Green’s Dictionary of Slang

hell n.

1. the vagina [misogyny].

[UK]Florio Worlde of Wordes n.p.: Valle di Acheronte, a womans priuie parts or gheare. Also hell.
[UK]Shakespeare King Lear IV vi: There’s hell, there’s darkness, there is the sulphurous pit, Burning, scalding, stench, consumption.
[UK]J. Swetnam Araignment of Lewd, Idle, Froward, and unconstant Women 19: If thy head be in her lap she will make thee beleeue that thou art hard by Gods seat, when indeed thou art iust at hell gate.
[UK] ‘Hence, hence’ in Wardroper (1969) 70: If this can be the gate of hell, No flesh can hold from entering in. Heaven must forgive so sweet a sin.
[UK]Farmer & Henley Sl. and Its Analogues.
[UK]Farmer Vocabula Amatoria (1966) 106: Enfer, m. The female pudendum; ‘the bottomless pit’; ‘hell’.
[US]Maledicta III:1+2 25: Or perhaps it’s a flower, a grotto, a well, / The hope of the world, or a velvety hell.

2. used to describe a variety of unpleasant or ‘sinful’ places [note J. Taylor News from Hell, with a short description of the Hell at Westminster (1639), which describes a 17C tavern: ‘Within this Hell is good content and quiet, / Good entertainment, various sorts of diet’ etc.].

(a) Bridewell prison.

[UK]H. Mill Nights Search I 28: To Bridewell she is brought, (She calls it Hell) for there she must be taught To turne the mill, or beat hemp.

(b) a debtor’s prison near Southwark, for the King’s debtors who were never freed.

[UK]J. Ray Proverbs 244: There is no redemption from Hell.
[UK]C. Walker Authentick Memoirs of Sally Salisbury 106: He employ’d Mr. Cannibal to arrest and put her into Hell upon Earth, alias Marshalsea.

(c) (also inferno) a casino, a gambling house; a billiard-hall; thus hell-keeper, the proprietor of such an establishment (in cit. 1849).

[[UK]Delightful Adventures of Honest John Cole 18: I’ll dress like a Gentleman and dine at Hell in the Palace-Yard, and sup at the Devil in Fleet-Street].
[UK]G. Colman Spleen I i: I would fain have been among the red ribbands and black legs at Hell in the evening, and tried my luck with tossing the cubes about.
[UK]Sporting Mag. Dec. III 130/1: A Transaction at a noted gambling house in Dame-street, Dublin [...] known by the name of Hell, has much engaged the conversation of the fashionable world.
[UK] ‘Naked Truth’ in C. Hindley Curiosities of Street Lit. (1871) 12: A fashionable hell in the western half of this well policed metropolis.
[US]N.-Y. Enquirer 4 June 2/3: These ‘hells’ are principally situated in the vicinity of the Theatres.
[UK] ‘Romance of a Day’ Bentley’s Misc. June 565: He had dissipated at the minor West-end hells, and elsewhere, the last farthing.
[UK]R. Brinsley Peake Devil In London I iii: How devilish green you are! It was a little quiet hell, my fine fellow!
[Aus]Bell’s Life in Sydney 12 Sept. 2/6: Lyons [...] is a patron of low copper hells and every other resort of abandoned gamblers.
[US]J.H. Green Arts and Miseries of Gambling 307: O, truly is the gaming-house denominated a ‘hell’.
[UK]Thackeray Pendennis I 185: He frequents low gambling-houses and billiard-hells.
[UK]R.S. Surtees Young Tom Hall (1926) 64: He thro’d the dirt [...] in all the London hell-keepers’ and horse-dealers’ faces.
[UK]T. Taylor Still Waters Run Deep II ii: Those muffs at the Home Office crow about shutting up the West End Hells; but what’s chicken-hazard to time bargains?
[UK]Belfast Morn. News 28 Feb. 4/1: The house in question was a low ‘inferno’ where the stakes were low and the players lower still.
[UK]R. Nicholson Rogue’s Progress (1966) 45: I became very intimate with many of them; [i.e gamblers] some, indeed, attachés of the leviathan hell, Crockfords.
[US]J.D. McCabe Secrets of the Great City 379: But fraud is frequently resorted to in many hells; and in some of them, whether he loses or wins, the visitor is sure to be plundered of his valuables before he is allowed to depart.
[US] letter 15 Dec. in T. Hughes Gone To Texas (1884) 34: If they [...] didn’t get into rows in gambling-hells and bar-rooms, they wouldn’t be always getting killed.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 27 Mar. 6/4: Reflection by a gambling card: – ‘Strange that a “hell” or haunt of gambling vice does oft contain a perfect pair o’ dice.’.
[UK]J. Caminada Twenty-Five Years of Detective Life I 451: [Ch. heading] Gambling Hells. Betting-House Raids.
[Aus]Truth (Sydney) 23 Dec. 8/2: Them two boys was open tempted / Through a Sidney gamblin hell.
[UK]D. Cotsford Society Snapshots 133: And this [i.e. the Casino at Monte Carlo] — this is the celebrated Gambling Hell of Europe!
[US]O. Wister ‘Ten Thousand Cattle Straying’ [lyrics] In gambling hells delaying.
[Aus]Truth (Perth) 8 Oct. 8/8: Yet I think I could be pointin’ to a house which are a ’ell / Where they do play cards & hazards / And some other things as well.
[UK]J. Buchan Greenmantle (1930) 160: At the end of the garden is a shanty called the Garden-house of Suliman the Red. It has been in its time a dancing-hall and a gambling hell and God knows what else.
[US]F. Packard Adventures of Jimmie Dale (1918) I ii: It’s in Moriarty’s place — a gambling hell.
[US]F. Packard White Moll 159: One whom [...] she recognized as a hanger-on at a gambling hell in the Chatham Square district.
[US]D. Hammett ‘Corkscrew’ Story Omnibus (1966) 203: You will strike now, brother? You will carry God’s war immediately into brothel and gambling hell?
[US]H. Asbury Sucker’s Progress 263: One gambler of national stature in George Randall, who owned two hells.

(d) (Aus.) an opium den.

[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 15 Dec. 39/3: He took thim into the pak-ah-pu shop where they mar-rked tickuts in th’ lotthery, into the cook-shops where they ate long soup [...] an’ thin, as a woind up, to Looey Pong’s opium hell.

3. (US black) anger.

[US]Dos Passos Three Soldiers 28: ‘D’you really want to kill him?’ ‘Not now, but he gits the hell started in me, the way he teases me.’.
[US](con. WWI) H. Odum Wings on My Feet 29: I was feelin’ my hell a-risin’.

4. (US black) an expert, an admirable or impressive person [hell adj.].

[US]H. Sebastian ‘Negro Sl. at Lincoln University’ AS IX:4 288/1: a hell (also a fair hell). Anyone who excels at something.
[US]D. Jenkins Semi-Tough 11: I have carved out a special place for myself in football history by being a white pisser. Shake Tiller has said that if I was black I would not be thought of so much as any kind of hell.

5. see hell, the phr. (3)

In derivatives

hellite (n.)

a professional gambler.

[UK] letter in Times 9 Oct. n.p.: The hellites at all the hells [...] do not fail to resort to every species of cheating.
[UK]G. Smeeton Doings in London 34: When they think they have completely cleaned him out, these hellites will wish to be freed from his company.
[UK]J. Grant Sketches in London 355: In all the gaming-houses of any note, there are unprincipled reckless persons in the pay of hellites.
[UK]Era (London) 1 Oct. 9/3: The authorities [...] have tacitly sanctioned the avocations of the hellites.
[Ire]Sligo Champion (Ireland) 22 Mar. 4/4: The hellite lit a fresh cigar, and began to shuffle.

In compounds

hell-bird (n.)

a professional gambler.

[UK]‘The ‘Hell’ Birds’ in Tommarroo Songster in Spedding & Watt (eds) Bawdy Songbooks (2011) IV 333: We jolly hell-birds e’er will spend, / Our money as we get it / [...] / And never have, while we’re at sport, / The tables turn’d upon us.

SE in slang uses

In derivatives

heller (n.)

1. one who lives an unfettered, undisciplined and adventuresome life.

Blue & Gold (U. Cal. Berkeley) 509: While I was at Yale, a visiting Western professor sat on a table and kicked his heels against the legs. All the brows pronounced him a regular heller.
[US]Van Loan ‘The Loosening Up of Hogan’ in Ten-Thousand-Dollar Arm 132: Give me a team of young hellers, and I’ll get you a pennant here sure!
W. Maxwell The Folded Leaf (1999) 157: I used to think I was a regular heller but compared to some of these guys I’m not so bad I guess. I could teach Sunday school if I wanted to.
L. Perdue DaVinci Legacy 82: He was a real heller in his youth — he still is. Gave everybody fit.
S.D.G. Heath Donnie & Jean 58: Being a real heller as a young man [...] he obviously presented one of those challenges that so inspire the fervent, holy pursuit of the godly.

2. (US) a very difficult, formidable or exciting thing or person.

[US]W.C. Gore Student Sl. in Cohen (1997) 9: Heller, n. A remarkable person.
[US]McClure’s Mag. 54 54: We ran a great, tall pig, a regular heller, right into her lair. She was as big as a Shetland pony.
[US]Weseen Dict. Amer. Sl. 348: [General] Heller – A very daring, aggressive, or active person; a person who indulges in immoral, illegal, or questionable practices.
[US]‘F. Bonnamy’ Death on a Dude Ranch (1953) 25: He was a tough guy, and a heller, but he was real as dirt.
[US]W. Smitter F.O.B. Detroit 9: He could be a heller with women if he wanted to.
[US]‘F. Bonnamy’ Blood and Thirsty (1952) 89: Then the island got a [...] couple of storms that were hellers.
[US]Overholser Fabulous Gunman 53: His dad was a regular old heller.
[UK](con. 1940s) MacCuish Do Not Go Gentle (1962) 128: As of right now I wanna start forgettin’ that heller.
[US]T.V. Olsen The Hard Men (1974) 122: He decided that a heller of a storm would hit before long.
[UK]G. Burn Happy Like Murderers 187: The hellers. The misfits who were of two different sorts: ones who caused trouble and ones who merely had trouble.

3. (US campus) an exciting, dramatic party.

R.L. Duffus Roads Going South 117: ‘Wait till I get you down to New York for a regular heller.’ He winked mysteriously. ‘That's the life’.
[UK](con. 1940s) MacCuish Do Not Go Gentle (1962) 76: We [...] bring the girls back. Makes for a real heller.
[US]Dundes & Schonhorn ‘Kansas University Sl.: A New Generation’ in AS XXXVIII:3171: A few of the more colourful expressions [for party] appearing once are: ball, bash, beer blast, blowout, boozer, bust, heller, rocker, shit kicker, shit stomper, smash, and swinger.
[US]G. Underwood ‘Razorback Sl.’ in AS L 1/2 61: heller n Exciting, activity-filled party.

In compounds

hell-all (n.) (also hell-in-all) [var. on damn-all n.]

(US) absolutely none, nothing whatsoever .

[US](con. WWI) E. Mackin Didn’t Want to Die 118: You don’t amount to hell-in-all up there [HDAS].
G. Sidney Love of Dying 84: You think you bein’ a sergeant means hell-all here?
hell and (little) tommy (n.)

chaos, disorder (cf. play hell and tommy ).

[US]A.B. Lindsley Yankee Notions 37: ’E’ll be tarnation mad ’f ’e finds out I ony ben ashore a while, and kick up hell and leetle Tomy.
[UK]Monthly Rev. Feb. 178: He may bring them up, if he chooses, in the popular arts of breaking windows, prostrating the guardians of the night, instituting weekly series of rows in peaceful neighbourhoods; [...] the elegant amusements of ‘Hell and Tommy’.
J.W. Carlyle letter 25 Sept. Letters: a New Sel. (1949) 166: I had made the house into the liveliest representation of ‘Hell and Tommy’.
[UK]Sporting Times 24 Jan. 1/4: Off and plenty of it [...] Fork it out [...] or there will be the very Hades and Tommy to pay.
E.M. Dell Knave of Diamonds 178: He stirs up hell and tommy wherever he goes.
Cockerell & Meynell Friends of a Lifetime 100: Hell and Tommy was going on all the evening everywhere, and the town gutters ran beer in some parts and usquebaugh in others.
hell-around (adj.)

see separate entry.

hell-bender (n.)

1. (US, also hell-bending fool) a formidable, outrageous thing or individual [fig. use of US dial. hellbender, the American salamander or alligator (cryptobranchus)].

[[UK]B.S. Barton [bk title] Memoir concerning an Animal [...] which is known by the name of Alligator or Hell-bender].
[US]J. Scott Partisan Life 197: Give us, then, ‘Billy in the Low Grounds,’ or ‘Sugar in the Gourd,’ or [...] some hellbender of your own!
[US]C.G. Leland ‘Breitmann in Italy’ Hans Breitmann in Europe 272: Dere is mutterins in Ravenna, / Und ere long dere’ll come a turn, / A real hell-bender from de land / Of Dieterich von Bern.
Waco Eve. News 2 Mar. 2/2: Uncle Joey hell Bender Miller [...] is the most industrious editorial writer in the state.
[US]Salt Lake Trib. (UT) 22 Oct. 2/4: The younger nelson is one of those ‘hell-benders’ in politics.
[US]J.W. Carr in ‘Word-List From Northwest Arkansas’ in DN III:v 398: hell bending fool, n. A daredevil fellow. ‘When I was young I was a reg’lar hell bending fool’.
Timea Dispatch (Richmond, VA) 12 July 8/4: They characterized Scruggs as being ‘King of the Hell-benders,’ and the debauchers of the youth in the community.
[US]C.E. Mulford Hopalong Cassidy Returns 49: Who is this here buck-jumpin’ hell-bender?
[US]Popular Western June 48/1: That hellbender Kinsey [DA].
in E. Guevara Venceremos! 2: His father, also named Ernesto, was an adventurous, swashbuckling, hell-bender, who made and squandered minor fortunes.

2. a drinking bout [ext. of bender n.2 ].

[US]Bartlett Dict. Americanisms (4th edn) 283: Jack has been on a perfect hell-bender of a spree.
[UK]Farmer & Henley Sl. and Its Analogues III 7/2: hell-bender [...] a drinking bout.
[UK]‘William Juniper’ True Drunkard’s Delight 249: A drinking bout [...] in American slang, a hell-bender.
hell-bending (adj.)

(US) hellish, arduous.

