MLA Platinum Award Press Release

Why do we say "Give him enough rope and he will hang himself"?

Well-Known Expressions

Give him enough rope and he will hang himself


If a guilty person is given sufficient freedom to act, he will reveal his guilt.


John Ray included this expression in his 1670 book of proverbs indicating that it was in regular use in England at that time. The first known use of it in a form recognizable to the modern version is in The History of The Holy War (1639) by English historian Thomas Fuller.

"But Barnabe's day it self hath a night; and this long-lived Order, which in England went over the graves of all others, came at last to its own.

They were suffered to have rope enough, till they had haltered themselves in a Praemunire: For they still continued their obedience to the Pope, contrary to their allegiance, whose usurped authoritie was banished out of the land; and so (though their lives otherwise could not be impeached for any vitiousnesse) they were brought within the compasse of the law."

Book V, Chapter 7

Suffer is used here to mean permit or let--a use of word that will be familiar to those brought up on the King James Bible, e.g. "suffer the little children to come unto me..."

The term praemunire refers to a law introduced in the 14th-century that prohibited the assertion of papal jurisdiction, or any other foreign jurisdiction for that matter, against the supremacy of the English monarch.

Alphabetical list of expressions

Challenge yourself with BookBrowse Wordplays

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Mary Toft; or, The Rabbit Queen
    Mary Toft; or, The Rabbit Queen
    by Dexter Palmer
    The year is 1726 and the sleepy town of Godalming has been rocked by scandal. Called to the bedside ...
  • Book Jacket: Life Undercover
    Life Undercover
    by Amaryllis Fox
    Life Undercover, a riveting true-adventure memoir, reveals how and why a young woman decides to work...
  • Book Jacket: Celestial Bodies
    Celestial Bodies
    by Jokha Alharthi
    One typically expects to find a detailed family tree adorning the opening pages of, say, an epic ...
  • Book Jacket: All-American Muslim Girl
    All-American Muslim Girl
    by Nadine Jolie Courtney
    16-year-old Allie (Alia) Abraham, with her fair coloring, has always been able to "pass" for an All-...

Book Club Discussion
Book Jacket
The Lost Man
by Jane Harper

"Strong characters, riveting plot and an honest look at life in the Australian outback make it easy to give this 5-stars!"

About the book
Join the discussion!

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    Father of Lions
    by Louise Callaghan

    A true-to-life narrative of one man's remarkable quest to save the Mosul Zoo.
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    Welcome to the Pine Away Motel and Cabins
    by Katarina Bivald

    A heartwarming story of love, friendship, and the art of living.
    Reader Reviews

Book Club Giveaway!
Win American Dirt

"A Grapes of Wrath for our times." - Don Winslow

This debut is already being hailed as a new American classic, and is the first book to receive a perfect 5-stars from BookBrowse reviewers!



Solve this clue:

V I T S Of L

and be entered to win..

Books that     

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.