views updated

hanged hanged, drawn, and quartered in allusion to the traditional mode of execution for traitors, by which prisoners were drawn on a hurdle to the place of execution, and after being hanged were disembowelled while still alive; their bodies were then quartered, for display in different places.
one might as well be hanged for a sheep as a lamb if one is going to incur a severe penalty it may as well be for something substantial; the allusion is to the former penalty for sheep-stealing. The saying is recorded from the late 17th century, but the idea is found a little earlier in a mid 17th-century source, in the words, ‘As good be hanged for a great deal, as for a little.’

See also if you're born to be hanged, hang, he that has an ill name is half hanged, little thieves are hanged, never mention rope in the house of a man who has been hanged.