a. often Hell The place of eternal punishment for the wicked after death, often imagined as being presided over by Satan and his devils.
b. A state of separation from God; exclusion from God’s presence.
2. The abode of the dead in any of various religious traditions, such as the Hebrew Sheol or the Greek Hades; the underworld.
a. A situation or place of evil, misery, discord, or destruction: “War is hell” (William Tecumseh Sherman).
b. An extremely difficult experience; torment or anguish: went through hell on the job.
a. The spirits in hell or the powers of evil: All hell could not stop him.
b. Informal One that causes trouble, agony, or annoyance: The boss is hell when a job is poorly done.
5. A sharp scolding: gave the student hell for cheating.
a. A tailor’s receptacle for discarded material.
b. Printing A hellbox.
a. An outstanding or noteworthy example: You are one hell of a good cook.
b. Used as an intensive: How the hell should I know?
c. Used for intensive effect in idioms such as beat the hell out of (someone) for beat (someone) very badly.
8. Archaic A gambling house.
intr.v. helled, hell·ing, hells Informal
To behave riotously; carouse: out all night helling around.
Used to express anger, disgust, or impatience.
Idioms: for the hell of it
For no particular reason; on a whim: walked home by the old school for the hell of it.
hell on Informal
1. Damaging or destructive to: Driving in a hilly town is hell on the brakes.
2. Unpleasant to or painful for.
hell or/and high water
Troubles or difficulties of whatever magnitude: We’re staying, come hell or high water.
hell to pay
Great trouble: If we’re wrong, there’ll be hell to pay.
like hell Informal
1. Used as an intensive: He ran like hell to catch the bus.
2. Used to express strong contradiction or refusal: He says he’s going along with us—Like hell he is!
to hell and gone
1. A long distance away: drove to hell and gone and still couldn’t find a diner.
2. Far and wide: friends scattered to hell and gone.
3. Into the next world: The bomb blew the truck to hell and gone.
to hell with
Used to express contempt for or dismissal of someone or something.
Word History: When the Anglo-Saxons became Christian in early medieval times, the Old English word hel was used to translate the Latin word īnfernus, “the lower region, hell,” and designate the fiery place of eternal punishment for the damned. But what did hel designate before the conversion of the Anglo-Saxons? We can discover some indication of the original pagan meaning of hel by examining its Old Norse equivalent, hel. The medieval Scandinavians and Icelanders were converted from paganism much later than the Anglo-Saxons, and they preserved a good deal of pagan poetry revealing the ancient Scandinavian vision of the afterworld. The medieval Icelandic scholar Snorri Sturluson, a Christian, also paints a vivid picture of hel for us in his accounts of Norse myth (although his description may have been influenced by his own Christian conception of hell). The Old Norse hel is the abode of oathbreakers, other evil persons, and those unlucky enough to have died of old age or sickness rather than in the glory of the battlefield. Unlike the typical Christian conception of Hell, the Old Norse hel is very cold. It contrasts sharply with Valhalla, the hall in Asgard where heroes slain in battle carouse with the gods after death. In Old Norse, Hel is also the name of the goddess or giantess who presides in hel. She is the daughter of the god Loki and sister of the enormous wolf that will attack the gods at the end of the world. One half of Hel’s body is blue-black, while the other is white. The Indo-European root behind Old English hel and Old Norse hel, as well as their Germanic relatives like German Hölle, “hell,” is *kel-, “to cover, conceal.” In origin, hell is thus the “concealed place.” The root *kel-, also gives us other words for things that cover, conceal, or contain, such as hall, hole, hollow, helmet, and even Valhalla, from Old Norse Valhöll, literally the “Hall (höll) of the Slain (Valr).”
American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
(hɛl) n1. (Theology) Christianity (sometimes capital)
a. the place or state of eternal punishment of the wicked after death, with Satan as its ruler
b. forces of evil regarded as residing there
2. (Other Non-Christian Religions) (sometimes capital) (in various religions and cultures) the abode of the spirits of the dead. See also Hel, Hades, Sheol
3. pain, extreme difficulty, etc
4. informal a cause of such difficulty or suffering: war is hell.