[US](con. 1860s) J.O. Kerbey On the War Path 156: Jones says: ‘We went along here at a hell-bending trot’.
[US]DN III 398: hell-bending fool n. phr. A daredevil fellow.
E.S. Dorrance Glory Rides the Range 243: However they are, there is time to hear how you came a hell- bending cropper like this.
[UK]N. Nye Breed of the Chaparral (1949) 103: I come out here hunting for a hellbending sheriff-killer, and all I can find is a goddam windbag!
B. Lancaster Trumpet to Arms 95: There isn’t a man in my regiment that can't take a dory clear to the Grand Banks and back through the damnedest hell-bending storm that ever blew.
L. Floren High Border Riders197: And a waterfall it was — a regular hell-bending desert cloudburst.
N.Nye Last Chance Kid 112: Shortly before my arrival in this hell-bending place, a small hospital had been built and staffed,.
hellbent (adj.)

see separate entry.

hell-box (n.)

1. (US) a pulpit.

[US]J.W. Davis Gawktown Revival Club 86: He exchanged pulpits with Rev. Bulldozer [...] and the first thing that Mr. Bulldozer did when he paid me a pastoral call was to turn the hell-box upside down, sit on it, take out a wad of chewing gum and make himself thoroughly at home.

2. see box n.1 (4d)

hell-broth (n.) [SE hell-broth, ‘a decoction of infernal character or prepared for an infernal purpose’ (OED)]

liquor, whether actually ‘off’ or seen as morally evil by teetotallers.

[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 1 Aug. 15/2: ‘Not on your life, Horace.’ ‘The hell broth nearly did us in; but we’re done with it, old sport.’ ‘For good ’n’ ever.’.
hell buster (n.)

1. (orig. US, also hell blazer) an amazing, riotous or violent thing or person.

in Best Amer. Short Stories 84: ‘She’s a hell-buster!’ He was moving about the car, peering under the gears. [...] ‘She’s a hell-buster!’.
Carhart & Young Last Stand of the Pack 79: Thought you were such a hell-buster of a wolfer?
Amer. Assoc. School Administratorsd Official Report 22: Drinking, gambling, brawling, cussing, fighting down and out, and so the mountaineers called him (and it is their worst term in the mountains) a hell buster.
[US]N. Algren Somebody in Boots 255: Once a fellow called me Hell-Blazer.
E.M. Coffman War to End All Wars 64: Bud, if this old world is as big the other way as she is this, she’s a hell-buster for sartain.

2. a preacher.

[US]R. Bradford John Henry 207: So John Henry turned his back on the preacher and walked out of the Old Ship of Zion Church, and he never saw Hell-buster after that.
I. Leighton (ed.) Aspirin Age 39: They [i.e. prohibition-era detectives] staged a spectacular raid for the benefit of Dr. John Roach Straton, a famous hell-buster of the period.
hell-cart (n.) [? its lack of comfort]

a hackney carriage.

[UK]J. Taylor ‘A Thiefe’ in Works (1869) II 121/1: Then upstart Helcart-Coaches were to seeke, / A man could scarce see twenty in a weeke.
[UK]A New Merry Letany 4: From a Hell-cart, and a close-stool Sedan, Libera nos.
[UK]E. Gayton Pleas. Notes II 36: The Ladies in the Hell Carts screem’d out for their Hector.
[UK]Mercurius Democritus 7-14 June47: Two Shoreditch Mades [...] met with an empty Hell-cart at Holloway [etc.].
hell-cat (n.) (also hellicat, hell-kite) [as termagant, of a woman and dating to early 17C, is SE, despite its inclusion by Grose]

a lewd bawdy person; also a mischievous young boy, a lively animal, a spiteful person.

[UK]B.E. Dict. Canting Crew n.p.: Hell-cat, a very Lewd Rakehelly Fellow.
[UK]Hell Upon Earth 8: I am arrived to the Womens Felons Apartment [...] where I view’d a Troop of Hell-Cats.
[UK]New Canting Dict. n.p.: hell-Cat a very lewd Woman.
[UK]Bailey Universal Etym. Eng. Dict. [as cit. 1725].
[UK]G. Andrewes Dict. Sl. and Cant.
[US]Durivage & Burnham Stray Subjects (1848) 36: He flares up and fires away and bestows many opprobrious epithets upon Mr. Macbeth, calling him among other things a ‘hell-kite’.
[UK]Duncombe New and Improved Flash Dict.
[US]G.W. Harris Sut Lovingood’s Yarns 131: That hell-cat ahine the door parsecuted me to the las’.
[UK]Manchester Eve. News 9 Sept. 3/3: He [...] said in a gruff angry tone, as though taklking to a dog, ‘Get out, you hellcat. I’ll poison you if I have half a chance’.
[US]O.W. Hanley ‘Dialect Words From Southern Indiana’ in DN III:ii 119: hell cat, n. One who pesters or annoys. ‘That kid’s a regular hell cat’.
[US]H.L. Wilson Somewhere in Red Gap 87: A regular hell-cat – what he is!
[UK]Hull Dly Mail 16 Mar. 2/2: He also wrote [...] ‘please take care of yourself, darling hell-cat.’ That, he said, was a reference to her amorous propensities.
[US](con. 1900s) S. Lewis Elmer Gantry 10: Shut up, Hell-cat. What you need is ’nother drink.
[US]O. Strange Law O’ The Lariat 8: ‘Young hell-cat,’ snarled the rancher, when the boy had been overcome and bound.
[US]S. Longstreet Decade 41: He was a hell-cat in business dealings.
[Aus]D. Niland Call Me When the Cross Turns Over (1958) 183: You’re a hell-cat, and no mistake.
[US]S. Stallone Paradise Alley (1978) 112: He had become a hellcat.
hell dust (n.) [dust n. (5a); note James I’s court poet Joshua Sylvester on tobacco in 1615: ‘hell-dust, England’s shame, a madness, a frenzy, that by the Devil's agency has been brought from the savages to England’]

(drugs) heroin.

[UK]E.F. Murphy Black Candle 359: It is three times stronger than morphine and is designated as ‘hell-dust’ or ‘the powder of destruction.’ Speaking of the different drugs, Judge Cornelius F. Collins has said, ‘Heroin is undoubtedly the most pernicious’.
[UK]F. Tuohy Inside Dope 195: ‘Helldust’, ‘coke’, ‘the needles’ [...] all are of American origin.
[US]Anslinger & Tompkins Traffic In Narcotics 310: hell dust. Drugs, especially morphine or heroin.
[US]ONDCP Street Terms 11: Hell dust — [...] heroin.
hellfire club (n.) [presumably inspired by the original 18C Hellfire Club, a coterie of aristocratic debauchees, though not known for S&M]

(US gay) a club for devotees of hardcore sado-masochism.

[US]C. Stroud Close Pursuit (1988) 134: A young Cuban male prostitute who had been seen in the company of an older gay male at a hellfire club.
at www.vermilion-sands.com [Internet] The HELLFIRE CLUB (How to get the most out of your secret society) was no relation--other than vague inspiration--to modern-day frat gangs and gay S/M clubs using the same name.
hell-fired (adj.) (also hell-fire)

1. (orig. US) a general intensifier.

[UK]Derby Mercury 29 Sept. 2/2: Sir, Please Lay forty Pounds in Money Under Your threstle and Set no watch tomorrow Night [...] If you Setta Watch wee will kill you [...] From Your Bloody Enemey L.B. Never be afraid Boys wee will do this Job a hell-fired Rogue,. Dated the 19 January 1745 [sic].
[UK]World 4 Sept. 140/1: How arbitrary is language! and how does the custom of mankind join words, that reason has put asunder! Thus we often hear of hell-fire cold, of devilish handsome, and the like .
[UK]W. Toldervy Hist. of the Two Orphans III 157: O! d--n me, Sir [...] he is a h—ll-fir’d good creature!
[Ire]‘A Real Paddy’ Real Life in Ireland 217: He was a ‘hell-fire dog,’ and lived by gambling.
[UK]W.T. Moncrieff Bashful Man II iv: Hell-fire Dick was a fool to me!
[US]J. Neal Down-Easters I 79: See what a hell-fired noise the watch makes.
[US]S.F. Call 22 Jan. 5/4: It’s been a hellfire dry summer at Bully Creek.
[UK]H.E. Bates My Uncle Silas 131: My Uncle Silas would go on to describe not only how big Porky Sanders was [...] but what a smashing, hell-fire, holy terror he was.
[UK]Nottingham Eve. Post 18 Oct. 3/4: The Yankee [...] replied, ‘Any hell-fired thing, Sarg, from the crack of dawn upwards!’.
[US] in E. Cray Erotic Muse (1992) 131: Anyone who buys those matches / Gets a hellfire dose of pox.
[US]L. Bangs in Psychotic Reactions (1988) 326: Elvis [...] raised more hellfired ruckus than the Beatles, Stones and Sex Pistols all put together.
[US]P. Cornwell Cause of Death (1997) 241: There’s a hellfire rush on it for some reason.

2. as an infix.

[US]N. Algren Walk on the Wild Side 88: I’m not to be dic-hellfire-tated to by you or anyone.
hell night (n.) [the initiatory rituals, known as hazing, that accompany such an event]

(US campus) the night of initiation into a fraternity or sorority.

[US]Woodlawn Booster 20 Aug. 6/1: Last Wednesday, August 13, was ‘Hell’ night for the girls at the 55th Street beach [DA].
Stephenson & Kilzer Allied Activities in the Secondary School 100: The boy reported that on ‘hell night’ he was taken to a far-away golf course ‘where the cops could not hear you yell.’.
G.D. Spindler Education and Cultural Process 172: The rites of hell night [...] occur in the context of mild identity diffusion.
H. Nuwer Hazing Reader 95: When the end does come, it also comes [...] only after pledges experience what many fraternity chapters call Hell Night, the most intense hazing of the whole socialization experience.
hell-raiser (n.)

one who deliberately causes trouble.

[US]Emporia [Kansas] Gazette 13 Jan. n.p.: He is a four-flusher, a ring-tailed, rip-snorting hell-raiser, and a grandstander [R].
[US]S. Lewis Arrowsmith 26: Clawson and the other young men technically known as ‘hell-raisers’ looked forward to his lectures on physiology.
[US]Ade Old-Time Saloon 162–3: The high school students and collegians have been shown up [...] as hoop-la night riders and hell-raisers in general.
[US]I. Wolfert Tucker’s People (1944) 116: The old man had been a fun-loving hell-raiser once upon a time.
[US]T. Runyon In For Life 125: That cantankerous old hell-raiser is too ornery to give up.
[US]G. Marx letter 5 July in Groucho Letters (1967) 220: I wish I had been a hell-raiser when I was thirty years old.
[UK]Guardian 7 Feb. 12: Casino multi-millionaire and all-round cowboy hellraiser Ted Binion died in the den of his luxury Las Vegas home.
hell-raising (adj.) (also hell-ripping)

trouble-making.

[UK]Sunderland Dly Echo 22 Sept. 5/4: The English horse Presbyterian is gaining a notrious reputation in India for ‘fire-eating, savaging, hell-raising, and general cussedness’.
[US]H. Wiley Wildcat 180: Lily, you hell-raisin’ hoodoo, good-by.
[US]C. Coe Me – Gangster 195: Gee! What a hell-rippin’ thing this would be.
[UK]Eve. Teleg. (Dundee) 16 Dec. 9/1: These babes in the woods had no right to go to hell-raising Los Pinos.
[US]L. Hughes Tambourines to Glory II i: Mama was the hell-raisingest woman in Charlotte society.
[US]T. Runyon In For Life 124: The new hell-raising warden ordered all cells painted alike.
[US]D. Jenkins Semi-Tough 4: There were more hell-raising agents in the dressing rooms than there was tape.
[US] in S. Terkel Amer. Dreams (1982) 183: They weren’t hell-raising Irish.
[UK]Observer Mag. 21 May 20: The hell-raising actor Keith Allen.
hell-raising (n.)

causing trouble.

[US]S. Lewis Babbitt 25: Deliberately trying to get away with a lot of hell-raising.
[US]D. Hammett ‘Corkscrew’ Story Omnibus (1966) 202: We’re tired and sick of this perpetual hell-raising.
[US]M. Constiner ‘The Turkey Buzzard Blues’ in Ruhm Hard-Boiled Detective (1977) 271: If you’re an alcohol-tax-man sombuddy’s in fer some hell-raisin’.
[US]Lait & Mortimer USA Confidential 96: Even its own residents do their hell-raising elsewhere.
[UK]P. Theroux Picture Palace 180: If arts means hell-raising, he’s a patron all right.
[UK]Guardian G2 19 Jan. 17: Serial hell-raising is these days a virtual prerequisite for nomination hopefuls.
hell-raker (n.)

a violent, forceful or exuberant person or thing.

[UK]W. Scott Old Mortality xli: A’ thae hell-rakers o’ dragoons wad be at his whistle in a moment. Nae doubt they’re Willie’s men.
FiliaDeCiara posting ‘Light vs darkness’ 31 Jul. at SciFi.com [Internet] He was also a lusty young hell-raker who was in his ‘sowing-his-wild-oats’ days, and he greatly enjoyed much of the darker side of vamphood.
J. MacFarlane Time of kings 205: You used to be a hell-raker – a womanizer, Robbie, what happened to that unbridled lust that flowed in your veins.
hell-raking (adj.) [backform. f. SE rake-hell]

dramatically violent, chaotic.

[UK]J. Sylvester Du Bartas (1641) Trophies 198/2: Whose Hell-raking, Nature-shaking Spell, / These odious words could scarce be hearkned well.
‘Albums’ Misfit City Issue 2 page 6 [Internet] King Crimson return, adding another oblique joint to the thirty-year-plus career that’s seen them go from jazzed-up Mellotronic prog via hellraking European electric improv and proto-grunge heavy-minimalism to technophilic New Wave world-beat.
hell-roarer (n.)

(US) a wild, uncontrolled individual or situation.

[US]E.H. Topping Chronicle of the Yellowstone 63: He was asked what kind of stream the next creek was. ‘It’s a hell-roarer,’ was his reply, and Hell Roaring is its name to this day.
[US]E. Pound letter 19 July in Paige (1971) 183: Auw shucks! dearie, aint you the hell-roarer, aint you the kuss.
[US]N. Algren Somebody in Boots 246: Ah’m a Texas hell-roarer!
[US]M. Sandoz Tom-Walker (1984) 302: Looked like you was a real hell-roarer, thunder in your fists and your whiskers blowin’.
W. Decker To Be a Man (1981) 44: This [i.e. a nightmare] was a real hell-roarer, too. Woke up all asweat pulling at my soogans.
R.B. Henderson Maury Maverick 309: He was a hell-roarer, all right, and most people chose up sides on that basis.
hell-roaring (adj.) (also hell-kicking, hell-tearing)

(US) wild, out of control.

