Intermediate+ Word of the Day: hang

hang (verb) /hæŋ/ LISTEN

Shoes hanging from a wall

To hang means ‘to attach something so that it’s supported from the top,’ ‘to attach something to a wall,’ or ‘to be suspended, dangling.’ It also means ‘to kill someone by suspending them by the neck with a rope’ or, as a reflexive verb, ‘to commit suicide’ in this same way. It means ‘to lean forward’ as well and, figuratively, ‘to be dependent on something’ or ‘to be doubtful.’ It also means ‘to remain or persist,’ ‘to float over,’ and, of a feeling, ‘to be a burden.’

Example sentences

  • Wendy took off her coat and hung it on the hook.
  • The museum workers hung the paintings.
  • There were old copper pans hanging from hooks in the kitchen.
  • The murderer was sentenced to be hanged.
  • There were people hanging out of their windows as the procession moved along the street.
  • Helen's entire future hung on their decision.
  • Not knowing if I would have a job next month left me hanging.
  • A mist hung over the valley.

Words often used with hang

hang around: to spend time in a particular place or with particular people. Example: “There’s been a strange man hanging around the bar lately.”

hang in there: don’t give up or lose hope. Example: “I know you’ve had a really tough year, but hang in there; things are bound to get better.”

hang on: literally, to cling hard to something. Example: “The boat is about to hit the rapids, so everyone, hang on!” Figuratively, it means to wait for a brief time. Example: “Hang on, I’ve forgotten my purse. I’ll just run back and get it.” It also means ‘to persevere.’ Example: “I want to quit my job, but I need the money, so I’m trying to hang on for a few more months.”

hang up: to put the phone down to end a call. Example: “She said ‘Bye’ and hung up.” If you hang up on someone, this means you put the phone down abruptly without finishing the conversation. Example: “As soon as Louis realized the caller was trying to sell him something, he hung up on her.” We may not realize it now, but this expression comes from back when telephones had just been invented. They were large and hung on the wall, and people had to physically put the receiver on a hook to end the call.

hang out: to spend time together in a casual setting. Example: “Over the weekend I usually hang out with my friends.”

In pop culture

Hang ‘Em High is the title of a 1968 movie starring Clint Eastwood. You can see the trailer here:

Additional information

When talking about killing a person, the formal past tense and past participle of hang is hanged, whereas for objects it is hung. This is because hanged was the only past tense and past participle up to around the year 1600, when hung started to be used in spoken language, and eventually took over completely. Hanged continued to be used in legal language for execution, simply because formal language is slower to change, though now you will probably find hung used for persons as well as objects in most contexts.

Did you know?

A word associated with hang is hangover, which is the unpleasant after effect of excessive drinking, such as a headache or feeling ill the next day. This is because these effects are still hanging on from the night before. A hangover can also refer to anything that is a persistent effect of something else. For example: “These policies are a hangover from the last governement; we haven’t had time to change them yet.”


Hang dates back to before the year 900; it was two verbs in Old English: hōn, which was transitive, was used for ‘to suspend something,’ while hangian, which was intransitive, was used for ‘to be suspended’. These two verbs made it into Middle English as hon (to suspend) and hangien or hangen (to be suspended), and were also probably influenced by the Old Norse verbs hengja and hanga (to suspend and be suspended, respectively). It can be traced back to the Proto-Germanic hanhan and hanganan (both mean ‘to hang’ but, like in Old and Middle English, the first is transitive and the second intransitive) and the Proto-Indo-European root konk– (to hang). Hang is related to the Old Frisian hangia, the Dutch hangen, the German hängen, the Gothic hahan and the Hittite gang– (all meaning ‘to hang’), as well as the Sanskrit sankate (wavers) and the Latin cunctari (to delay). It is also related to –henge, which can be found in the names of some places, including Stonehenge. The meaning related to the form of execution can be found since around the year 1000, but its earlier uses refer to crucifixion, rather than the form of hanging that became common some centuries later. The expression hang around appeared in the early 19th century, while hang out became popular in the 20th century. Hang can also be used as a noun, meaning ‘a sling.’ It dates back to the late 15th century, and comes from the verb. The sense ‘a curtain,’ appeared in the early 16th century, and ‘the way a thing hangs’ is from the early 18th century.

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