5. US and Canadian high spirits or mischievousness: there’s hell in that boy.
6. (Knitting & Sewing) a box used by a tailor for discarded material
7. (Gambling, except Cards) rare a gambling house, booth, etc
8. as hell (intensifier): tired as hell.
9. for the hell of it informal for the fun of it
10. from hell informal denoting a person or thing that is particularly bad or alarming: neighbour from hell; hangover from hell.
11. give someone hell informal
a. to give someone a severe reprimand or punishment
b. to be a source of annoyance or torment to someone
12. hell of a helluva informal (intensifier): a hell of a good performance.
13. hell for leather at great speed
14. hell or high water come hell or high water informal whatever difficulties may arise
15. hell to pay informal serious consequences, as of a foolish action
16. like hell informal
a. (adverb) (intensifier): he works like hell.
b. an expression of strong disagreement with a previous statement, request, order, etc
17. play hell with play merry hell with informal to throw into confusion and disorder; disrupt
18. raise hell
a. to create a noisy disturbance, as in fun
b. to react strongly and unfavourably
19. the hell informal
a. (intensifier) used in such phrases as what the hell, who the hell, etc
b. an expression of strong disagreement or disfavour
informal an exclamation of anger, annoyance, surprise, etc (Also in exclamations such as hell’s bells, hell’s teeth, etc)
[Old English hell; related to helan to cover, Old Norse hel, Gothic halja hell, Old High German hella]
Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged, 12th Edition 2014 © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2014
1. the place or state of punishment of the wicked after death; the abode of evil and condemned spirits.
2. any place or state of torment or misery: to make someone’s life hell.
3. something that causes torment or misery.
4. the powers of evil.
5. the abode of the dead; Sheol or Hades.
6. extreme disorder or confusion; chaos: All hell broke loose.
7. a severe scolding or punishment: to catch hell; to give someone hell.
8. (used in swearing, as an expression of anger, dismissal, disgust, etc., or as an intensive): the hell with it; guilty as hell; a hell of a nice guy; Where the hell were you?
9. a box into which a printer throws discarded type.
10. (used to express irritation, disgust, surprise, etc.)
11. hell around, Slang. to live or act in a wild or dissolute manner.
Idioms: 1. be hell on, Slang.
a. to be unpleasant to or painful for.
b. to be harmful to: These country roads are hell on tires.
2. for the hell of it, Informal. with no purpose other than sheer adventure or fun.
3. hell on wheels, Informal. extremely aggressive, active, or difficult to deal with.
4. hell to pay, very bad results or repercussions.
5. like hell, Informal.
a. with great speed, effort, intensity, etc.: We ran like hell.
b. Also, the hell. (used to emphasize a speaker’s denial or disagreement): He says the motor won’t break down? Like hell it won’t!
6. play hell with, Informal. to injure or disrupt.
7. raise hell, Informal.
a. to indulge in wild celebration.
b. to create an uproar; object violently.
8. till hell freezes over, an impossibly long time; forever.
[before 900; Middle English, Old English hel(l), c. Old High German hell(i)a, Old Norse hel, Gothic halja; akin to Old English helan to cover, hide, and to hull2]
(hil; unstressed il, hɪl, ɪl)
contraction of he will.
Random House Kernerman Webster’s College Dictionary, © 2010 K Dictionaries Ltd. Copyright 2005, 1997, 1991 by Random House, Inc. All rights reserved.
- barathrum – A bottomless pit or hell.
- fire and brimstone – Eternal punishment in hell (from Genesis 19:24 and Revelation 19:20).
- pandemonium – Literally means abode of all demons (or hell), from Greek pan-, “all,” and daimon, “demon(s).”
- hell – The Indo-European root meant “covered or concealed,” as hell is supposedly hidden in the dark regions near the Earth’s center.
Farlex Trivia Dictionary. © 2012 Farlex, Inc. All rights reserved.
an abnormal fear of heil. Also called stygiophobia.
-Ologies & -Isms. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.