[US]F.H. Hart Sazerac Lying Club 26: There come up one of them hell-roarin’ big snow-storms.
[US]F. Francis Jr Saddle and Mocassin 148: I’m a hell-tearing cyclone! I’m a pitch-fire, singeing, wild-car terror from Texas!
[US]‘O. Henry’ Roads of Destiny 371: Is n’t this just the hell-roaringest time we ever had in our lives?
[US]R.H. Thornton Amer. Gloss. 427: Hell-kicking, Hell-roaring, &c. Adjectives indicating depravity and fury [...] These words are not genteel.
[US]H.B. Beston Full Speed Ahead 104: What do you think you are anyway — Hell-Roaring Jack the Storm-King?
[US](con. 1870s) E. Cunningham Triggernometry (1957) 49: It seemed impossible that the quiet, fiddling, likeable Jackson could be this lightning gunfighter [...] the hell-roaring Bill Longley.
[US]Time 5 Sept. 12/3: These were hell-roaring, rip-snorting affairs with the loudest and longest speeches you ever heard [DA].
[UK](con. 1943) A. Myrer Big War 42: You’re a marine, a two-fisted, hard-drinking, steel-chewing, hell-roaring leatherneck of a devil-dog.
hell’s bottom (n.) (also hell’s hollow, hell’s point)

(US) any disreputable or out-of-the-way area.

[US]Harder Collection n.p.: Hell’s holler....Symbolic place-name: a bad, unpleasant, godforsaken place; an out-of-the-way, forbidding place. ‘Whar’d ’ey all come from?’ ‘Come from tother side o’ Hell’s Holler’ [DARE].
[US] in DARE II 963/2: Joking names..for an out-of-the-way place, or a very unimportant place [...] Hell’s bottom [...] Hell’s hollow [...] Hell’s point.
hell’s delight(s) (n.)

pandemonium, chaos; often in phr. play hell’s delight (with), to cause chaos (cf. kick up hell’s delight ).

[UK]‘Jon Bee’ Dict. of the Turf, the Ring, the Chase, etc. 95: Hell’s delights — much mental pain [...] ‘Kicking up hell’s delights,’ a scolding a quarrel.
[UK]Reynolds’s Newspaper 21 May 3/1: The female aristocracy frequenting these shooting hell’s delight [...] beholding the poor piogeons maimed and knocked to pieces.
[Aus]‘Rolf Boldrewood’ Robbery Under Arms (1922) 272: If these fellows are half drunk they’ll burn the place down [...] and play hell’s delight.
[US]A.G. Field Watch Yourself Go By 23: Ef ye had my spunk, ye’d hev knocked hell’s delight out of some of ’em.
[Ire]K.F. Purdon Dinny on the Doorstep 109: Troth, I wisht to goodness they never marked them! for all the Hell’s delight, and she kicked it up then.
[UK]Exeter & Plymouth Gaz. 1 Feb. 8/4: Wirtaman cried out, ‘Who is for hell’s delight in the Suicide Club?’.
[UK](con. 1916) F. Manning Her Privates We (1986) 152: In five seconds there was ’ell’s delight in the bloody bar.
[UK]A.R.D. Fairburn letter in Edmond Letters (1981) 31 Aug. 53: I’m afraid there’ll be hell’s delight when we send the glad news back to the old Homeland.
hell’s front porch (n.) (also devil’s front porch)

(US prison) prison.

[US]Bentley & Corbett Prison Sl. 27: Hell’s Front Porch also Devil’s Front Porch In prison.
hell’s half acre (n.)

(orig. US) any disreputable area or place, esp. the slum area of a town or a low-class dancehall or bar; thus all around/over hell’s half-acre, all over the place, everywhere.

[UK]H.R. Helper Land of Gold 151: Among the more fanciful names that designate localities in various parts of the mines are the following: [...] Mad Ox Ravine, Mad Mule Canon, Skunk Flat, Woodpecker Hill, Jesus Maria, Yankee Jim’s Diggings, Death Pass, Ignis Fatuus Placer, Devil’s Retreat, Bloody Bend, Jackass Gulch, Hell’s Half Acre.
[US]‘Edmund Kirke’ Down in Tennessee 130: I come ter de place whar dey fit so two days arterwuds – dey call it ‘Hell’s-half-acre.’.
[US]J.H. Beadle Life in Utah 152: This kind of contrivance [a buried powder keg] was called by the Mormons a ‘hell’s half-acre’.
[US]J.G. McCoy Sketches of the Cattle Trade 141: The keepers of those ‘hell’s half acres’ find some pretext arising from ‘business jealousies’ or other causes, to suddenly become belligerent.
[US]Interior Jrnl (Stanford, KY) 4 Feb. 1/4: Curious Kentucky town nomenclature [...] ‘Devil’s Den’ and ‘Hell’s Halfacre’ in Spencer.
[US]C.R. Wooldridge Hands Up! 312: Chicago once had a ‘Hell’s Half Acre’ which had a better right to the title perhaps than any place this side of the hereafter.
[US]‘A-No. 1’ From Coast to Coast with Jack London 80: He did not seek a restaurant; instead he returned into the Hell’s Half Acre from which he was bodily kicked so recently.
[US]F. Hunt Long Trail from Texas 264: Valentine was a hangout for Sand Hill desperados and rustlers [...] It was Hell’s Half Acre.
[US]Jefferson County Republican 25 July 2/2: He planned to leave the following week for a trip to Devil’s Play Ground in Hell’s Half Acre [DA].
[US]J.D. Horan Wild Bunch (1960) 107: Kid Curry suggested Fannie Porter’s Sporting House in the section the outlaws referred to as ‘Hell’s Half Acre’.
[US]S. King It (1987) 454: There were eight or ten bars, most of em down in a part of town they called Hell’s Half-Acre.
[US]H. Rawson Dict. of Invective (1991) 306: hell’s half acre, hick town (or -ville).
(con. late 19C) D.W. Holmes Lure of El Rio D’Ais 66: Just as New York City had its Tenderloin and [...] and Chicago its Levee and ‘Hell’s halfacre,’ downtown Butte had ‘Venus Abbey.’.
hell’s kitchen (n.) [proper name Hell’s Kitchen, the Irish-black slum area that covered part of the West Side of New York City from c.1850 to 1910, bounded by the Hudson River and Eighth Avenue, it ran from 39th Street to 59th Street. The name may have applied initially only to a single tenement or it may have been picked up from the name of a saloon in the red-light area of Corlear’s Hook. The toughest part of Hell’s Kitchen was known, at least to the writer O. Henry, as the stovepipe, a narrow enclave running along Eleventh and Twelfth Avenues] (orig. US)

1. any very unpleasant or dangerous place.

[US]D. Crockett Col. Crockett’s Tour to North and Down East 49: In my country when you meet an Irishman, you find a first-rate gentleman; but these are worse than savages; they are too mean to swab hell’s kitchen.
[US]N. Hawthorne Amer. Notebooks (1932) 15: He talked with Bridge about the boundary question, and swore fervently in favor of driving the British ‘into Hell’s kitchen’ by main force.
[Ire]Dublin Eve. Mail 18 Jan. n.p.: The letter was addreseed ‘James Pitgogles Edgar Dunbog [...] residing at Hell’s Kitchen, alias Dunbog Manse, Newburgh’.
[Aus]K. Tennant Joyful Condemned 67: She had known girls get out of Petworth [prison], better known as hell’s Kitchen.

2. a generic term for any urban slum area, esp. one that serves also as a lower class entertainment centre, or any dangerous or seedy place; also attrib.

M.D. Colt Went to Kansas 238: The next Summer was applied to to teach in a part of our town [i.e. Crown Point, NY] known as ‘Hell’s kitchen’.
T.W. Knox Underground World 773: He would take us to [...] the ‘Roaring Gimlet,’ ‘Hell's Kitchen,’ and a few similar resorts, and convince me that we had nothing like them in New York.
[US]Harper’s Mag. Nov. 839/1: [in fig. use] The guerrillas [...] have formerly fixed the unsavory appellations of ‘Hell’s Kitchen’ and ‘Robber’s Roost’ upon certain localities of the [N.Y. Stock Exchange] floor .
Photographic Times 18 59: At a place called ‘Hell’s Kitchen,’ near Eleventh Avenue on Thirty-ninth Street, they [...] were attacked by some of the women with brickbats.
[US]J.A. Riis How the Other Half Lives 225: When it comes to Hell’s Kitchen, [...] and further down First Avenue in ‘the Village,’ the Rag Gang and its allies have no need of fearing treachery.
[UK]Dly Gaz. for Middlesborough 4 Aug. 2/7: New York correspondent cables:— [...] the riots in ‘Hell’s Kitchen’ were renewed on Tuesday night [and] a battle royal raged between the negroes and the whites.
[US]Flynt & Walton Powers That Prey 98: Hell’s Kitchen, in the speech of people who do not know what it means to work there, is the foundry.
[US]Dos Passos Manhattan Transfer 131: ‘Well, how’s the cub reporter?’ ‘I’m on Hell’s Kitchen . . . It’s swell.’.
[US]D. Mackenzie Hell’s Kitchen 60: When I first ventured into Hell’s Kitchen I came in contact with types I had never before conceived.
[US] in G. Legman Limerick (1953) 74: There was a Hell’s Kitchen Y.T. / Who said to two boyfriends, ‘Aw, gee’.
[US]B. Appel Sweet Money Girl 7: A few old-time German families [...] remembered the days when this West Side neighbourhood had been known as Hell’s Kitchen.
[Aus]D. Niland Big Smoke 182: It’s all gone quiet, and you’d never think it was a hell’s kitchen once.
[US]L. Block ‘I Don’t Fool Around’ in One Night Stands (2008) 86: Calder does most of his work in the Kitchen. A Hell’s Kitchen boy from the start, grew up on 39th Street west of Ninth.
[Aus]W. Dick Bunch of Ratbags 260: He was born in Hell’s Kitchen in The Bronx, New York.
[UK] in R. Yates Easter Parade (2003) 63: He was staying in a rundown hotel in Hell’s Kitchen.
[US]T. Wolfe Bonfire of the Vanities 508: He’s your basic hardcore New York Hell’s Kitchen Irishman.
hell’s mint (n.)

(US) a large quantity.

[US]‘Mark Twain’ & C. Warner Gilded Age 21: He’s come back to the Forks with jist a hell’s-mint o’ whoop-jamboree notions.
hell’s own (adj.)

(orig. US) used as a general intensifier.

[US]F.P. Dunne in Schaaf Mr Dooley’s Chicago (1977) 68: By gar, he’ll be th’ ’ell’s own man, won’t he though.
[UK](con. 1937) R. Westerby Mad in Pursuit 199: They’re hellish muddled, you’ve got to get up to hell’s own dodges to get even a penny back for twopence spent.
[UK]‘Charles Raven’ Und. Nights 18: To free the safe from its frame with only a ‘stick’ [...] without making hell’s own row, would take a little time.
[NZ]R.M. Muir Word for Word 253: It was hell’s own job rounding the bastards up.
[UK]F. Pollini Glover 303: One hell’s own time, getting her.
hell-stick (n.)

(US) a sulphur match.

[US]E.H. Babbitt ‘College Words and Phrases’ in DN II:i 40: hell-sticks, n. Matches.
[US]R.F. Adams Western Words (2nd edn) 145/1: hell stick. What the cowman sometimes called the sulphur match so common on the range in the early days; when it really gave him a ‘whiff of hell.’.
hell week (n.)

1. (US campus) the period of initiation for pledges to a college fraternity.

Printers’ Ink 118 65: Omega Eta became the first Fraternity at Miami to abolish ‘Hell Week’.
[US]Randolph Enterprise 18 Dec. 1/6: They were strongly in favor of eliminating ‘Hell Week’ from fraternity procedure entirely [DA].
[US]Time 9 Feb. 76/2: Nine Theta Cris were jailed for breaking into a grocery store on a Hell Week scavenger hunt [DA].
[US](con. 1958) R. Farina Been Down So Long (1972) 20: I might dig it and pledge. Wear a propellor-topped beanie during Hell Week, pull a quacking toy to class.
[US]G. Underwood ‘Razorback Sl.’ in AS L 1/2 61: hell week n Period of confinement and hazing for pledges prior to initiation into the fraternity.
[US]A. Maupin Further Tales of the City (1984) 35: Nelson Schwab had cornered him during Hell Week at the Deke House.
[US]Eble Campus Sl. Mar.
[US]T. Dorsey Stingray Shuffle 20: A Navy SEAL who told her about going through some kind of gruelling test called Hell Week.

2. (US campus) examination week.

[US](con. 1925) F.M. Davis Livin’ the Blues 85: In January I was ready for Hell Week and initiation. Some brothers had expected me to flunk. When most were cramming for finals, I read cowboy magazines.
[US]Eble Campus Sl. Apr. 5: hell week – final exam period.

As an intensifier

In phrases

as hell (adv.) (also as all hell, as hell’s kitchen, as sin)

a general intensifier: very, extremely.

[[UK]Dryden An Evening’s Love Act III: beat.: False, or true, Madam? jac.: False as Hell].
[[UK]W. Kenrick Falstaff’s Wedding (1766) V viii: The man I’ve worn nearest to my heart, Is false as hell].
[UK]Foote Lame Lover in Coll. Farces & Entertainment VI (1788) 8: Says Wheezy (who, between ourselves, is as husky as hell).
[UK]R. Porson ‘Imitation of Horace’ in Whibley In Cap and Gown (1889) 61: While on board as sick as hell, / At shore, old girl, I wish you well.
[UK] ‘The Doctor’s Pills!’ in Delicious Chanter 48: I feel as sore and hot as h-ll.
[UK]W.N. Glascock Land Sharks and Sea Gulls II 122: I’ve no warmth left in me. The morn’s as cold as h-ll.
[US] in B.L. Ridley Battles and Sketches of the Army of Tennessee (1906) 461: The rude and untrained soldier would [...] say ‘T-w-e-l-v-e o’-c-l-o-c-k, and sleepy as h--l!’.
Liverpool Mail 5 Sept. 6/5: ’It’s getting hot as h—ll round here, I’ll have to cut or they’ll pin me’.
[UK]E. Pugh Spoilers 183: Bad as ’ell. ’E’s bin shot.
[US]D.G. Phillips Susan Lenox I 388: You’ve got a mighty pretty foot. Minnie’s is ugly as hell.
[US]F.S. Fitzgerald ‘The Diamond as Big as the Ritz’ in Bodley Head Scott Fitzgerald V (1963) 72: Get in here! All three of you! Quick as hell!
[UK]J. March Wild Party 10: He was comical as sin.
[US]G. Milburn ‘Jungle Din’ in Hobo’s Hornbook 79: Carbide, a hobo, he showed me, / And Carbide was clever as hell.
[US]D.I. Young ‘Chuck Away’ in Botkin Folk-Say 313: Degree: Hot as hell’s kitchen.
[UK]D.L. Sayers Nine Tailors (1984) 152: I’m bucked as hell.
[US]W. Guthrie Bound for Glory (1969) 414: No kinda steady job jus’ makes ya mean’s all hell.
[US]W.D. Overholser Fabulous Gunman 42: That tickles Cole. Makes him feel as big as all hell.
[US]W. Styron Set This House on Fire 301: A drunk argument with Poppy [...] left me feeling miserable and guilty as all hell.
[US]V.E. Smith Jones Men 65: It’s interesting as hell.
[US]S. King Different Seasons (1995) 193: Noisy as hell, isn’t it?
[Aus]J. Morrison Share House Blues 65: ‘Bugger your cousin,’ says Marcus. ‘Don’t you insult my cousin,’ says Gerontius, touchy as hell.
[UK]J. Healy Grass Arena (1990) 19: Needless to say I was sad as hell losing a fight to Jordan.
[US]P. Cornwell Body of Evidence (1992) 127: They was sorry as hell to see you leave.
[US]S. King Dreamcatcher 525: They’re all nervous as hell.
[US]S. King Finders Keepers (2016) 102: I’m sorry as hell. At least they caught the psycho before he could do any more damage.
like fucking hell (adv.)

in no way whatsoever, absolutely not.

