanged’. And Lucas tells her that people are hanged by the neck until dead but everything else is hung. Naturally, I just gotta explore it!

Word Confusions…

…started as my way of dealing with a professional frustration with properly spelled words that were out of context in manuscripts I was editing as well as books I was reviewing. It evolved into a sharing of information with y’all. I’m hoping you’ll share with us words that have been a bête noir for you from either end. Consider sharing this Word Confusion with friends by tweeting it.

Hanged Hung
Credit to: Apple Dictionary.com; Merriam-Webster: hang

George Meadows was lynched at Pratt Mines (in Jefferson County) Alabama January 15 1889

Photograph, c.1889, by L. Horgan, Jr., LC-USZ62-31911, is in the public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

The KKK hanged people by the neck as a “popular” choice of execution.

Laundry hung from a line across a street

“Italian Hanging Laundry” by Joshua Sherurcij [Attribution], via Wikimedia Commons.

Laundry is hung to dry above an Italian street.

Part of Grammar:
Normally used in reference to execution by hanging. The normal form in most general uses.
Past tense or past participle for the present tense hang

Verb, intransitive & transitive

Third person present verb: hangs
Gerund or present participle: hanging

Suspend or be suspended from above with the lower part dangling free
[North American] Informal way of saying hang around

Verb, intransitive:
Be killed by hanging

  • [Dated] Used in expressions as a mild oath

Verb, transitive:
Kill someone by tying a rope attached from above around the neck and removing the support from beneath

  • Used as a form of capital punishment
  • Used by the Ku Klux Klan, a racist organization

Be killed by hanging

  • [Dated] Used in expressions as a mild oath
[Be hung with] Be adorned with pictures or other decorations

[North American] Informal way of saying hang out

[Computing] Come or cause to come unexpectedly to a state in which no further operations can be carried out

Verb, intransitive:
[Of fabric or a garment] Be arranged in folds so as to droop in a specified way

Remain static in the air

  • Be present or imminent, especially oppressively or threateningly

Verb, transitive:
Attach or be attached so as to allow free movement about the point of attachment

Paste (wallpaper) to a wall

Remain static in the air

  • [Baseball] Deliver a breaking pitch that does not change direction as intended

[Of a juror] Prevent (a jury) from reaching a verdict by a dissenting vote

Verb, intransitive:
Both men were hanged.

They could all go hang.

Verb, transitive:
She was hanged as a witch in April 1621.

He was hanged for murder.

She hanged herself in her cell.

I’m hanged if I know.

The walls of her hall were hung with examples of her work.

Dang, the computer’s hung up again.

Verb, intransitive:
It was a chain that hung freely over two pegs that caught his eye.

Oh, they hung out here for a few days.

So, Mabel, is he as well hung as they say?

The room in which the pictures were hung was just painted last week.

This blend of silk and wool hung well and resisted creases.

The boys hung around for a few hours.

A haze of smoke hung below the ceiling.

A sense of dread hung over him for days.

The actors hung loose as they awaited their turn.

The time hung heavily as they listened to her cries.

A sense of doom hung over everyone as they waited in the security line at the airport.

There was a steady hum throughout the gathering, for the election hung on one vote.

It was embarrassing the way she hung on to his every word.

Verb, transitive:
They hung out the wash.

She hung around for a few minutes.

He had hung the picture over the fireplace.

That’s where people hung their wash.

We hung that wallpaper some two years ago, I think.

They had a hung jury in Welton vs Black.

He hung his hat up and made himself to home.

Poor bastard, they hung him out to dry.

Don’t forget to hang a left when you get to Main and Turner.

They had hung their hopes on her marrying Tom.

Adjective: hangable, hanging
Noun: hang, hanging
Adjective: hung
Noun: hang
Phrasal Verb
hang around
hang around with
hang back
hang in
hang on
hang on to
hang something on
hang out
hang together
hang up
hang up [something]hang tough
History of the Word:
First known use: before the 12th century

Partly from the Old English hangian ( both an intransitive and transitive verb) related to the Dutch and German hangen and reinforced by the Old Norse hanga and partly from the Old English hōn (a transitive verb) which evolved into the Middle English hon. Both are akin to the Old High German hāhan, a transitive verb meaning to hang.

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C’mon, get it out of your system, bitch, whine, moan…which words are your pet peeves?

Pinterest Photo Credits

Hanging Out in the Lobby at Minicon 41 is David Dyer-Bennet’s own work under the CC BY-SA 2.5 license, via Wikimedia Commons.

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