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figure 1


hangdog. (noun) 1. A sneaky or untrustworthy person. 2. A despicable or degraded person, “fit only to hang a dog, or to be hanged like one.”reference 1 Artist and writer Riikka Jäntti recommended that I use Tolkein's Gollum to illustrate this and generously offered her wonderful drawing. Gollum was certainly both sneaky and untrustworthy.

1. The Oxford English Dictionary Online. 2005. 3d ed. Accessed from http://

An excerpt from an etching by Goya showing a man leaning over a body
figure 2  

hang-dog look. (facial expression) (adjective) 1. Shamefaced or guilty. 2. Visibly sad, with drooping or sagging expression. 3. Frightened into submission.  The OED sends this one all the way back to 1677 and Otway’s Cheats of Scapin III.reference 2 (You have read it haven’t you?)

Kenneth Turan, in his review of the film Kite Runner for the LA Times makes the first meaning explicit. “Out of guilt, he makes things between them worse, which is why, years later in California, [Amir] is still wearing that hangdog look.”reference 3

2. Ibid.


3. Turan, Kenneth. Dec 142007. 'Kite Runner' Runs into Trouble. Los Angeles Times. Accessed from http:// www.calendarlive. com/ movies/ cl-et-kite14dec14 ,0, 4099737. story.


A photograph of former Senator and former Presidential candidate Fred Thompson
fogure 3  
There are fewer examples of the term being used to describe a visibly sad look.  However, Dan Balz comes close in his political blog.  In discussing the challenge that Republican presidential candidates face in regard to the war in Iraq, he described one candidate’s visage this way: “Fred Thompson has tried to make a virtue out of slow walking through Iowa with a hang-dog look on his face.”reference 4 Okay, not exactly sad, but Thompson’s face certainly lends itself to the descriptors “drooping” and “sagging.”

4. Balz, Dan. 2008. Huckabee's Big Test. Jan 2. Accessed Jan 4 2008 from http:// the-trail/ 2008/ 01/ 02/ post_254. html
About the illustrations: Figure 1 is Gollum, an untrustworthy character if there ever was one. Drawing by Riikka Jäntti, used by permission.

 Figure 2 is an excerpt from a well-known print of Francisco de Goya, “The Shamefaced One,” plate 54 of 'Los Caprichos'.1799.

Figure 3 is Fred Thompson himself. This image, titled “Fred Thompson onstage” is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.0 License (cc-by-sa-2.0). Uploaded by Ferrylodge.

see also: hangdogging
cf: sad as a hound dog's eye; cur

Last updated: January 11, 2009
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