Sally ‘Sally’s Plugging Corner’ Neverland Project [Internet] Raptor Red. haven’t you ever wanted to be a velociraptor? like fucking hell you haven’t. you saw jurassic park. you wanted to tear someone apart with ginsu-knife claws, swallow slabs of their flesh whole. well now you can.
like hell (adv.) (also hell-as-like, like hell for Texas, like god-dam, like merry hell, like sin)

1. a general intensifier: recklessly, intensely, very much, very quickly.

[Aus]Sydney Gaz. 3 Jan. 2/6: I never, to my knowledge, said I would make Mr. Raine ‘fly like hell’.
[UK]Marryat Mr Midshipman Easy III 123: ‘Now strike like hell! — and drive down de plaster,’ said Mesty.
[US]Melville Moby Dick (1907) 306: ‘I say, pull like god-dam,’ cried the Indian.
[UK]Thackeray Newcomes I 286: I tried every place, everything; went to Ems, to Wiesbaden, to Hombourg, and played like hell.
[UK]Leaves from Diary of Celebrated Burglar 86/2: Thau’ll ’ave to keep a b—y big eye on ’im [...] I’m noan so soor but wat e’ll ‘shave’ uz lyke ’ell iv ’e gits a chance.
[UK]Derbyshire Courier 17 Jan. 2/5: A couple of old tom-cats got to rarin’ and chargin’ around [...] carryin’ on like sin.
[US]F. Remington letter in Splete (1988) 10: Today it snowed like sin.
[UK]Kipling ‘The Three Musketeers’ in Plain Tales from the Hills 65: Ye black limb, there’s a Sahib comin’ for this hekka. He wants to go jildi to the Padsahi Jhil [...] You dhrive Jehannum ke marfik, mallum — like Hell?
[US]S. Crane Red Badge of Courage (1964) 66: Your fellers ’ll run like hell when they onct hearn a gun.
[US]N.Y. Tribune 4 June 29/2: Cate was hurrying like sin.
[US]R.W. Brown ‘Word-List From Western Indiana’ in DN III:viii 582: like hell for Texas, adv. phr. In a hurry; very swiftly. ‘When he jumped onto the brush the rabbit went out through the stubble like hell for Texas’.
[UK]R. Tressell Ragged Trousered Philanthropists (1955) 149: All three of ’em used to drink like hell.
[UK]J. Buchan Thirty-Nine Steps (1930) 78: My shoulder and arm ached like hell.
[US]C. Coe Hooch! 263: ‘You won’t sign, eh?’ he sneered. ‘Just like merry hell you won’t sign. Take that pen!’.
[UK]Kipling ‘Satisfaction of a Gentleman’ in Complete Stalky & Co. (1987) 253: He licked like hell.
[US]E. Anderson Thieves Like Us (1999) 28: The Laws work like hell to get their names in the papers.
[US]N. Algren Neon Wilderness (1986) 223: He certainly could drive like hell.
[US]G. Metalious Peyton Place (1959) 80: ‘Time for you to take another trip to White River.’ ‘Like hell,’ said Lucas.
[US]C. Cooper Jr Scene (1996) 138: ‘Rickie doesn’t lie!’ [...] ‘Maybe not to you, but he lied like hell to me.’.
[US]Cab Calloway Of Minnie the Moocher and Me 22: I ran like hell.
[UK](con. 1957) J. Rosenthal Spend, Spend, Spend Scene 59: dad: You can go back to Matthew. vivian: I can hell-as-like.
[US]S. King Dead Zone (1980) 108: I hate like hell to admit it, but it’s true.
[US]C. Hiaasen Skin Tight 218: Don’t feed the racoons, they bite like hell.
[US]C. Hiaasen Lucky You 170: Bode had no plan beyond running like hell.
[UK]Observer Escape 9 Jan. 9: My leg hurts like hell.

2. an ironic excl. of negation and denial; usu. as like hell I will.

R.H. Davis Frame Up [Internet] n.p.: ‘If he don’t like the way I talk,’ she cried, ‘he can come across!’ Mrs. Earle exclaimed in horror. [...] ‘Like hell he will!’ she said. ‘You can’t pull that under my roof!’.
[US]R. McAlmon Village 136: I’m a good girl now. Like hell!
[US](con. 1900s) S. Lewis Elmer Gantry 41: If he’d said he was coming to my room, I’d of told him, ‘Like hell you will!’.
[US]C.R. Shaw Jack-Roller 118: He later said I was laid off. I said, ‘Like hell, I’m laid off! You can go straight to hell. I have quit!’.
[UK]N. Marsh Final Curtain (1958) 121: Like hell it did!
[US]M. Spillane One Lonely Night 111: Sure he could speak English. Like hell!
[WI]V.S. Naipaul A House For Mr Biswas 357: ‘Glad like hell,’ Mr Biswas said.
[Ire]H. Leonard Da (1981) Act II: You what? Like hell you will.
[UK]P. Theroux Picture Palace 228: You call these decorations? Like hell.
[US] in Delacoste & Alexander Sex Work (1988) 82: ‘I’ll be back for my money later.’ ‘Like hell you will,’ Chrissy said as he left.
[US]C. Hiaasen Lucky You 266: ‘Don’t worry. He’s on board.’ ‘Like hell.’.
[US]C. Cook Robbers (2001) 62: Like hell, said Ray Bob. Like hell I didn’t.
shot to hell (adj.)

lit. or fig., destroyed.

[UK]Hall & Niles One Man’s War (1929) 323: My plane is all shot to hell!
[US]K. Nicholson Barker III i: The whole damn works is shot to hell anyways.
[US]J. Conroy World to Win 227: It costs money to keep up a flat [...] even if the house is shot to hell and crawling with cockroaches and bedbugs.
[US](con. 1944) N. Mailer Naked and Dead 119: I may have my nerves shot all to hell.
[US]L. Uris Battle Cry (1964) 11: The Corps sure was shot to hell!
[US](con. 1930s) R. Wright Lawd Today 23: My life is just all shot to hell.
[US]B. Jackson Get Your Ass in the Water 10: Sonofabitch play cooncan all night, next day he can’t hold a cup of coffee. ’Cause he’s shot to hell.
[US]J. Ellroy Brown’s Requiem 43: I was drinking heavily and my fitness reports were shot to hell.
[US]G. Indiana Rent Boy 85: My immune system’s probably shot to hell.
to beat hell (adv.)

to the utmost, very much.

[US]E. Townsend Chimmie Fadden Explains 58: Den we all four danced t’ beat ’ell.
[US]G.H. Mullin Adventures of a Scholar Tramp 261: Oh, I went down to that hop-joint, an’ I rung the hop-joint bell, / And there sat Albert a-hittin’ the pipe, a-hittin the pipe to beat hell.
[US]E. Anderson Hungry Men 232: He hates cops to beat hell.
A.R. Prouse in Ticket to Hell [...] a Prisoner’s Wartime Log 1942–1945 24: I was scared to beat hell, as every time I attempted to get up, my legs would collapse.
[US]R. Prather Scrambled Yeggs 33: He’s mashed up pretty fair and scratched to beat hell front and back.
[US]C. Cooper Jr Scene (1996) 56: If you’d seen my old man rushing to beat hell every morning.
Harmon et al. Combat Commander 118: You can bore-sight to beat hell. There’s nothing in front of you but Germans to shoot at.
E. Herbert Passion of Estelle Jordan 4: Some kid driving, [...] for sure thinking, thinking, jacking off to beat hell, she bet.
K.E. Goodpaster et al. Policies and Persons 321: In the words of one merchant, it was ‘selling to beat hell and people don’t care about price.’.
P.J. Bullard Republican Bastards 126: The pianist [...] he had us all singing, drinking and throwing money to beat hell into a big glass bowl.
to hell (adv.)

a general intensifier; esp. as hope to hell, wish to hell to desire intensely; occas. as negating excl.

[US]F. Remington letter in Splete (1988) 30: There is not much hope in political circles [...] Jamie Hustard will be ‘cut to hell’.
[US]N. Gould Double Event 229: I hope to h— the horse will break his neck and his rider’s too.
[US]E. O’Neill Recklessness in Ten ‘Lost’ Plays (1995) 139: Tell me you lie, damn you, or I’ll choke you to hell.
[US]D. Parker ‘A Telephone Call’ in Parker (1943) 27: Damn you to hell.
[Ire](con. 1880–90s) S. O’Casey I Knock at the Door 260: Take your tram to hell out of this, back to where it came – quick! he ordered.
[US]J. Evans Halo in Blood (1988) 21: Now kind of take your goddam hoof to hell off my fender.
[US](con. 1944) N. Mailer Naked and Dead 438: Ah jus’ hope to hell Ah git over ’em tomorrow. [Ibid.] 543: Ah wish to hell that hole in mah belly would stop actin’ up.
[US]C. Brossard Bold Saboteurs (1971) 300: But, goddamn it to hell, I can’t seem to stay away from it.
[US]H.S. Thompson letter 25 Nov. in Proud Highway (1997) 474: I just wish to hell you could convince me.
[US]D. Pendleton Executioner (1973) 40: And then, Robin Hood, you’re to hell out of business.
[SA]A. Fugard Boesman and Lena Act I: lena: I’ll fetch [it] from Swartkops tomorrow. boesman: To hell! He doesn’t belong to us.
[US]G. Scott-Heron Vulture (1996) 13: I bet my ol’ man wishes to hell he wuz havin’ hiz vacation in town.
[US]V.E. Smith Jones Men 132: We done heard some terrible shit about you [...] I hope to hell it ain’t true.
[UK]J. Healy Grass Arena (1990) 64: Fuck it to hell [...] I wish I knew where there was an ironmonger’s that’s give us a bottle of blue.

Pertaining to hopelessness

hoot in hell (n.) [ext. of hoot n.2 (1)]

(US) a very small amount, the least bit.

A. Baer At the National Meeting 15 Dec. [synd. col.] Tener said he didn’t give a hoot in Hades whether he got the job or not.
[US]Dos Passos Three Soldiers 161: Tol’ that bastard Ah didn’t give a hoot in hell what he did.
[US]R. Chandler Long Good-Bye 294: All that means anything to you is playing the big shot. You don’t give a hoot in hell for anybody but yourself.
[US]H.S. Thompson Hell’s Angels (1967) 268: There were less than a half-dozen Angels who gave a hoot in hell what was happening on the Berkeley campus.
no more chance than a cat in hell (without claws)

absolutely no chance at all.

[UK]Grose Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue ms. additions n.p.: No more hope (or chance) than a Cat in hell without Claws. Said of any one who enters into a Dispute or Quarrel without being a Match.
[UK]Grose Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue (2nd edn, 3rd edn).
[UK]Lex. Balatronicum.
[US]R. Waln Hermit in America on Visit to Phila. 2nd series 24: ‘I boned you there, my boy’ — ‘You stand no more chance than a cat in — without claws’.
[UK]P. Allingham Cheapjack 198: There wouldn’t be a cat’s chance in hell with the pads.
no more chance than a snowball in hell (also as much chance as..., ...an ice-cream cornet in hell, ...a snowball in a red-hot oven, last as long as a snowball in hell)

absolutely no chance at all (cf. not have a snowball’s chance (in hell) ).

[US]New North-West (Deer Lodge, MT) 2 Nov. 4/3: A grub-stake was as rare as a snow-ball in hades.
[US]J.F. Lillard Poker Stories 54: A sucker had no more chance against those fellows than a snow-ball has in a red-hot oven.
[UK]B.E.F. Times 15 Aug. (2006) 208/2: Speed, on a returning leave train, gets about as much chance as a snowball in hell.
[US]O. Strange Law O’ The Lariat 90: Making snowballs in hell would be an easier job.
[UK]K. Mackenzie Living Rough 219: We got about as much chance as a snowball has in hell.
[US]W.M. Raine Cool Customer 22: You’ll last about as long as a snowball in hell.
[UK]G. Kersh They Die with Their Boots Clean 3: We didn’t stand the chance of an ice-cream cornet in hell.
[US](con. 1920s–30s) J.O. Killens Youngblood (1956) 128: Colored man with a million dollars last in this town ’bout as long as a snowball in hell.
not a hope in hell (also not a hope in the hot place, ...in Hades)

no chance whatsoever.

[UK]O. Onions Peace in Our Time 37: ‘I rather fancied Lovelightly.’ ‘Lovelightly? Not a hope in Hell!’.
[UK]D.L. Sayers Have His Carcase 448: If we do prosecute, d’you really think we’ve a hope in Hades?
[UK]G. Kersh They Die with Their Boots Clean 119: Every time a Jerry dived, Greengage had a go. Not a hope in hell.
[UK]S. Murphy Stone Mad (1966) 223: ‘Not a hope in hell,’ said Danny Melt. ‘Stone cutting is finished.’.
[NZ]G. Slatter Pagan Game (1969) 96: They haven’t a hope in the hot place.
[UK]J. Mowry Way Past Cool 223: He talkin the same ole dogshit bout how we just rag-ass little niggerboys, gots no hope in hell.
not have a cat in hell’s chance

to have no chance at all.

