Green’s Dictionary of Slang

Sam Hill n.

also Sam, Sam hell, Sam Patch, Sam Scratch
[euph., via the initial ‘h’ of hell; note A.K. Sokol in AS XV:1 (1940) who suggests the name Samael, ‘the prince of the demons’, which appeared, as Samiel in the opera Der Freischütz, premiered in the US in 1825]

(orig. US) a euph. for hell; usu. in excls .

Havana Republican (N.Y.) 21 Aug. n.p.: What in sam hill is that feller ballin’ about? [DA].
[US]Jefferson Republican (PA) 7 Mar. 1/5: The Frenchman, beginning to gesticulate [...] ‘Sare, you be grand rascalle — you like Sam —’ [...] ‘Sam Hill, I suppose you mean?’ ‘Oui, monsieur — Same de Hill — yes, sare, you lie like ‘two Sam Hill’.
[UK]Morn. Post 2 Mar. 3/1: Every body swears in this country [...] The boys [...] all swear like Sam Hill.
[US] in E. Custer Following the Guidon 142: He had brought with him a little bobtailed mouse-colored mule, and was training him like Sam Hill.
[US]McCook Tribune (Neb.) 13 May 1/3: He stood still, and looking up asked the workmen what in Sam Hill they were driving at.
[UK]Manchester Courier 8 Dec. 14/3: [report is from Chicago] What the Sam Hill is your system of finance.
[US]J.W. Davis Gawktown Revival Club 12: Turn ye! turn ye! for why in the name of Sam Hill will ye die?
[UK]Manchester Eve. News 23 Aug. 4/6: He asked me what in Sam Hill I gave him.
[US]G.D. Chase ‘Cape Cod Dialect’ in DN II:vi 426: like Sam Hill. Has a variety of meanings, according to the connection in which it is used. ‘He ran like Sam Hill’ means he ran with all his might. ‘You look like Sam Hill’ means you are very disreputable in your appearance.
[US]H. Green Actors’ Boarding House 369: What in Sam Hill should we say?
[US]L. Pound ‘Dialect Speech in Nebraska’ in DN III:i 64: Sam Hill, Sam Patch, Sam Scratch, interj. ‘I feel like Sam Scratch,’ ‘O Sam Hill! I broke my needle’.
[US]N.Y. Eve. Post. Sat. Supplement 10 Apr. 3/5: How in Sam Hill can she do it? She’s just as hot when she gets to bilin’ p’int as she’ll ever be.
[US]H.S. Truman letter 30 Sept. in Ferrell Dear Bess (1983) 137: I have been working like Sam Hill this morning.
[US]Sun (NY) 24 Feb. 9/3: Sam Hill was a term of emphasis [...] ‘What in Sam Hill are you doing noiw?’.
[US]Van Loan ‘Mister Conley’ in Score by Innings (2004) 431: Who in the Sam Hill is this Chesterfield person?
[US] P. & T. Casey Gay-cat 54: We’re proud as Sam Hill ’cause we’se blowed-in-the-glass stiffs.
[US]B. Hecht A Thousand and One Afternoons [ebook] ‘What in Sam Hill is my motif?’.
[US]O.O. McIntyre New York Day by Day 20 June [synd. col.] ‘Who the Sam Hill are you?’ asked the employee.
Duckett & Staples ‘Double Feature’ in N.Y. Age 27 Feb. 7/1: Where in the Sam Hill did you get the title of your column.
[US]T. Thursday ‘Tomahawk McCloskey’ in Thrilling Sports Mar. 🌐 I inquired of Mr. Headline Harrigan why in Sam Hill he can’t stop such oom-blah publicity.
[US]C.H. Hogan ‘A Yankee ... on Texas Speech’ in AS XX:2 Apr. 83: Many Texans spend happy leisure hours ‘goin’ out tonkin.’ [...] Sooner or later, being extremely highspirited, they will start ‘cuttin’ up Sam,’ and eventually somebody will call ‘the laws.’.
[US](con. 1944) N. Mailer Naked and Dead 653: Just what in the Sam Hill was he going to do?
[US](con. 1916) G. Swarthout Tin Lizzie Troop (1978) 141: I don’t know what in Sam Hill is to become of me.
[US]H. Rawson Dict. of Invective (1991) 190: Such euphemisms as blazes, Halifax, heck, Jesse, Sam Hill, and thunder.
[US]T. Pluck Boy from County Hell 139: ‘Let’s get the Sam Hill out of here’.

In exclamations

what the Sam Hill! (also upon my Sam, what the Sam Houston!)

(US) an excl. of surprise, shock, alarm or resignation etc.

[US]Ade Fables in Sl. (1902) 51: ‘Say, Schuy, what the Sam Hill does this mean?’ he asked; ‘are we Heroes?’.
[UK]G. Stratton-Porter Harvester 512: What the Sam Hill is the idiot writin’ his woman like that for?
[US]M.V.P. Yeaman ‘Speech Degeneracy’ in AS I:2 94: Why express surprise by saying ‘For the love of Mike!’, ‘What the Sam Hill!’.
Wodehouse Ukridge (1926) 9 July: Ukridge flung his arms despairingly [...] ‘Upon my Sam!’.
[US]High Pressure Pete [comic strip] Wot th’ Sam Hill wuz th’ big idea of stealing the typewriter.
[US]T. Thursday ‘Raw, Medium, and Well Done’ in Blue Ribbon Western June 🌐 What the Sam Houston was Horse Tooth yapping about?
[US]T. Southern Blue Movie (1974) 225: Well, what the Sam Hill, son — it’s only money.
[US]S. King It (1987) 396: What the Sam Hill’s wrong with you?
[US]F. Bill Donnybrook [ebook] Each glanced up the hill. ‘Sam hell was that?’.