If you have never heard about ‘hanging from the rafters’, you have it now and you should know what it means. It wouldn’t hurt to add one more fantastic idiom to your vocabulary.
If you have heard this idiom and you are here for its meaning, which is very likely, you have come to the right place to get your answers.
This article will explore the meaning and origin of this idiom. You will also get to know 10 similar Idioms and how they are used.
Meaning of Hanging From The Rafters
When you hear ‘hanging from the rafters’, what comes to your mind? You may be able to get what this idiom means by just reading it and giving it some thought. We have three different interpretations of this idiom.
When you say people were hanging from the rafters, you are implying that the room is overcrowded. It is usually used as a metaphor for exaggerating the crowd in the room. It doesn’t actually mean people are hanging from the rafters.
You are saying that ‘the room was so filled that people were almost hanging from the rafters’.
The second meaning of this idiom refers to retired football players. You can simply say a footballer is now hanging from the rafters or, better still, his jersey is now hanging from the rafters.
The third meaning of this idiom also refers to something hanging but not jerseys, this time. It refers to death and execution. When you say a person will hang from the rafters, it means the person will be executed.
Below are the origins of this idiom, as related to all its three meanings.
Origin of Hanging From The Rafters
This idiom has three different meanings and they all have origins that can be guessed. The first meaning of this idiom refers to a crowded room.
In a bus that is filled with people, not everyone will have a space to sit down so some people have to remain on their feet throughout the journey.
In some buses, there are steed handles hanging downward from the top of the bus so the people standing can hold on.
This is where the saying was gotten from. People don’t to ‘hang from the rafters’ if the bus is not so full.
The second meaning refers to a retired person, usually a football player. This originated from sports players who have retired.
Once they retire, they have no reasons to return to the field for professional play so they leave their jerseys hanging somewhere.
Therefore, this phrase is used to refer to sports players or just anyone who has retired. You can say the Company’s CEO will have his Jersey hanging from the rafters soon.
The third meaning refers to a person sentenced to death. It originated from the old style of execution in which criminals are hanged.
However, now, it doesn’t only refer to actual hanging but to execution in its entirety.
10 Similar Idioms to Hanging From The Rafters
- Filled/Packed to the rafters
- Hang in there
- Send to the gallows
- Up to the hilt
- Kick the bucket
- To get the hang of something
- Suspend by the neck
- Filled/Full to the brim
- Packed like sardines
- Keep someone hanging
Filled/Packed to the rafters
This is basically another way of saying People are hanging from the rafters. It has the same meaning so you can use both idioms interchangeably but only in some contexts.
The two phrases are not interchangeable in all contexts because this one has another meaning which is only slightly similar.
When a room is filled with people, you can say the people are packed to the rafters or the room is filled to the rafters.
When the room is filled with a lot of loads, you can say the room is filled to the rafters. ‘Hanging from the rafters’ is often used to refer to people alone.
Another way this idiom is used is to simply refer to something that is full. For example, you can say a cup is filled to the rafters. This simply means it is filled to the brim and almost spilling over.
Hang in there
This is a phrase that we often use with our friends. It is not similar to ‘Hanging from the rafters’ in meaning. Also, it doesn’t exactly have to do with hanging.
‘Hang in there’ is something you can hear from a friend when you are going through a difficult situation or a hard time. By saying ‘hang in there’, you are telling the person to hold on for things to be better.
It may be a situation where you can’t help. It may also be simply a way of asking them to be patient till you work something out.
Send to the gallows
This is similar to ‘hanging from the rafters’ but not about ‘crowded places’. It’s about execution. You may have heard this one before.
If you haven’t, here it is before you. It isn’t something you’ll hear every day. Neither is it something you can say to people often. However, it is good to have the knowledge, at least.
When you send a person to the gallows, you either order the person’s execution or k^ll the person. You can also say a person was sent to the gallows. It means the person was sentenced to death.
Up to the hilt
This idiom is similar to the first meaning of ‘Hanging from the rafters’. However, it is much closer to ‘filled to the rafters’ than the former.
While this idiom refers to a place or something that is filled, it is not used to refer to people. It usually refers to things only. You can say the bag was filled up to the hilt.
You can also say he filled my cup up to the hilt. This means your cup has been filled to the brim.
Kick the bucket
If you’re looking for another idiom to represent execution, this is one. It is not used in the same way as ‘hanging from the rafters’ since it refers to death rather than execution.