[UK]K. Amis letter 19 Apr. in Leader (2000) 467: The prof hasn’t a cat in hell’s chance of driving me out. But bugger him none the less.
[UK]Indep. Mag. 4 Dec. 53: I know I haven’t a cat in hell’s chance of being the remotest bit good at it.
not have a snowball’s chance (in hell) (also not have a baldy, ...a snowflake’s chance in hell, ...a supply sergeant’s..., not stand a snowball’s chance in hell)
[UK]Western Times 28 Jan. 3/2: War is described by Mr Stead as ‘a snowball in hell’ [...] in the infernal regions snow had not much chance.
[UK]Nottingham Eve. Post 30 Aug. 3/1: The chances against him were tremendous [...] he had no more chance than a snowflake in hell.
[Ire]Joyce Ulysses 126: That’s it, he said. We are the fat. You and I are the fat in the fire. We haven’t got a snowball’s chance in hell.
[US](con. 1914–18) L. Nason Three Lights from a Match 13: You expect to see a sunrise? You got a supply sergeant’s chance in hell. [Ibid.] 56: The old man went out and tried to stop ’em, but he had a snowball’s chance. [Ibid.] 169: You got a snowball’s chance in hell! [Ibid.] 192: We ain’t got the chance of a celluloid supply sergeant in hell.
[UK]Hull Dly Mail 24 May 10/4: I consider that our Communist and Bolshevik brothers have not a snowball in hell’s chance.
[UK]J. Curtis Gilt Kid 174: There was not a snowball’s chance that the numbers had been taken.
[UK]Western Dly Press 31 Oct. 3/4: A rat or mouse raiding the feed has about as much chance as a snowflake in hell.
[US]J.T. Farrell ‘A Sunday in April’ in To Whom It May Concern 158: The other side hasn’t got the chance of a snowball in hell of whipping us locally.
[UK]Tamworth Herald 16 Feb. 6/5: If you bring anything forward at Polesworth you have not a snowball’s chance in hell of passing it.
[US](con. 1948) C. Chessman Cell 2455 284: You haven’t got a snowball’s chance in hell if you don’t produce a third party.
[UK]R. Frede Entry E (1961) 56: Before even the two together have a snowball’s chance in hell.
[UK]F. Keinzly Tangahano 175: A guy didn’t have a snowflake’s chance in hell of jumping her now.
[UK]N. Armfelt Catching Up 53: There’s not a snowball’s chance in hell of shifting him.
[US]S. Longstreet Straw Boss (1979) 249: Your own boys don’t stand a snowball’s chance in hell against professional muscle.
[UK]P. Robinson Gallows View (2002) 267: Gristhorpe whispered to Hatchley, ‘Not a snowball in hell’s chance’.
[UK]Guardian 23 July 2: I don’t think there is a snowball’s chance in hell of decommissioning by next May.
[Ire]G. Coughlan Everyday Eng. and Sl. [Internet] Haven’t got a baldy [...] Haven’t got a snowball’s chance in hell (phr): no chance.
snowball in hell (n.)

1. (also snowflake in hell) someone or something unwelcome or unpleasant.

[UK]T. Burke Limehouse Nights 198: Now off we go to make ourselves as welcome as a snowflake in hell.
[US]R. Price Clockers 442: This lawyer he’s got. A real fucking bonehead. A real snowball in hell.

2. nothing.

[UK]‘Sapper’ Human Touch 13: You can take it from me, old man, most of these damned rituals amount to a snowball in hell when you come to the goods.
[US]‘Boxcar Bertha’ Sister of the Road (1975) 163: They wouldn’t amount to a snowball in hell without me.
useless as an egg in Hell

(Aus.) utterly useless.

[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 19 Sept. 15/2: But for station purposes it would be as useless as an egg in Hell.

Pertaining to time

In phrases

until hell freezes (over) (also until Hades freezes over, until there’s a hoar frost in Sheol)

for a very long or indefinite time, for ever; thus (W.I.) from hell freeze.

[UK]London Standard 27 Nov. 3/2: [from Our Own Correspondent, NY, Nov. 14] The south will have no part in the government again until hell freezes over.
[US]N.-Y. Trib. 5 Mar. 4/6: Listen to Zebulon B. Vance as he addresses a regiment of Confederate soldiers: ‘Boys, fight till hell freezes over, and then fight on the ice.’ ‘Fight until you fill hell so full of Yankees that their feet will stick out the windows.’.
[UK]‘Morris the Mohel’ ‘Houndsditch Day By Day’ in Sporting Times 18 Jan. 3/2: There he’s like to vait, to my mind, till there’s a hoar frost in Sheol.
[UK]Western Mail 10 Jan. 7/7: I am in favour of fighting for free coinage at 16 to 1 [...] until hell freezes over.
[US]C.L. Cullen Tales of the Ex-Tanks 288: This is where I pass it [i.e. alcohol] up, not for a while, but until hell freezes over.
[US]J. London Road 137: ‘When I get back to Chicago,’ he perorated, ‘I’m going to get a job and stick to it till hell freezes over.’.
[UK]A.N. Depew Gunner Depew 191: That was just like the Limeys, though. They will carry on, to use a well-known expression, ‘till hell freezes over’.
[US]G.H. Mullin Adventures of a Scholar Tramp 148: He can hold down the fast ones till hell freezes over.
[US](con. 1920s) J.T. Farrell Judgement Day in Studs Lonigan (1936) 698: Harold Morgan is agonna stick right in here until hades freezes over.
[US]E. Hemingway letter 23 Aug. in Baker Sel. Letters (1981) 511: I can stay till hell freezes over.
[US](con. 1930s) R. Wright Lawd Today 18: Tell that quack he can get my money when hell freezes over!
[US]J.L. Gwaltney Drylongso 21: You could whip head till hell freezes over, but hell is still hell.
[US]E. Bunker Mr Blue 18: My dog always waited outside the fence until hell froze or I returned.
T. Harrelson From Hell to Redemption 457: We’ll be here till hell freezes over before I’ll send a white boy to jail for having a little fun at the expense of a stupid coon!

Pertaining to an unpleasant or distant place

hell and gone (US)

1. far away, godforsaken; usu. as to hell and gone

[US]C. Himes Real Cool Killers (1969) 36: By ten o’clock tomorrow morning the killer ought to be hell and gone to another part of the United States.
[US]G.V. Higgins Friends of Eddie Coyle (1973) 119: God [...] that’s way up and hell and gone.

2. a long time ago.

[US](con. 1920s) J.T. Farrell Young Manhood in Studs Lonigan (1936) 191: Studs thought of how he hadn’t had a fight since hell-and-gone.
hell and half of Georgia

(US) an extremely large area; the second half of the phr. varies according to the speaker’s locality, e.g. hell and part of Groton, hell and half of New York state.

[US]Vermont Hist. 27.141: All over Hell and part of Groton...Everywhere [DARE].
[US]R. Wilder You All Spoken Here 72: All over hell and half of Georgia: A considerable area, especially if you’re a-lookin’ for somebody.
hell west and crooked

(orig. US) in all directions, disarray, confusion.

[US]F.H. Hart Sazerac Lying Club 147: Great heavens, maria! [...] we’re blowed hellwest and crooked.
[US]H.S. Canfield Maid of Frontier 100: Break ’em with a snaffle, an’ they bolt hell-western crooked [DA].
[US]S.E. White Arizona Nights III 252: This event sure knocks me hell-west and crooked.
[US]R.W. Brown ‘Word-List From Western Indiana’ in DN III:viii 580: knock one hell west and crooked, v. phr. To strike one with great force. ‘When he stepped onto the track the train struck him and just knocked him hell west and crooked’.
H.L. Fox What the ‘Boys’ Did Over There 53: When it was exploded it blew up the entire town and also blew 61000 Huns ‘Hell, west and crooked.’.
[Aus]F. Clune Tobruk to Turkey 108: They stampeded our trucks hell, west, and crooked.
McKay & Nicholas Jungle Tracks 50: The squadron was deployed hell west and crooked all over Phuoc Tuy Province.
to hell and gone (also from here to hell and gone, to hellangone)(US)

1. very far away, a very long time.

[US] ‘How Sally Hooter Got Snake-Bit’ in T.A. Burke Polly Peablossom’s Wedding 74: Sal, you let go uv the varmint’s head; and Potter – you give the all-firedest kind on er jerk, and sling him to h-ll and gone!
[US]W. Hilleary diary 21 Nov. A Webfoot Volunteer (1965) 132: He sold the hay for twenty tons, and on looking at the small heap remarked that: ‘Lots of it he’es blown to hell and gone’.
Republican Campaign Text Book 202: I will drive you to hell and gone.
[US]R. Lardner ‘Horseshoes’ Coll. Short Stories (1941) 257: When they’re through with me they’ll ship em to Hellangone, and I’ll be draggin’ down about seventy-five bucks a month.
[US]C. Sandburg letter 21 May in Mitgang (1968) 163: Lean races take what they want and a too swiney girth leads to hellangone.
[US]Dos Passos Manhattan Transfer 226: Den I shipped out and went everywhere to hell an gone.
[US]B. Cormack Racket Act I: This is Miller again, out to hellangone.
[Aus]‘Banjo’ Paterson Shearer’s Colt 60: That was why they sent you to hell-and-gone out at Barcoo.
[US]D. Runyon ‘Situation Wanted’ Runyon on Broadway (1954) 662: He says it is to hell and gone from here.
[Aus]X. Herbert Capricornia (1939) 311: ‘I’m off.’ ‘Where?’ ‘To hell and gone if what he said was true.’.
[US](con. 1943–5) A. Murphy To Hell and Back (1950) 30: The ignoramus has been shooting up churches from here to hell and gone.
[US]W.R. Burnett Little Men, Big World 97: The Mover lives to hell and gone from my precint.
[US]P. Crump Burn, Killer, Burn! 66: Eight big iron men all shot to hell and gone.
[US]C. Himes Blind Man with a Pistol (1971) 39: If the suspect did it, he’ll be to hell and gone by the time you get the block sealed off.
[US]S. King Stand (1990) 740: I might just pull the trigger [...] Blow your shit-factory all to hell and gone.
J. Logan Railroad to Hell 178: Finding the bomb in time to keep it from blowing the train to hell and gone.

2. (also to hell and back) irretrievably, thoroughly, enormously.

[US]R. Lardner Big Town i: When the war broke loose and leather went up to hell and gone I and my wife thought he would get prosperous.
[US]P.A. Rollins Cowboy 192: I’ll skin you alive, and mash in your sides to hell and gone.
[US]Black Mask Aug. III 108: The fellows came back from the woods and said they hunted to hell and gone and only found an old house.
[US](con. 1914–18) L. Nason Three Lights from a Match 223: You can’t go down that road. They’re shellin’ it to hell an’ gone.
[US]F. Brown Fabulous Clipjoint (1949) 139: Thanks to hell and back, Bunny.
[US]E. Brown Trespass 139: Still the pain came to ride herd through her, to stampede her insides all to hell and gone.
[US]B. Hecht Sensualists (1961) 54: You just lead. I’ll follow to hell and back.
[US]C. Bingham Run Tough, Run Hard n.p.: So the hell with Brett Sayers. Damn him to hell and gone. A no-goodnik from Creepville.
[US]R. Gover One Hundred Dollar Misunderstanding 76: He done huff an puff his way t’hell an back!
[US]C. Himes Run Man Run (1969) 40: Bastard son of a bitch all to hell and gone.

Pertaining to speed or diversity

from hell to breakfast (also from blazes to breakfast)(US)

1. in all directions, everywhere.

[US]letter q. in Wiley Life of Billy Yank (1952) 78: [The regiment] was scattered from Hell to Breakfast.
Tri-Weekly Astorian (OR) 31 Jan. 2/1: Jeff Davis called H.S. Foote ‘constitutionally a liar’ in 1871 [...] and it was distributed [...] from hell to breakfast in the telegraphic dispateches.
Daily Yellowstone Jrnl (Montana) 3 June 3/3: His benchmen undertook to reform everything from hell to breakfast.
[US]Wash. Post 11 Nov. 4: Colonel Watterson said, ‘It is a Democratic cyclone from Cape Cod to Kalamazoo; from Alpha to Omega; from hell to breakfast’.
[US]Semi-Weekly Interior Jrnl (Stanford, KY) 16 June 2/1: The republican hosts from Cape Cod to Kalamazoo and from hell to breakfast have captured St Louis, lock, stock and barrel.
[US]Norfold Wkly News (NE) 7 June 7/1: I reckon you would git hostile if any hombre booted you from blazes to breakfast.
[US]Muskogee Cimeter (OK) 10 Nov. 4/4: It seems to us it would put a candidate in a position that he would be bled from hell to breakfast.
[US]Wash. Times (Wash., DC) 13 July 4/5: When your clothes and boots and blankets [...] Are soaked from Hell to Breakfast.
[US]N.Y. Times 15 Feb. E2: To use his own phrase, everybody ‘from hell to breakfast’--greets and heartily congratulates Colonel Watterson.
[US]A. Hynd We Are the Public Enemies 73: Barrow and Bonnie continues to take pictures from hell to breakfast.
[US]‘Blackie’ Audett Rap Sheet 33: I guess he turned over every rock and cinder from hell to breakfast for clues.
R. Tregaskis X-15 Diary (2004) 26: The Edwards buildings are scattered from hell to breakfast — big hunks of hangars plunked down in the middle of nowhere.
Quimby & Chapman National Nutrition Policy 88: [...] activities which are now scattered, as Hegsted says, ‘from hell to breakfast.’.
[US]S. King Dolores Claiborne 269: It’d fallen most of the way back down the stairs, spillin letters n Bangor Hydro bills n L.L. Bean catalogues from hell to breakfast.
J.R. Tueller Teacher and Puddin’ Head 44: Stock’s scattered all over the range from hell to breakfast.

2. (also from boots to breakfast, from here to Christmas) decisively, violently.

[Aus]E. Dyson Fact’ry ’Ands 73: He cursed her from boots to breakfast.
[US]Wash. Post 17 Jan. 13: You wait; I’ll rip that dance business from hell to breakfast and back again.
[UK]Derby Dly Teleg. 22 Sept. 1/1: ‘From Hell to Breakfast Fight’ [...] One of the Senators present commented [...] ‘On that we are going to fight from hell to breakfast’.
[UK]G. Kersh They Die with Their Boots Clean 5: You’re going to kick old pigface Gooring from hell to breakfast.
[US]J. Schaefer Mavericks (1968) 109: I’ll larrup you from here to Christmas.
in D.K. Johnson Lavender Scare 102: Do it thoroughly — investigate it from hell to breakfast.

3. for a long time, for a long distance.

[US]Wash. Post 29 Apr. S3: If thats so, Joe’d foller him f’m hell to breakfast, bein’s he onc’t set out.
[US]S. Lewis Main Street (1921) 415: He’ll put her across if he has to ride from hell to breakfast.
[US]T. Williams Cat on a Hot Tin Roof Act II: I’ll strip her naked [...] and hump her from hell to breakfast.
W. Kloefkorn This Death by Drowning 5: Work for the county long enough [...] and you’ll end up strung out in bottles all the way from hell to breakfast.

4. to a very great extent.

[US]Van Loan ‘Eliphaz, Late Fairfax’ Old Man Curry 169: I would have bet on him from hell to breakfast.
[UK]N. Nye Breed of the Chaparral (1949) 91: Jess would daub them from hell to breakfast.
E.F. Fisher Guardians of the Republic (2001) 267: [He had] lieutenant colonels ‘who had screwed things up from hell to breakfast’ transferred and made colonels just to get them out of the way.
from hell to Hackney

extensively, to a great degree.

[UK]‘Bill Truck’ Man o’ War’s Man (1843) 145: He has been kicking us this whole blessed morning from hell to Hackney.
hell for breakfast (adv.)

rushed, hurriedly, at top speed.

