Hang Up: Definition, Meaning and Origin

Last Updated on
July 11, 2023

The phrase "hang up" primarily has two meanings. The first meaning is to end a telephone connection. The second meaning is to retire or cease participating in a particular activity, hobby, or sport, often metaphorically represented by hanging up a piece of equipment used for that activity, like hanging up one's gloves or boots.

In short:

"Hang up" means to end a phone call or to stop engaging in a certain activity or sport.

What Does "Hang Up" Mean?

The idiom "hang up" means to end a phone call by replacing the receiver. Nowadays, it refers to ending any phone call, not just those made on landline phones with physical receivers. It may also mean ceasing to participate in a certain activity, hobby, or sport, often symbolized by hanging up an item associated with it, like boxing gloves or football boots.

Key aspects of the idiom's meaning:

  • When you "hang up," you're ending a phone call with another person.
  • Alternatively, it can signify the act of retiring or ceasing participation in an activity or sport, symbolized by hanging up a piece of associated equipment.
  • The phrase is commonly used in both formal and informal contexts.

Where Does "Hang Up" Come From?

The phrase "hang up" has its origins in the early days of telephone technology. To end a call, one would literally "hang" the receiver on a hook or cradle. This action would break the circuit and end the call. The use of "hang up" to mean giving up or retiring from something is a metaphorical extension of this literal act of ending a connection.

Historical Usage

"Just pick up, talk up, hang up."

- Dictaphone advertisment from ABA Journal, 1984

10 Examples of "Hang Up" in Sentences

To better comprehend the idiom's usage, let's examine its use in a variety of contexts:

  • She was in a fix and tried to call her friend, but he hung up on her.
  • See you when I see you, okay? I'm hanging up now.
  • After a heated argument, she hung up the phone.
  • She hung up her ballet shoes after her injury prevented her from dancing.
  • My brother said, "Peace out," before hanging up on me.
  • They hung up their instruments after their band disbanded.
  • She had to be on the clock for work, so she hung up immediately.
  • They hung up their cleats after their last season of football.
  • I need to hang up now. Good riddance.
  • She hung up her tennis racket after deciding to focus on her studies.
  • He hung up his boxing gloves after his last match.

Examples of "Hang Up" in Pop Culture

The idiom "hang up" is frequently used in popular culture:

  • "Don't Hang Up" is a song by American R&B group The Orlons.
  • "Hung Up" is a song by American singer-songwriter Madonna from her tenth studio album, Confessions on a Dance Floor.
  • In 2018, Sylvester Stallone hung up his gloves as Rocky Balboa after eight movies, stating, "The most wonderful thing of all is that Rocky will never die because he lives on in you."

Other/Different Ways to Say "Hang Up"

There are several synonyms and phrases that can be used as alternatives to "hang up," depending on the context:

  • End the call (for telephone context)
  • Disconnect the call (for telephone context)
  • Retire (when referring to ceasing an activity or sport)
  • Call it quits (informal, for ceasing activity or sport)
  • Step down (when referring to retiring from a profession)

10 Frequently Asked Questions About "Hang Up":

  • What is the meaning of "hang up"?

The phrase "hang up" has two meanings: ending a telephone call, and retiring or ceasing participation in a certain activity, hobby, or sport.

  • What is the origin of the phrase "hang up"?

The idiom originates from early telephone technology where ending a call was done by literally hanging the receiver on its cradle. The second meaning, to cease an activity, is metaphorical and represents the act of hanging up an item associated with that activity.

  • Can "hang up" be used in a positive context?

Yes, when someone "hangs up" an activity to move on to something better or more fulfilling, it can be seen as positive. However, in the context of ending a phone call, it's usually neutral.

  • Is "hang up" informal language?

"Hang up" is considered neutral and can be used in both informal and formal contexts.

  • Can "hang up" be used for ending relationships?

Yes, metaphorically, "hang up" can be used to describe ending a relationship, similar to disconnecting a call.

  • Is "hang up" used globally in English-speaking countries?

Yes, "hang up" is understood and used globally in English-speaking countries, both in the context of ending a phone call and retiring from an activity.

  • Does "hang up" only relate to sports?

No, "hang up" can refer to ceasing participation in any activity or hobby, not just sports.

  • Can "hang up" be used to refer to retiring from a job or career?

Yes, "hang up" can be used metaphorically to indicate retiring from a job or career, akin to hanging up one's work attire or tools.

  • Can "hang up" be used in a literal sense?

Yes, in the context of a phone call, "hang up" is often used literally. However, when referring to ceasing an activity or retiring, it's used metaphorically.

  • Can I use "hang up" in formal writing?

"Hang up" is acceptable in both formal and informal contexts. However, in more formal or academic writing, you might prefer to use "end the call" or "retire" instead.

Final Thoughts About "Hang Up"

When someone says they need to "hang up" or asks you to "hang up," they're requesting to end the phone call. This phrase is often used when a conversation has reached its conclusion or when external factors necessitate ending the call. It may also mean retiring from a job or career.

Here's a quick recap:

  • "Hang up" is a versatile idiom to denote the end of a phone call or the cessation of an activity.
  • The phrase is applicable in various contexts, effectively capturing the essence of termination or retirement.
  • The usage of this idiom can add depth and variety to your language, whether in formal writing or casual conversation.

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