When you say a person has kicked the bucket, you are implying that the person has died. The idiom seems so unrelated to its meaning and its origin definitely can’t be guessed.
However, this shouldn’t be a surprise to many people since the idiom is not a new one. Many people are already familiar with this idiom and its meaning and no one really cares how it was coined.
You can also say a person will kick the bucket, instead of saying he or she will be executed or hang from the rafters.
To get the hang of something
Here is another idiom that has ‘hang’ in it but has nothing to do with hanging. It also isn’t similar in meaning to ‘hanging from the rafters’. It simply refers to how a person understands something.
When you say you want to get the hang of something, you are implying that you want to understand it.
When you say a person will get the hang of something, you are implying that he or she will understand it.
It may also be just learning how to do something. For example, you may want to learn how to drive a car or handle a machine.
It also has to do with understanding anyway. You can say ‘I’m just getting the hang of the car’.
Suspend by the neck
This is not only similar in meaning to ‘hanging from the rafters’ but also very related to the origin of ‘hanging from the rafters.’
When you say ‘Suspend by the neck’ or ‘hang by the neck’, you are referring to execution by hanging. It is not just any execution but particularly hanging.
This is when a person has a noose tied on his or her neck and suspended in the air to strangle or break his or her neck.
Filled/Full to the brim
Here is an idiom just slightly similar to ‘Hanging from the rafters’ but only functioning in contexts that ‘Hanging from the rafters’ cannot function in.
Both have very similar definitions. However, you cannot interchange them in sentences because they would sound very absurd.
The reason this difference is major is that ‘Hanging from the rafters’ totally focuses on humans alone. It doesn’t refer to things. ‘Filled/full to the brim” also doesn’t usually refer to people.
It would sound weird to say a place was filled to the brim with humans. However, you can use this idiom to refer to things, especially liquid.
When something is filled to the brim, it is most likely going to run over. It is mostly used for water and other liquid.
Packed like sardines
This is the perfect synonym and replacement for ‘Hanging from the rafters’. If you have seen sardines, you should be able to guess tell what this refers to you. It refers to humans.
Although there is no hint that it should refer to humans alone, it is mostly used for people.
When you say people were packed like sardines, it implies that the people were too many and there was no space.
This meaning also applies to ‘hanging from the rafters’ which implies that the place was so filled that people have to remain standing.
Keep someone hanging
Again, we have an idiom with a meaning that is not similar to ‘hanging from the rafters’ in any way. It also has ‘hanging’ but it has nothing to do with actual hanging.
When you keep or leave someone hanging, it means you leave the person waiting. This is often used when a person asks for your help and you promise to offer it but you never show up.
It is also used when a person texts you and waits for your response but you ignore him or her. In both cases, the person is in a situation where a response is expected from you but you are refusing to attend to the person.
When a person tells you not to keep him or her hanging, the person is telling you not to ignore him or her.
In What Situations Can You Use The Idiom ‘Hanging From The Rafters’?
The idiom, ‘hanging from the rafters’ can be used in the following situations;
- When a place is overcrowded.
- When people are standing.
- When a person is to be executed.
- When a person commits suicide.
- When an athlete retires.
When a place is overcrowded
This is the actual meaning of the idiom so here is the best situation to use the idiom. When a place is filled with so much people, you can say;
‘The place is so filled up that people are almost hanging from the rafters’
When people are standing
This is slightly related to the origin of the expression. In buses, there are usually things for standing passengers to hang onto. We can call those rafters.
It is mostly used when the bus is filled but that is not actually necessary. A person can be standing without being forced to. You can say;
‘That is Tobey hanging from the rafters’
When a person is to be executed
Here is another way to use the idiom, though it is not popularly used in this way. It was picked from the old style of execution but it refers to general execution now. You can say;
‘Jamie will be hanged from the rafters’.
This implies that Jamie will be sentenced to death.
When a person commits suicide
Like the one mentioned earlier, it originated from the old style of execution. However, this is more literal. It refers to suicide but not all kinds of suicide.
This refers to the kind of suicide in which a person ties a noose around the neck and drops himself or herself to die hanging;
‘We met Jamie hanging from the rafters.’
When an athlete retires
This usage originated from the hanging of jerseys after a player’s retirement. It still means the same thing. Instead of saying a person will retire, we simply refer to the Jersey which will be hanging from the rafters.
“You can’t find Jamie on the field. His jersey has been hanging on the rafters since last year.”