[US]Overland Monthly (CA) Mar. liii 235: So there he were, comfortable as any old-fashioned saint, an’ stuffin’ his stomach hell for breakfast.
[US]N.Y. Times 29 Oct. 47: But should it be a man with a brand-new taxi, or a driver qualifying for motor delivery, the chase may be a very merry one, for the experienced driver starts out at a speed known by pious New Englanders as ‘hell for breakfast.’.
[US]Reader’s Digest 115/2: She and the cans went snorting out, hell-for-breakfast after the sub [DA].
[US]D. Pendleton Boston Blitz (1974) 60: He [...] probably had them running hell-for-breakfast all over the place.
hell for leather (adj.) (also hell and leather) [hell for leather ]

rip-roaring, a general intensifier.

[UK]Sun. Express (London) 10 July 4: A long line of stage coaches starting on a hell-for-leather race .
[UK]‘Leslie Charteris’ Enter the Saint 96: His brown face was alight with an absurdly boyish and hell-for-leather enthusiasm.
[US]N. Page ‘Secret Guns’ in Thrilling Western May [Internet] That outlaw is making Peaceful Pueblo into a regular hell-an’-leather bandit section.
[UK](con. 1943) A. Myrer Big War 141: I’m a hell-for-leatherneck [pun on marine] and tonight’s my last night to howl. [Ibid.] 243: You’re going to be the best hell-for-leather platoon in the whole Marine Corps.
[US]H.S. Thompson letter 23 Aug. in Proud Highway (1997) 390: He ran a tough, hell-for-leather show as director of Fomento.
hell for leather (adv.) (also hellbent for leather) [the leather is due to the phr.’s origin in riding and refers to the harness]

1. very fast, at top speed, rip-roaringly.

[Ind]Kipling Story of Gadsbys (1891) 116: Here, Gaddy, take the note to Bingle and ride hell-for-leather.
[UK]Kipling Many Inventions 47: I perceived a gunner-orf’cer in full rig’mentals perusin’ down the road, hell-for-leather, wid his mouth open.
[Aus]J. Furphy Such is Life 41: Tell him I fancied I saw his horse going for the Connelly paddock, and I shot after him hell-for-leather.
[Can]R. Service ‘Afternoon Tea’ Rhymes of a Red Cross Man 187: That little job was over, so hell for leather we ran.
[UK]N. Lucas London and its Criminals 23: Immediately they stole a car they drove it ‘hell for leather’ to their headquarters.
[UK]F.D. Sharpe Sharpe of the Flying Squad 51: I was just in time to see Gentleman Joe astride the frame of one of Sainsbury’s delivery cycles with a messenger boy pedalling him hell for leather down the hill.
[Ire]S. O’Casey Cock-A-Doodle-Dandy Act III: A girl runnin’ this way, hell for leather.
[UK]Wodehouse Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit 49: A rozzer was after you hell for leather.
[UK]H.E. Bates When the Green Woods Laugh (1985) 244: Everything grows ’ell for leather.
G.V. Higgins Judgement of Deke Hunter 119: Up the guy comes out of the ditch on his tractor, hell-bent for leather and hollering like a banshee.
[UK]R. McGough An Imaginary Menagerie 66: Squeeze through the bars / run hell for leather.
[US]E. Ruggero 38 North Yankee 296: We been going hell-bent-for-leather since we rolled off the ship.

2. vehemently.

[Aus]E. Dyson Spats’ Fact’ry (1922) 92: Well, I did ’appen t’ want one [i.e. a wife] ’ell for leather.
[UK]Guardian G2 27 Sept. 6: Anji and I went hell for leather [...] it was typical Anji: fighting her corner tenaciously.

Pertaining to movement

get the hell out (of) (v.) (also get the hell off)

(orig. US campus) to leave, to depart, e.g. if you don’t want to stay here, then get the hell..., usu. with a place-name.

[Aus]E. Dyson Fact’ry ’Ands 16: ‘Get t’ ’ell outer this!’ said the packer.
[US]F. Packard White Moll 17: ‘Youse get t’hell outer here!’ she croaked. ‘Get out!’.
[UK]D. Ahearn How to Commit a Murder 224: Get the hell out of here.
[US]Mezzrow & Wolfe Really the Blues 35: Get the hell over there.
[Aus]Sun. Herald (Sydney) 20 Nov. 1s/4: I’ll grind it into your herring-gutted innards and rip them out if you don’t get the hell out of here.
[US]W. Brown Monkey On My Back (1954) 17: The policeman growled, ‘Get your fat -- the hell out of here before you get rolled’.
[US]C. Himes ‘Daydream’ in Coll. Stories (1990) 363: Drop those guns and get the hell off.
[US]N. Heard Howard Street 95: Get the hell outta here and let me be sick by my goddam self.
[US]E. Tidyman Shaft 211: He had to get the hell out of there.
[US]J. Ellroy Brown’s Requiem 161: You and Tina had better get the hell out of here and don’t come back.
[UK]Guardian G2 26 July 8: Made me want to get the hell out and never ever come back.
A. Prouse Two Birthdays in Baghdad 125: We’ve got to get the hell out of here!
get the hell out of Dodge (v.)

see under Dodge n.

go like a bat out of hell (v.) (also go like a bat through hell)

(orig. US) to move exceptionally fast.

[US]R.W. Brown ‘Word-List From Western Indiana’ in DN III:viii 577: go like a bat through hell, v. phr. To move swiftly or wildly. ‘When I saw him he was going like a bat through hell’.
[UK]Gloucester Citizen 19 Oct. 2/4: When it’s [i.e. a plane] flat out it goes like a bat out of hell.
I. Fleming Thunderball 87: The motor cyclist [...] had gone like a bat out of hell towards Baker Street.
[US]‘Meatloaf’ ‘Bat Out of Hell’ [lyrics] Like a bat out of hell I’ll be gone gone gone / Like a bat out of hell I’ll be gone.
W.N. Beath Death of James Dean 13: The man who fills your tank [...] will tell you, when asked, ‘He came out of those hills like a bat out of hell.’.
M. Miyabe All She Was Worth (1999) 92: Then [...] this young guy comes hurtling out of your door like a bat out of hell.
F.J. Delery I Have a Dream 5: After throwing something on, I got out of the vicinity like a bat out of hell.
go like hell (v.) (also go like the devil, ... hell’s bells)

to go very fast, to be very busy.

[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 8 Dec. 7/2: ’E starts cussin’ like mad an’ me an’ the ole ’oss goes like ’ell.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 19 Nov. 11/1: The crouching curate scoots ahead; / The vicar roars along like thunder; [...] / ‘Beware of going like the Devil / Upon the Lord’s work here and there.’.
[UK]‘Sapper’ Bulldog Drummond 161: They’re half-way to London by now, and going like hell if I know Ted.
[NZ]A.R.D. Fairburn letter Edmond Letters (1981) Sept.–Oct. 26: I [...] have been going like hell with rehearsals and dentists and one thing and another.
[UK]Aberdeen Jrnl 12 June 1/3: This is not a blitzkrieg. We are not trying to go like hell’s bells destroying everything.
[US]W. Ellis Crooked Little Vein 51: The cab had two speeds: stop and golikefuckinghell.
go like the hammers of hell (v.) (also go like hammers, go like the hammers of fuck)

to go very fast.

[US]G.H. Mullin Adventures of a Scholar Tramp 181: The engine pounded past me like the hammers of hell going at once.
[Ire]‘Flann O’Brien’ At Swim-Two-Birds 240: Three of your men fall into it when it is working full blast, going like the hammers of hell.
[UK]K. Amis letter 6 Oct. in Leader (2000) 215: The bloody blacks chasin’ each other round the warehouses wavin’ their razors, and me goin’ like the ’ammers of fuck the other road.
[Ire]B. Behan Scarperer (1966) 49: Down like the hammers of hell, along the canal bank and down to Binn’s Bridge.
[UK]B. McGhee Cut and Run (1963) 34: The driver kept the tramcar going like the hammers of hell.
[US](con. 1940s) E. Thompson Tattoo (1977) 71: ‘It’s goin like hammers,’ he exclaimed.
[Ire](con. 1930s) L. Redmond Emerald Square 347: I must have gone like the hammers of hell, for I was suddenly in Fir House.
[Ire]K.C. Kearns Dublin Street Life and Lore 179: What he most feared were the ‘wild’ cattle that would tear ‘hammers out of hell’ down the street leaving death and destruction in their wake.

Pertaining to activity or disturbance

In phrases

[orig. Cumberland dial.] kick up hell’s delight (v.)

(Aus.) to cause a great deal of trouble or disturbance.

[S. Gilpin Songs and Ballads of Cumberland 224: Because he knew reet weel sud he / Set up his gob, directly she / Would kick up hell’s delight i’th’ house].
[Aus]Aus. Jrnl VII 457/1: I mean to kick up hell’s delight with Sharker ; he don't know who's who on the creek. I'll open his eyes afore long.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 28 July 14/2: He was kicking up Hell’s delight, and there being no J.P. beyant nearer than Baker’s Crossing, I saved all trouble by fining him on the spot.
[Aus]X. Herbert Capricornia (1939) 444: You see it’s about time to wind up, I reckon. Too muchee long time eatin’ and drinkin’ and kickin’ up hell’s delight no good.
kick up merry hell (v.) (also kick up holy hell, curse all holy hell)

to cause a great deal of fuss.

[UK]‘The Mixer’ Transport Workers’ Song Bk 13: We don’t get drunk to fight the boss / Or kick up merry hell [OED].
[US]J.T. Farrell ‘Big Jeff’ Short Stories (1937) 52: The gravediggers cursed all holy hell when they lowered his crated body.
[UK]P. Terson Apprentices (1970) II iii: Well, don’t just accept it, beat against it, go back home and kick up merry hell.
[Ire](con. 1945) S. McAughtry Touch and Go 100: When he got home Briege kicked up holy hell.
play hell and tommy (v.) (also play tommy, raise hell and tommy, raise thunder and tommy) [? proper names Henry VIII (‘Hal’) (r.1509–47) and Thomas Cromwell (‘Tommy’) (c.1485–1540), the chief engineers of the English Reformation, or SE hell and torment]

to cause absolute chaos (cf. hell and (little) tommy ; hell and tommy! ).

[UK]Annual Register 309/2: Studies then being over, out of doors with you in all weathers — play hell and tommy — make as much row as your lungs will admit of — chase cats, dogs, women, young and old.
[UK]R.B. Peake Haunted Inn II i: I can speak French to you [...] bung up both votre yeaux, and joué hell and tommy avec vous.
[US]T. Haliburton Clockmaker II 213: Them sacra diabola foutera English [...] hang their priests, seize their galls, and play hell and Tommy with them, and all because they speak French.
[UK]T. Moore Poetical Works 511: ’Twas only ‘Hell and Jemmy,’ / Or ‘Hell and Tommy’ that he play’d.
[Aus]Bell’s Life in Sydney 23 Oct. 2/4: The luckless barber forked out the tin and left the court vowing he would play ‘’ell and tommy’ with Mr Woods.
[UK]N&Q Ser. 2 XII 167/1: It is quite common to hear one enraged party threaten to ‘play hell and Tommy’ with the other.
[UK]Smith & Thackeray in Cornhill Mag. Jan–June I 548: That dam’ cat of yours has got loose, and is raising Hell and Tommy in the store-room.
[UK] ‘’Arry on the Rail’ in Punch 13 Sept. 109/1: If we didn’t raise thunder and tommy, old chap, it’s a caution to Jones.
E. Edwards Words, Facts, and Phrases 272: Hell and Tommy. In some parts of England it is very common for an angry man to threaten another that he will ‘play hell and tommy’ with him.
[UK]G.F. Northall Folk-Phrases of Four Counties 29: To play Hell and Tommy with one.
[Aus]Truth (Sydney) 11 Feb. 1/3: If it don’t swallow down / The say-so of the Crown— / There’ll be Tommy to pay and no square ‘If’.
[Aus]‘Rolf Boldrewood’ In Bad Company 262: It’ll play h--l and Tommy with the sheep in the Ban Ban Paddock.
play (merry) hell with (v.) (also give someone merry hell, play hell on, play holy hell)

1. to damage (an object, a plan etc).

E. Lacey Plays and Sonnets 129: Your French horns / Play merry hell with Jupiter’s last speech .
[Aus]Western Mail (Perth) 24 July 10/4: Old Musso an’ ’Itler playing merry hell over there.
[UK]S. Jackson Indiscreet Guide to Soho 86: Sampling dishes he knows will play hell with his digestion later.
[US]J.T. Farrell ‘Milly and the Porker’ in Amer. Dream Girl (1950) 196: This is feedin’ time, and now work will ruin my digestion, play hell with my liver.
[UK]P. Terson Apprentices (1970) II iv: It’ll play hell with her legs. She’ll lose them good legs.
[Aus]B. Humphries Traveller’s Tool 116: Travel plays merry hell with a decent suit.
A. O’Reilly Sound of Battle 97: Schedules, Annie; play merry hell with your love life.

2. to give someone a hard time.

[US]J.M. Grider War Birds (1926) 100: The Hun has played hell with the troops in France and they need help.
[US]J. Spenser Limey 7: He likes to play hell with people who can’t defend themselves.
[UK](con. WWI) F. Richards Old Soldiers Never Die (1964) 224: He had played up holy hell with the Colonel.
[US](con. 1944) N. Mailer Naked and Dead 519: Plays hell on a man when he don’t get his ass regular.
[US]R.L. Bellem ‘Death Ends the Scene’ Hollywood Detective May [Internet] I was playing merry hell with the speed laws; my speedometer showed sixty and it was still climbing.
[UK]B. Fergusson Watery Maze 102: The Special Boat Squadron [...] was to play merry hell in the Eastern Mediterranean during the next two years .
M. DeMellow Remembered Glory 20: ‘We will play merry hell into the enemy’, and he used some choice invectives on the Pak troops facing him.
L. Dawson The Spy Who Came... 81: He played holy hell with me.
[US]S. King Dolores Claiborne 1: I told you your wife would give you merry hell about buying that day-old bread.
[UK]Indep. Rev. 27 Sept. 4: Then we moved [...] back to Carlisle again, which played hell with my accent.
C. Caruth Line of Duty 79: He can play merry hell if he gets it in to his head to do something. If he starts playing you up, he can be an absolute menace.

3. to act aggressively.

B. Newman German Spy 239: For twelve hours — perhaps twenty-four hours — we must play merry hell.
raise hell (v.) (also raise blazes, ...blue hell, ...Hades, ...heck, ...hell’s delight, ...holy hell, ...merry hell) [ext. of SE; earlier citations invalidate the popular ety. crediting the phr. to a slogan, Kansas should raise less corn and more hell, attributed c.1896 to Mrs Mary Ellen Lease (1853–1933)]

1. (orig. US) to cause a good deal of trouble deliberately; to make a fuss.

