a fusion of Old English hon "suspend" (transitive, class VII strong verb; past tense heng, past participle hangen), and Old English hangian "be suspended" (intransitive, weak, past tense hangode); also probably influenced by Old Norse hengja "suspend," and hanga "be suspended." All from Proto-Germanic *hanhan (transitive), *hanganan (intransitive) "to hang" (source also of Old Frisian hangia, Dutch hangen, German hängen), from PIE *konk- "to hang" (source also of Gothic hahan, Hittite gang- "to hang," Sanskrit sankate "wavers," Latin cunctari "to delay;" see also second element in Stonehenge).
As a method of execution, in late Old English (but originally specifically of crucifixion). Meaning "to come to a standstill" (especially in hung jury) is from 1848, American English. Hung emerged as past participle 16c. in northern England dialect, and hanged endured only in legal language (which tends to be conservative) in reference to capital punishment and in metaphors extended from it (I'll be hanged).
Teen slang sense of "spend time" first recorded 1951; hang around "idle, loiter" is from 1828, American English; also compare hang out. To hang back "be reluctant to proceed" is from 1580s; phrase hang an arse "hesitate, hold back" is from 1590s. Verbal phrase hang fire (1781) originally was used of guns that were slow in communicating the fire through the vent to the charge. To let it all hang out "be relaxed and uninhibited" is from 1967.
late 15c., "a sling," from hang (v.). Meaning "a curtain" is from c. 1500; that of "the way in which a thing (especially cloth) hangs" is from 1797. To get the hang of (something) "become capable" is from 1834, American English, perhaps originally in reference to a certain tool or feat, but, if so, its origin has been forgotten. It doesn't seem to have been originally associated with drapery or any other special use of hang; the connecting notion might be "general bent or tendency."
'To get the hang of a thing,' is to get the knack, or habitual facility of doing it well. A low expression frequently heard among us. In the Craven Dialect of England is the word hank, a habit; from which this word hang may perhaps be derived. [John Russell Bartlett, "Dictionary of Americanisms," New York, 1848]
updated on December 06, 2018