Benjamin Franklin’s timely warning that the colonies either could hang together or one at a time ultimately translated itself into the brilliant outcome achieved by the revolutionary diplomats who seldom failed to take advantage of Europe’s distresses.

If hang = cut, what does this mean? I'm confused about this phrase: either could hang together & hang one at a time.

1 Answer 1


Here is the original quote:

We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately. -- Benjamin Franklin

Hang does not mean cut. It's a wordplay, and it means two different things. Here's the dictionary definition. The first meaning, in "We must hang together":


The second meaning, in "We shall all hang separately." is:

To suspend by the neck until dead.

So his saying could be paraphrased as:

We must depend on each other and support each other, or we will all be executed.

  • what does mean "at a time" ? does it refers to future?
    – yorgun
    Apr 2, 2016 at 16:33
  • 5
    @yorgun One at a time means individually.
    – DJMcMayhem
    Apr 2, 2016 at 16:55
  • 1
    'United we stand, Divided we fall' is another popular way to state the same concept, without the clever wordplay with the dual meaning of 'hang.' Together means 'as a group' while 'at a time' means individually, or separately, or alone, or by himself.
    – McFeisty
    Apr 3, 2016 at 0:40

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