Amer. State Papers (1832) 244: He would [...] do every mischief in his power [...] he would raise hell to prevent a peace.
[UK]G.W.M. Reynolds Mysteries of London II (2nd series) 276: The old voman may rouse hell’s delight about her loss.
[US]G.W. Harris ‘Sut Lovingood’s Adventures in New York’ N.Y. Atlas XXI Aug. in Inge (1967) 138: I hed suckseeded in raisin’ h--l generally.
[US]H.L. Williams N.-Y. After Dark 32: Raise h--- in the old hag’s crib? – that’s me.
[US]F. Remington letter 13 June in Splete (1988) 11: The fellows raised H-- with him.
[US]G. Devol Forty Years a Gambler 54: They [...] turned everything upside down, and raised h[el]l generally.
[US]C.W. Gardner Doctor and the Devil 40: Parkhurst has been raising hell.
[US]S. Crane Red Badge of Courage (1964) 22: They’re raising blazes all over camp.
[UK]Sporting Times 9 June 3/3: They want to see me raise hell with the management an’ break things.
[US]Monroe & Northup ‘College Words and Phrases’ in DN II:iii 141: Hades, n. In phrase ‘to raise Hades,’ to carry on. ‘He raised merry Hades’.
[US]G. Bronson-Howard God’s Man 381: Oh, she raised hell with him all right.
[US]S. Lewis Babbitt (1974) 189: Look here! I’ve come to raise particular merry hell, unless you have that fellow pinched, I will!
[UK]Dundee Courier 24 Mar. 7/4: We’ll [...] raise blazes round here until we find her.
[US]Van Vechten Nigger Heaven 85: She always raises hell here, without intending to.
[US]C. Coe Me – Gangster 207: He’d raise blue hell, I’m tellin’ you!
[US]‘Max Brand’ Rustlers of Beacon Creek (1935) 139: I’d like to know from you [...] why you started raisin’ heck so hard?
[US](con. 1920s) J.T. Farrell Young Manhood in Studs Lonigan (1936) 162: I’ll just raise all holy hell with him.
[UK]G. Kersh Night and the City 51: Tell your wife. Tell your neighbours. Tell your sister-in-law. Raise hell.
[Aus]X. Herbert Capricornia (1939) 238: Dem two women — her and my nasty wife — raise merry hell.
[UK]Aberdeen Jrnl 31 Oct. 6/1: [advert] That’s what you have a right to expect [...] If you don’t, you may [...] raise blazes with the Manager.
[US]A. Hynd We Are the Public Enemies 60: Let’s go out and raise hell, Daddy [...] Let’s go and murder people. Like Clyde and Bonnie are doing.
[US]H. Simmons Corner Boy 23: His old man had raised a lot of hell in his day.
[US]C. Cooper Jr Scene (1996) 61: It’s [i.e. heroin] a derivative of opium and it’s been raising hell with the world ever since Dressen stumbled on it.
[US]J. Thompson Texas by the Tail (1994) 136: It was put down as an accident and it really raised holy hell.
[US]E. Torres After Hours 39: These Nordic ‘blonds’ still raise hell in the Mediterranean.
[US]R.R. Moore ‘Signifying Monkey’ [lyrics] Look muthafucka, ain’t you a bitch, you ain’t raisin no hell / Cause everybody saw you jump on me after I slipped and fell.
[US]T. Jones Pugilist at Rest 60: I heard him raising hell.
[US]C. Cook Robbers (2001) 262: They’d come over from Jasper and raise hell.

2. to celebrate rowdily.

[US]Van Vechten Nigger Heaven 27: Most of them come here to drink my booze and eat my food and raise hell at my expense.
[UK]J. Curtis You’re in the Racket, Too 42: One week raising hell here in the Smoke and then off to the sticks for a happy married life.
[US] in Randolph & Legman Ozark Folksongs and Folklore (1992) I 408: Me an’ Lucy an’ Jim an’ Belle, / Goin’ down on Cripple Creek / To raise a little hell.
[US]H.S. Thompson letter 6 July Proud Highway (1997) 628: I have a lot of time to hunt, get drunk, and raise as much hell as I want to.
[UK]P. Theroux Picture Palace 80: There was something barbarous about all those drunken people raising hell in the house on such a beautiful night.
[UK]Indep. Rev. 23 July 11: Two best friends [...] last raised hell together on the night news of Pearl Harbour broke.

3. to castigate; sometimes intensified as raise merry hell and put a shingle under it; raise hell and stick a prop under it.

[US]W.R. Burnett Little Caesar 18: The Big Boy’d raise hell if he knew what was up.
[UK](con. 1923) R. Westerby Mad in Pursuit 49: He raised hell with me.
[US]N. Heard Howard Street 18: Sue would raise holy hell if he whistled again.
[US]D. Goines Street Players 116: The turnkey is raising hell about me staying on the phone.
[US]R. Campbell In La-La Land We Trust (1999) 199: I raised particular hell with them two.
[US]N. McCall Makes Me Wanna Holler (1995) 36: Raising hell [...] and threatening to shoot us.

Pertaining to suffering

catch hell (v.)

1. (orig. US) to get into trouble, to suffer a telling-off.

Report of the Great Conspiracy Case 75: The company would be glad by and by to pay up for cattle, or if they did not they would ‘catch hell’.
[US]B.L. Ridley Battles and Sketches of the Army of Tennessee (1906) 460: Cavalry tantalization to Webfoot: ‘If you want to get buttermilk, jine the cavalry.’ Old Webfoot replies: ‘If you want to catch h--l, jine the Webfoot.’.
[US]J. O’Connor Wanderings of a Vagabond 143: Them moon eyes o’ his’n are allus looking arter Simpson when he’s dealing, as if he was doin’ suthin’ he’d no business to, and was afraid of catching hell for it.
[US]G. Bowerman diary 13 Sept. in Carnes Compensations of War (1983) 19: If you men had done this ten weeks later yewed have caught H-E-double L!
[US]W.R. Burnett Little Caesar (1932) 199: The prosecutor’s in there now and you’re gonna ketch hell.
[US]R. Whitfield Green Ice (1988) 167: I’ll catch hell [...] If the chief didn’t tell you it was all right.
[UK]R. Westerby Mad in Pursuit 10: Wilks and I will catch hell.
[US]B. Schulberg On the Waterfront (1964) 183: I’ll probably catch enough hell as it is.
[US]C. Cooper Jr Scene (1996) 18: The kid died last week and Beecker’s catching hell about it.
[US]‘Red’ Rudensky Gonif 33: Since I’m always catching hell, I might as well enjoy the fun.
[US]J.L. Gwaltney Drylongso 158: I’m catching a lot of hell.
[US]N. McCall Makes Me Wanna Holler (1995) 331: Friends [...] were also catching serious hell.
[US](con. 1973) C. Stella Johnny Porno 26: John had hung up on Nancy mid-rant. He’d catch hell for it again the next day.

2. to suffer.

[US](con. 1944) N. Mailer Naked and Dead 128: Some poor sonsofbitches are gonna catch hell.
[US]Hughes & Bontemps Book of Negro Folklore 364: Monkey just kept on signifying, / Lion, you for sure caught hell.
[US]R. Abrahams Deep Down In The Jungle 156: Well, I be damned, kid, you don’t look so well. / Looks to me like you’ve been catching hell.
[WI]E. Lovelace Dragon Can’t Dance (1998) 6: If you catching hell, dance, and the government don’t care, dance!
[US]R.R. Moore ‘Signifyin’ Monkey’ [lyrics] The monkey looked at him and said, ‘Goddamn ole partner, you don’t look so swell.’ / Said, ‘Look like to me you caught a whole lotta hell’.

3. (W.I./US) to find it hard to make enough money to live, to subsist, to suffer great hardship.

Jelly Roll Morton letter in Alan Lomax Mister Jelly Roll (1952) 228: Darling Wife ... I don’t want you to worry. Things are tough everywhere and we are not the only ones that’s catching hell.
[US]N. McCall Makes Me Wanna Holler (1995) 87: We knew our fathers were catching hell.
get hell (v.) (also cop hell)

1. to suffer.

Xi Psi Phi quarterly VII 401: If the wagon ever comes to the door, Rho Chapter will get hell.
[US]J.E. Rendinell diary One Man’s War (1928) 23: Won’t the Germans get hell when this gang is turned loose on them?
[US]Dos Passos Three Soldiers in Novels, 1920-1925 (2003) 161: Our section had just come out of Verdun where we’d been getting hell for three weeks on the Bras road.
[UK]G. Gibson Enemy Coast Ahead (1955) 200: Yes, the Ities are getting absolute hell.
[UK]I. Fleming Diamonds Are Forever (1958) 190: Pilot must be getting hell.
[Aus](con. 1944) L. Glassop Rats in New Guinea 77: Those — Japs will cop hell for this.

2. to be severely told off or scolded.

World's Paper Trade Review 48 339/1: The printer is called to the 'phone to get hell from his customer.
[UK]J. Buchan Mr Standfast (1930) 625: ‘It ain’t allowed,’ was the answer. ‘I’d get ’ell from the old man.’.
[US]C. Odets Waiting for Lefty Act III: I smacked a beer truck today. Did I get hell!
[US]W.R. Burnett Little Men, Big World 237: The young cops were really going to get hell.
[US]Kerouac On The Road (1972) 64: You’ll keep quiet boys? I’ll get hell, you know.
[US]B. Jackson Get Your Ass in the Water (1974) 213: M is for marriage, that’s when you get a wife, / then you got hell for the rest of your life.
[US]G.V. Higgins Digger’s Game (1981) 15: I get hell for buying it.
[UK]Indep. on Sun. Rev. 3 Oct. 38: I’d have got hell.
R. de Paolis Three Women 261: Christ I’ll get hell for this...Forgive me Milord.
give someone hell (v.)

1. (orig. US, also give someone fuck) to hurt, to inflict punishment on.

H.B. Howard Hist. of Virgil A. Stewart 140: When we get him back into the Mississippi morass we will give him hell.
Ned‘ Buntline’ Mysteries and Miseries of NY 38: ‘ive him hell!’ cried the b’hoys, and again the terrible weapon came crashing down upon his head.
New Englander XIV 284: Twenty or thirty men called on him, and told him that [...] if they ever saw him in those parts again, they would ' give him hell.
[US]Sun (NY) 14 Mar. 1/3: We are going to give them — to-night. We are going to blow them up.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 27 Jan. 15/2: W’y Gawd blime, when Lord Methuen’s push give ’em such L in the trenches do you think the beggars would give way? Not much!
[UK]J. Masefield Everlasting Mercy 9: But every punch I heard a yell / Of ‘That’s the style, Bill, give him hell.’.
[UK] ‘Poor Little Angeline’ in Bold (1979) 182: He took her to a dell which he knew very well, / Started giving Angeline bloody fucking hell.
[US]L. Uris Battle Cry (1964) 257: Give ’em hell!
[UK]H. Livings Nil Carborundum (1963) Act III: Don’t go rushing in till your zero, then give ’em hell, O.K.?
[Aus](con. 1941) R. Beilby Gunner 48: Driving off with the British Tommy’s usual injunction to ‘give ’em fook, Aussie’.
[US]S. King It (1987) 348: G-G-Give em h-h-hell, Buh-Buh-Big Bih-Bill.

2. (orig. US) to give someone a ‘hard time’, to scold severely.

[US]S.P. Boyer in Barnes Naval Surgeon (1963) I 169: He gives me particular h—l for the shortness of my letters .
[US] in Aswell Humor 346: I gave myself some unshredded hell in some of those arguments [HDAS] .
[US] in E.M. Steel Mother Jones 55: I give Rosefelt H— about that Commission [HDAS].
[US]J. Steinbeck Wayward Bus 23: They were so mad they gave Alice hell about the pie .
C. Buckley To Bamboola 29: The press was much amused and gave her all sorts of hell .

3. to cause pain.

[US]R. Campbell Wizard of La-La Land (1999) 75: The hand gives me hell every now and then.

4. of an inanimate object, to prove difficult.

[US]C. Brown Manchild in the Promised Land (1969) 188: My math was giving me twice the hell because I’d had a weak math background.
scare (the) hell out of (v.)

to terrify.

Medical Insurance 24 386/1: Our little Yankee, with a wink at those around him on the boat, said: ‘Watch me scare hell out of that fellow’.
[US]Pacific Reporter 131 549/2: At which time appellant stated to Cooper, ‘We will scare hell out of him.’ [...] Maggard ‘then produced his gun’.
[US]Amer. Mercury II 365/1: He merely undertakes to do his darndest to scare the hell out of a given community for the time being.
[US]E. Anderson Hungry Men 248: I scared the hell out of that old man.
[US]C.R. Bond 10 Dec. A Flying Tiger’s Diary (1984) 53: A flock of birds in the southwest scared the hell out of us.
[US]W.C. Anderson Penelope 90: It scares the hell out of me.
[US]S. King It (1987) 204: Ben felt a species of bewildered relief, thinking it had all been nothing but make-believe – a little shuck-and-jive the three of them had whomped up to scare the living hell out of him.
[UK]Guardian 11 Sept. 1: This is scaring the hell out of the people of New York.
[UK]Observer Screen 6 Feb. 26: I scared the hell out of both of us.
see hell (v.)

(UK/W.I.) to suffer, to have a hard time, to find it hard to make enough money to live.

[UK]S. Selvon Lonely Londoners 9: Jackson is a bitch [...] he know that I seeing hell myself.
smell hell (v.)

(US) to face danger, punishment.

[US]Chicago Trib. 27 Mar. 5/2: ‘This water smells as if it had strychnine in it, and if it has you will smell hell’.
Folklore Record IV 106: ‘I’ll make you smell hell,’ to make a man's life a hell on earth.
[US]A.J. Boyd Shellback 153: I’ll lay it on to you, my joker! I’ll make you smell h-ll before another ten minutes.
[UK]Shields Dly Gaz. 16 Oct. 4/5: ‘Leave the galoot,’ he yelled [...] ‘or I’ll make you smell hell, you white-livered, skulking, sea-sodgers’.
[US]O. Strange Sudden 160: ‘Damn them all! I’ll make this town smell hell’ he swore.

General uses

In phrases

all to hell (also gone to hell)

1. utterly destroyed.

[US]Native Virginian (Orange Court House, VA) 15 May 1/5: ‘Does the stage ever get upset?’ ‘It got busted all to h-ll, yestiday’.
[US]A.G. Field Watch Yourself Go By 213: There goes mother’s china teapot smashed all to h--l.
[US]W. James Drifting Cowboy (1931) 231: If [...] he’d been President of the United States and busted the two-term law all to hell.
[US]C.E. Mulford Hopalong Cassidy and the Eagle’s Brood 27: ‘Dead wife?’ [...] ‘Blowed all to hell with a six-shooter.’.
[US](con. 1943–5) A. Murphy To Hell and Back (1950) 100: Mike was blown all to hell.

