Hangman's knot

Last updated
Hangman's knot
Uzel eshafotnyi.gif
NamesHangman's knot, hangman's noose, [1] Jack Ketch knot, collar
Typical use Hanging, Capital punishment
ABoK #1119, #366
Instructions [2]

The hangman's knot [3] or hangman's noose (also known as a collar during the Elizabethan era) is a knot most often associated with its use in hanging a person. For a hanging, the knot of the rope is typically placed under or just behind the left ear, although the most effective position is just ahead of the ear, beneath the angle of the left lower jaw. The pull on the knot at the end of the drop levers the jaw and head violently up and to the right, which combines with the jerk of the rope becoming taut to wrench the upper neck vertebrae apart. This produces very rapid death, whereas the traditional position beneath the ear was intended to result in the mass of the knot crushing closed (occluding) neck arteries, causing cessation of brain circulation. The knot is non-jamming but tends to resist attempts to loosen it.


Number of coils

Hangman's rope displayed at the National Museum of Crime & Punishment, Washington, D.C. A label with the title "Hangman Rope/Noose" shown attached to the noose reads, "This hangman rope/noose was purportedly used at the historical Don Jail in Toronto, Canada to hang a man named John Ziolko in April of 1915." National Museum of Crime and Punishmen - Hangman Rope from Don Jail 1915 (2869481808).jpg
Hangman's rope displayed at the National Museum of Crime & Punishment, Washington, D.C. A label with the title "Hangman Rope/Noose" shown attached to the noose reads, "This hangman rope/noose was purportedly used at the historical Don Jail in Toronto, Canada to hang a man named John Ziolko in April of 1915."

Surviving nooses in the United Kingdom show simple slipknots that were superseded in the late 19th century with a metal eye spliced into one end of the rope, the noose being formed by passing the other end through it. The classic hangman's knot was largely developed in the United States, the heavy mass of the knot intended to crush blood vessels in the neck and if tightened beneath the jaw, to lever the head to one side. Filmed hangings of war criminals in Europe after World War II, conducted under US jurisdiction, show such knots placed in various places, including at the back of the neck.

Each additional coil adds friction to the knot, which makes the noose harder to pull closed or open. When Grover Cleveland was the sheriff of Erie County, he performed two hangings. Cleveland was advised by a more experienced Sheriff to grease the rope with tallow and run it through the knot a few times to ensure rapid closure with the drop. The number of coils should therefore be adjusted depending on the intended use, the type and thickness of rope, and environmental conditions such as wet or greasy rope. Six to eight loops are normal when using natural ropes. One coil makes it equivalent to the simple running knot.

The number thirteen was thought to be unlucky. Consequently, in myth, if not in actual practice, thirteen coils were found in a hangman's noose, a foreboding sign for those convicted to be hanged.

Woody Guthrie sings of the hangman using thirteen coils:

Did you ever see a hangman tie a hangknot?
I've seen it many a time and he winds, he winds,
After thirteen times he's got a hangknot.

See also

Related Research Articles

Knot Method of fastening or securing linear material

A knot is an intentional complication in cordage which may be practical or decorative, or both. Practical knots are classified by function, including hitches, bends, loop knots, and splices: a hitch fastens a rope to another object; a bend fastens two ends of a rope to each another; a loop knot is any knot creating a loop, and splice denotes any multi-strand knot, including bends and loops. A knot may also refer, in the strictest sense, to a stopper or knob at the end of a rope to keep that end from slipping through a grommet or eye. Knots have excited interest since ancient times for their practical uses, as well as their topological intricacy, studied in the area of mathematics known as knot theory.

Bowline Simple knot used to form a fixed loop at the end of a rope

The bowline is an ancient and simple knot used to form a fixed loop at the end of a rope. It has the virtues of being both easy to tie and untie; most notably, it is easy to untie after being subjected to a load. The bowline is sometimes referred to as King of the knots because of its importance. Along with the sheet bend and the clove hitch, the bowline is often considered one of the most essential knots.

Overhand knot

The overhand knot, also known as a a knot and half knot, is one of the most fundamental knots, and it forms the basis of many others, including the simple noose, overhand loop, angler's loop, reef knot, fisherman's knot, and water knot. The overhand knot is a stopper, especially when used alone, and hence it is very secure, to the point of jamming badly. It should be used if the knot is intended to be permanent. It is often used to prevent the end of a rope from unraveling. An overhand knot becomes a trefoil knot, a true knot in the mathematical sense, by joining the ends.


A shank is a type of knot that is used to shorten a rope or take up slack, such as the sheepshank. The sheepshank knot is not stable. It will fall apart under too much load or too little load.

