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Hangdog

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  • Hangdog is a term with its roots in the Middle Ages. We will examine the meaning of the  term hangdog, where it came from and some examples of its use in sentences.

    Hangdog describes a dejected, guilty or shamed look on someone’s face. Hangdog is an adjective that is solely used to describe a facial expression. Note that hangdog is a compound word, which is a word that is derived from two separate words joined together. The word hangdog has undergone the same metamorphosis that many compound words undergo, first being spelled as two separate words, then as a hyphenated word, and finally, as one word. Though sometimes seen in its hyphenated form, hang-dog, the Oxford English Dictionary lists the term as one word, hangdog. The term hangdog comes from the medieval practice of trying and condemning dogs that perpetrate a “crime”, such as stealing food or biting someone. It is not clear whether the word hangdog refers to someone who is so low in status that his job is to hang a dog, or if the word refers to the expression on a condemned dog’s face.

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    Examples

    And several times his disarmingly hangdog, sad-pierrot stoneface conceals a streak of practical mischief — as when he “prescribes” an air-gun pellet to a malingerer, claiming it’s an experimental, slow-release pill from Germany that will be a panacea for all her imaginary ailments. (Variety Magazine)

    Douglas’ image of Syd, the hang-dog expression, collar turned up against the late night winds, slumping back against the cinema’s wall and staring vacantly at the huge glass windows opposite reflect him as he burns out. (The Bradford Telegraph and Argus)

    His characteristically hangdog persona exuded humility, tears and empathy – and something new. (The Irish Times)

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