Usage Question: Hanged or Hung when Upside-down?

Behold Wikipedia’s article on the imaginatively gruesome practices associated with hanging. My particular focus in this thread is the sections on hanging by methods OTHERR THAN the neck – upside-down, “by the feet,” and (grotesquely) “by the ribs.”

Pedants, grammar Nazis and English majors (I consider myself a member of one of those groups) agree that “hanged” is the term of choice when a victim is deliberately punished/harmed (as opposed to “hung” when an object is suspended). I believe death per se is not a necessary outcome for using the term “hanged,” as I recall stories of people being hanged but reprieved when the rope broke (since we are concerned with usage, it doesn’t matter if these stories are true, merely the language choice used in them) . But I think some harm, or intent to harm, is implicit in the term, as one doesn’t say “I got hanged up in traffic” or “those briars,” but one would probably say “The mountain climber slipped and was accidentally hanged by his line.”

Does the term “hanged” apply to hangings NOT by the neck?

The Wikipedia article is [del]shockingly[/del] inconsistent in its use of the terms “hanged by the feet,” “hung up by the feet,” and even “hanged up.” But if we were being [del]pedantic[/del] correct, would we describe the victims of all intentional hangings as “hanged,” regardless of exotic methodology?

Is a victim hanged by the feet or ribs, or hung?

I would say “hung”. “Hanged” seems to be specific to the method of execution.

And, because somebody’s got to do it:
Charlie: Bart! They said you was hung!

Bart: And they was RIGHT!

“Hanged” to me specifically refers to the execution method involving rope (or whatever material) around the victim’s neck. It appears the OED defines hanging as “specifically to put to death by suspension by the neck” and “hanged” is the past tense and participle of “being put to death by hanging,” so I’ll go with that.

(Personally, as an English major, I don’t care if someone uses “hung” instead of “hanged” to describe the execution method, but “hanged” is what I would use.)

Well, just to add some more:

First Judge: Mm. I love the Scottish Assizes. I know what they mean by a really well-hung jury.

Is this anything like flammable and inflammable? I’ve seen both on gasoline tankers.

No. “Flammable” and “inflammable” are synonyms. “Hanged” and “hung” are not.

Question: Is there a word to describe what “hanged” and “hung” are, to each other?

For whatever it’s worth, the Wikipedia article also defines hanged as “by the neck” and “execution” and then goes merrily on showing historical examples of “hanged” used for upside-down and nonfatal.

Also, the Hanged Man tarot card typically depicts a man hanged/hung upside-down by his feet. Not definitive, but a data point.


As I told my students, You are the speaker, so let your usage reflect what you want to express. If you want your reference to indicate execution-style, then use hanged. If abbatoir-style, use hung.

An analogous example is the use of wish/hope. The speaker’s choice of words will reflect his opinion about possibility of outcome, evenn if an exact statistical probability is not known. The speaker always has the responsibility to lead the listener, and to choose words of intended color and intensity. The picture is in your mind – paint it.

Wow, that’s very well put. Your students are lucky to have you. What do you teach, if you don’t mind?

A reporter has to use “hanged.” Using “hung” is using unverified information as fact…

The difference between “hanged” and “hung” is that the non-standard regular use in the special case expresses that it is figurative. You are not hanging the person for the purpose of suspending them, but for the purpose of killing them.

Most people I know pluralize computer pointing devices as “mouses” for the same reason. The non-standard regular plural expresses the figurative use of the word.

Anyway, I suppose if you can find an example of a person suspended for the purpose of execution, but not by the neck, you could call it “hanged.” Other than crucifixion, which has its own name, I can’t think of a way to suspend someone that would kill them, other than the fact that leaving them there long enough would cause them to die of thirst, or exposure. But the suspension alone would not kill them. Crucifixion killed people either by suffocation (special problems with breathing in the crucified position), or shock.


Assuming he hasn’t verified the information.


English as a second language, to Arabic speakers. A long time ago.