Hanging Death by suspension of a person by a noose or ligature around the neck

Hanging is the suspension of a person by a noose or ligature around the neck. The Oxford English Dictionary states that hanging in this sense is "specifically to put to death by suspension by the neck", though it formerly also referred to crucifixion and death by impalement in which the body would remain "hanging". Hanging has been a common method of capital punishment since medieval times, and is the primary execution method in numerous countries and regions. The first known account of execution by hanging was in Homer's Odyssey. In this specialised meaning of the common word hang, the past and past participle is hanged instead of hung.

Overhand knot with draw-loop

A slipped half hitch is a knot in which the weight of the load the rope carries depresses the loop sufficiently to keep it in place until the load item is placed in its location. When no longer required the free end may be pulled and draw the loop through and so release the load.


A gallows is a frame, typically wooden, from which objects can be hung or "weighed". Gallows were thus widely used for public weighing scales for large objects such as sacks of grain or minerals, usually positioned in markets or toll gates. The term was also used for a framework from which a ship’s anchor might be raised so that it no longer sitting on the bottom, i.e., "weighing [the] anchor". In modern usage it has come to mean almost exclusively a scaffold or gibbet used for execution by hanging.

Noose Loop at the end of a rope in which the knot tightens under load and can be loosened without untying the knot.

A noose is a loop at the end of a rope in which the knot tightens under load and can be loosened without untying the knot. The knot can be used to secure a rope to a post, pole, or animal but only where the end is in a position that the loop can be passed over.

Self-locking devices are devices intended to arrest the fall of solo climbers who climb without partners. This device is used for back rope solo climbing for "ground-up climbing" or "top rope self belaying". To date, several types of such self-locking devices have evolved.

Cow hitch

The cow hitch, also called the lark's head, is a hitch knot used to attach a rope to an object. The cow hitch comprises a pair of half-hitches tied in opposing directions, as compared to the clove hitch in which the half-hitches are tied in the same direction. It has several variations and is known under a variety of names. It can be tied either with the end of the rope or with a bight.

Bottle sling

The bottle sling is a knot which can be used to create a handle for a glass or ceramic container with a slippery narrow neck, as long as the neck widens slightly near the top.

Hangmans fracture

Hangman's fracture is the colloquial name given to a fracture of both pedicles, or pars interarticulares, of the axis vertebra (C2).

Fiador knot

The fiador knot is a decorative, symmetrical knot used in equine applications to create items such as rope halters, hobbles, and components of the fiador on some hackamore designs. As traditionally described, it is a four strand diamond knot in which six of the eight ends loop back into the knot, thus allowing it to be tied with a single line. While a specific knot is discussed in this article, the fiador knot has also been treated as an entire class of multi-strand knots similarly made with a single line.

Chain sinnet

A chain sinnet is a method of shortening a rope or other cable while in use or for storage. It is formed by making a series of simple crochet-like stitches in the line. It can also reduce tangling while a rope is being washed in a washing machine.

Coiling A method for storing rope or cable in compact yet easily attainable form

A coiling or coil is a curve, helix, or spiral used for storing rope or cable in compact and reliable yet easily attainable form. They are often discussed with knots.

Rope are often coiled and hung up in lofts for storage. They are also hung over stakes in farm wagons and on hooks in moving vans, fire apparatus and linesmen's repair trucks. For such active storage coils must be well made.

Suicide by hanging is the intentional killing of oneself (suicide) via suspension from an anchor-point such as an overhead beam or hook, by a rope or cord or by jumping from a height with a noose around the neck.

Nicolae Minovici

Nicolae Minovici was a Romanian forensic scientist and criminologist who served as head of his country's anthropometric service. He is known for his studies investigating connections between tattooing and criminal behaviour, as well as his research on hanging and its physiological effects on the human body. He was the founder of the Legal Medicine Association of Romania and the publisher of the Romanian journal of Legal Medicine. He also served as mayor of Băneasa, Bucharest.

Heaving line knot Class of knot used to add weight to the end of a rope to make it easier to throw

A heaving line knot is a family of knots which are used for adding weight to the end of a rope, to make the rope easier to throw. In nautical use, a heaving line knot is often tied to the end of a messenger line, which is then used for pulling a larger rope, such as a hawser. There are several distinct knots which all share the common name, heaving line knot. The monkey fist is a well-known heaving line knot.


  1. The complete guide to knots and knot tying — Geoffrey Budworth — p.198ISBN 0-7548-0422-4
  2. Alan W. Grogono (Grog), David E. Grogono, Martin J. Grogono. "Noose Knot".CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  3. Ashley, Clifford W.. The Ashley Book of Knots. Published by Faber and Faber, 1993 — #366 — p.59 ISBN   9780571096596

Further reading

Commons-logo.svg Media related to Hangman's nooses at Wikimedia Commons