Earlier this week, I told someone, I would never intentionally leave you out to dry. I realize, just now, that the more common idiom is hang you out to dry.

Is the first one also acceptable? is it common? or is it preferable (and more correct) to use the latter? Beneath is a good definition of the idiom.

hang someone out to dry

Leave someone in a difficult or vulnerable situation.

If the variation leave out to dry is indeed acceptable, then I would be interested in any instances of this variation from respected sources.

  • Leave is too passive (i.e. inactive) for this expression. The expression needs to convey ill intent. Hang you out to try accomplishes this. // If you find some instances of "leave out to dry," it could be imprecise speaking, or it could be confusion with "leave hanging." – aparente001 Mar 27 '17 at 8:46
  • @aparente001 I don't think that hang out to dry necessarily conveys ill-intent. I think it could simply convey selfishness. Admittedly, this is a form of ill intent but it certainly is not spite or malice. – ktm5124 Mar 27 '17 at 8:58
  • @aparente001 For example, a man who ditches his co-worker in the middle of a project to go on a weekend vacation with his girlfriend might be hanging his co-worker out to dry. Selfish, yes. Malicious? No. – ktm5124 Mar 27 '17 at 8:59
  • I think you might be amalgamating with "leaving someone high and dry." I'm not saying that in the right context you would not be understood if you said "leave someone out to dry," but it would bother certain listeners (the nitpicky type, like me). – aparente001 Mar 27 '17 at 17:15
  • 1
    @Drew - I wouldn't close a question that is asking if a variant of an idiom is correct. – aparente001 Mar 27 '17 at 18:43

I think you were mixing and matching two different idioms

Leave you hanging is one idiom that now appears far more used than "hang out to dry" ... if ngram works that is.


Cambridge dictionary

leave someone hanging:

to keep someone waiting for your decision or answer:

I was left hanging, waiting for the college to tell me whether I got a scholarship or not.

Leaving someone hanging evokes more clinging to a liferope or a ledge to me...but perhaps it shared the same laundry root ? : )


It doesn't seem 'leave someone out to dry' is an acceptable variant of 'hang someone out to dry'. While the Google Ngram Viewer does not find any n-grams for the former version, it shows that the latter version of the idiom is in standard use. enter image description here

A discussion about 'leave someone out to dry' can be seen on the WordReference.com

  • Perhaps it's vernacular but not written down? That would explain the WordReference discussion and the Ngram results. – ktm5124 Mar 27 '17 at 6:09
  • 1
    You get slightly better examples in the past tense (though still with no noun or pronoun) – Henry Mar 27 '17 at 8:06

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.