2. financially ruined.

[UK]Partridge DSUE (8th edn) 546/1: C.19–20.

3. wasted.

[UK]D. Dodge Bullets For The Bridegroom (1953) 11: A gallon and a half of gas gone to hell, just like that.

4. in chaos.

[UK](con. 1917–18) J.M. Saunders Wings (1928) 72: ‘What’s the matter with Armstrong?’ ‘Gone all to hell.’.
[UK]N. Marsh Death in Ecstasy 241: I’m not myself. My nerves are all to hell.
[UK]D. Davin For the Rest of Our Lives 329: They’re all to hell out there, sir. Don’t know whether they’re on their arse or their elbow.

5. worn out.

[UK]D. Bolster Roll On My Twelve 8: Your own eyes is all to hell, Sir; you wants to give ’em a bath with lotion.
[US]E. Thompson Garden of Sand (1981) 176: All three sisters were emaciated, dirty-legged little blondes with common big-eyed American faces that might have one day become pretty [...] but would more likely become haggard and gone to hell with booze and wrecked with violence before thirty.

6. completely.

[UK](con. WWII) G. Sire Deathmakers 54: You mean right now. Well, pardon me all to hell, old chap.
[US]C. Hiaasen Double Whammy (1990) 129: The song of the big engines [...] tore the dawn all to hell.
[US] (ref. to 1950s) in M. Houlbrook Sun among Cities 194: We used to put powder on, thought we looked absolutely marvellous, the eye brows were plucked to hell, all shaped, and slap.

7. (N.Z.) mistaken, in error.

[NZ]R. Morrieson Pallet on the Floor 74: You’re all to hell. The girl was upset and I better get back to her.
billy hell (n.)

1. (US) a fantasy place that epitomizes the ultimate in bleakness and desolation; usu. in comparative phrs. for intensification, e.g. meaner than..., hot as..., but also as a substitute for other phrs. using hell.

[US]J. Fox Jr ‘Preachin’ on Kingdom-Come’ in Hell Fer Sartain and Other Stories 78: Both jes a-watchin’ fer t’other to make a move, an’ thar’d ’a’ been billy-hell to pay right thar!
[US]A. Adams Log Of A Cowboy 64: If this is n’t Billy hell, I’d like to know what you call it.
[US]W.C. Scott ‘Take ’Im Alive’ Und. Mag. May [Internet] What in billy-hell’s all this to me?
[US](con. 1910s) J. Thompson Heed the Thunder (1994) 224: Sour as billy-hell, ain’t it?
[UK]S. Terkel Hard Times 438: So why in the billy hell has this happening taken the limelight for me over all the others?
Majority Report Radio 27 Aug. [Internet] Ugly to watch, and cynical as billy hell, but effective, sadly.

2. (US) used in phrs. as a synon. for stuffing n.1 etc, e.g. knock the billy hell out of.

[UK] (ref. to 1920s) L. Duncan Over the Wall 77: Tracy shot and killed [...] a man who had whipped billy-hell out of him the night before.
[UK]H. Ranfurly diary 10 Mar. To War With Whitaker (1994) 219: He gave me billy hell.
for the (sheer) hell of it (also just for...)

(orig. US) with no other justification than a (momentary) whim or self-indulgence.

[US]Dos Passos Three Soldiers 15: An’ I kep’ tellin’ Mabe I’d done it juss for the hell of it, an’ that I didn’t mean nawthin’ by it.
[US]M. Spillane Long Wait (1954) 10: Just for the hell of it I leaned into the shadows where there was nothing but dark. [Ibid.] 167: You financed Servo’s operations for the sheer hell of it.
[US]H.S. Thompson letter 26 Feb. Proud Highway (1997) 323: I’ve been taking pictures for several years, often just for the hell of it.
[UK]P. Theroux Family Arsenal 230: You should have stuck him, just for the hell of it.
[UK]T. Wilkinson Down and Out 39: I was tempted to try it on just for the hell of it.
[UK]K. Sampson Powder 215: Hedonists of all sorts jostled and mingled and fondled, just for the hell of it.
[UK]M. Collins Keepers of Truth 276: I put on the Burger King hat, just for the hell of it.
from hell (also out of hell)

(orig. US) appalling, very unpleasant, usu. with a n., e.g. the professor from hell, a game from hell.

[[US]‘Dan de Quille’ Big Bonanza (1947) 286: I’m a war-horse of the hills and a fighter from h--l!].
[US]L. Mckee Land of Nome 178: An old-timer in the party, with unnecessary calls on the Almighty, told me that I was a ‘musher from hell’ .
[US] ‘Sacramento’ in Lingenfelter et al. Songs of the Amer. West (1968) 33: Santander Jim is a mate from hell, / With fists o’ iron an’ feet as well.
[US]J. Ellroy Brown’s Requiem 21: He looked like a wino golfer out of hell.
[US]P. Munro Sl. U. 84: And then he lost his wallet. It was just a date from hell.
[US]J. Wambaugh Finnegan’s Week 184: Let’s go inside before the skipper-from-hell opens up both engines.
[UK]Guardian Weekend 29 Jan. 70: The 9ft blonde bimbo from hell.
[US]C. Hiaasen Nature Girl 78: Look, it’s the seafood festival from hell.
hell-a-mile (adj.)

1. (US) terrible, hellish.

[US]Sweet & Knox On a Mexican Mustang, Through Texas 247: It’s hellamile when you come to tradin’ lead with the Indians.
[US]J. Callahan Man’s Grim Justice 152: Nobody could get along with Sam. He was simply hell a mile. [Ibid.] 189: The New York dicks were hell a mile.
[US]O. Strange Law O’ The Lariat 8: Yu turn my dad loose or I’ll blow yu to hellamile.

2. (US) as a general excl., the meaning varies according to context.

[US]J.L. Kuethe ‘Johns Hopkins Jargon’ in AS VII:5 333: hell-a-mile — use varies. Yes; no; indeed; what; etc.
hell beating tanbark (also devil beating tanbark)

(US) a general intensive, usu. meaning very fast; in phrs. such as quicker than hell beating tanbark.

[US] ‘How Mike Hooter Came Very Near “Wolloping” Arch Coony’ in T.A. Burke Polly Peablossom’s Wedding 153: I’ll larrup you worse nor the devil beatin’ tan-bark!
[US]q. in Wiley Life of Johnny Reb (1943) 323: Thum-thur Dagoes jes maneuvers up like Hell-beatin’-tan-bark .
[US]Arizona Citizen 30 Dec. n.p.: The way i make the feathers fly would discount the devil beating tan-bark!
[US]H.E. Hamblen General Manager’s Story 129: On this afternoon Dinny saw ‘some felly comin’ like the devil batin’ tan-bark’.
[US]S.E. White Blazed Trail 192: Old Morrison he’s as busy as hell beatin’ tan-bark.
[US]Blue Grass Blade (Lexington, KY) 19 July 2/5: All the niggers skedaddled for old Kentucky like the Devil beating tanbark.
Wkly True Democrat (Tallahassee, FL) 6 July 4/3: That old expression of ‘running like hell beating tan-bark’.
[US]Wkly Jrnl-Miner (Prescott, AZ) 25 June 5/6: He seemed to shoot off heading [...] away ‘like hell beating tanbark’.
J. Gregory Daughter of Sun [e-book] Kendric had [...] ridden like the devil beating tanbark to keep ahead of the [...] cut-throats.
[US]Hayti Herald (MO) 10 Feb. 2/3: We will come down with a sledgehammer to blows that will do justice to ‘hell beating tanbark’.
hell for (US)

1. intent on, insistent upon.

[US] in Huntingdon Songs Whalemen Sang 3: Lay on Captain Bunker / I’m hell for to dart [HDAS].
[US] ‘How Sally Hooter Got Snake-Bit’ in T.A. Burke Polly Peablossom’s Wedding 71: The wimmin folks ’bout where I lives, is h-ll fur new fashions.
Walnut Ridge, Ark., man (coll. J. Ball) n.p.: He’s really hell for Chevies ... He’s really hot hammered hell for her [HDAS].

2. as a general intensifier, exceedingly.

[US](con. 1900) L. Riggs Green Grow the Lilacs I v: Tain’t so purty-fer-nice but it’s hell-fer-warm.
[US]W.R. Burnett High Sierra in Four Novels (1984) 360: Roy is sure hell for dogs. If I was half St. Bernard he’d think I was wonderful.
[US]McCulloch Woods Words 84: Hell for — Exceedingly; as, ‘hell for strong’.
[US]R. McCaig Danger Trail 59: I got me a crew of men that’s hell for tough and ready for anything [HDAS].
hell of a, a (also one hell of a, the hell of a)

1. hellish, awful; often abbr. to helluva adj.

[US]J. Leacock Fall British Tyranny 52: Damn it, don't let us kick up a dust among ourselves, to belaugh'd at fore and aft— This is a hell of a council of war .
[UK]J. Gillray Hopes of the Party, prior to July 14th 19 July [cartoon caption] Zounds! what the devil is it that puts me into such a hell of a Funk?
[UK]W. Godwin Caleb Williams (1966) 235: And he made the hell of a rumpus, and sent away Kit to prison in a twinky.
[UK]‘Jon Bee’ Dict. of the Turf, the Ring, the Chase, etc.
Clonmel Herald 13 May 4/3: I met a d — d gay fellow last night, who’s a hell of a rake, and has besides lots of cash.
[US]G.W. Harris ‘Letter from Sut Lovingood’ Nashville Union and American XIX June in Inge (1967) 87: I have seen dirtier, worse cooked, worse tasted, worse looking, and a h--l of a sight smaller breakfasts than this is several times.
[UK](con. 1840s–50s) H. Mayhew London Labour and London Poor II 224/2: I was starved back in a week, and got a h-- of a clouting.
[US]F.H. Hart Sazerac Lying Club 153: I’m in a hellofafix.
[US]G. Devol Forty Years a Gambler 162: The fellow got up and raised a h—l of a kick.
[US]F.P. Dunne in Schaaf Mr Dooley’s Chicago (1977) 191: Then they was dinner, a hell iv a dinner, iv turkey.
[Aus]H. Lawson ‘Barney, Take Me Home Again’ in Roderick (1972) 613: I heard from a fellow-passenger of Johnsons’ that he had a ‘hell of a voyage’.
[US]‘O. Henry’ ‘A Night in New Arabia’ Strictly Business (1915) 216: Your social ologies and your millionaire detectives have got dis district in a hell of a fix.
[US]F.S. Fitzgerald ‘May Day’ in Bodley Head Scott Fitzgerald V (1963) 144: I’ve made a hell of a mess of everything.
[US](con. 1920s) J.T. Farrell Young Manhood in Studs Lonigan (1936) 307: Hell of a Catholic he was.
[UK]G. Kersh They Die with Their Boots Clean 23: Blimey, it’d take a hell of a drop to ’ang that geezer.
[UK]G. Fairlie Capt. Bulldog Drummond 129: I’m ready to bet that she’ll give us the hell of a lot of trouble now.
[Ire](con. 1940s) B. Behan Borstal Boy 113: It would be nothing but a hell of a long weekend.
[US]H. Selby Jr Last Exit to Brooklyn (1966) 8: The cop looked at the soldier and told Freddy if hes fooling hes one hell of an actor.
[UK]Sun. Times Mag. 12 Oct. 35: My tastes are roughly the same as Lord Hailsham’s, which is a hell of a thing to have to admit.
[UK]S. Berkoff Decadence in Decadence and Other Plays (1985) 8: A private dick / that’s a hell of a game.
[Aus]M.B. ‘Chopper’ Read Chopper From The Inside 99: I’ve met a hell of a lot of police in Melbourne who I would describe as ‘open-minded’ [...] when it came to inter-criminal violence.
[UK]Indep. on Sun. Travel 23 Jan. 3: They made a hell of a fuss.

2. (orig. US) extraordinary, surprising (as often positive as negative).

[US]‘Madison Tensas’ Louisiana ‘Swamp Doctor’ (1850) 181: Gardens are a h-ll of a place to make love in.
[US]S. Crane Maggie, a Girl of the Streets (2001) 51: Let’s go over to Billie’s and have a heluva time.
[UK]R. Hall Well of Loneliness (1976) 368: Oh, boy! What a gang! Say, folks, aren’t we having a hell of an evening?
[US]R. Chandler ‘Blackmailers Don’t Shoot’ Red Wind (1946) 107: You’re a hell of a guy, baby.
[UK]J. Symons Man Called Jones (1949) 10: Hell of a thing, marriage – can land you in a devil of a mess.
[US]H.S. Thompson letter 1 Oct. Proud Highway (1997) 138: I got a hell of a kick out of reading the piece Time magazine did.
[US]L. Bruce Essential Lenny Bruce 21: Joe Louis was a hell of a fighter.
[US]E. Tidyman Shaft 66: That many guns is a hell of a war.
[UK]M. Thelwell Harder They Come 246: That was a hell of a trade-off, cops and crooks in partnership.
[US]J. Wambaugh Golden Orange (1991) 19: Played a game of singles [...] with a thirty-year-old manicurist who had a hell of a backhand.
[UK]Guardian 14 Jan. 32: Football is a hell of a job: good money, outdoor life, plenty of free time, nine-year-old girls know who you are.
[UK]K. Richards Life 530: The mangiest jet-black terrier [...] ‘He’s a hell of a mutt. Keith’.

3. to a very great extent.

[UK]Leaves from Diary of Celebrated Burglar 14/2: The door was opened from within by Joe, who had, as he said, been waiting ‘a h—l of a time’ for us.
[US]W.R. Burnett Little Caesar (1932) 96: You know a hell of a lot, don’t you?
[UK]J. Curtis They Drive by Night 97: It was a hell of a time since he had driven a jamjar anyway.
[US]Mezzrow & Wolfe Really the Blues 169: Mike [...] was a saxophone player and a hell of a regular cat.
[US]Kerouac On The Road (1972) 79: I was very lonely and I’ve been travelling a hell of a lot.
[US]B. Hecht Gaily, Gaily 48: A confession from Fred Ludwig that he’s a dirty vicious murderer means a hell of a lot to me.
[UK]P. Theroux Family Arsenal 202: We get a hell of a lot of funny people.
[US]R. Campbell In La-La Land We Trust (1999) 1: The little one gave the ball a hell of a boot.
[UK]Guardian G2 28 July 12: I think he had a hell of a good time amusing himself.
hell of a note (n.)

(US) very bad news.

[US]J.H. Banka State Prison Life 415: Pardoned! that’s a ‘hell’ of a note!
[US]‘O. Henry’ in Works 1604: Say, Shack, ain’t that a hell of a note?
[US]E. Booth Stealing Through Life 289: ‘Hell of a note!’ she tossed over her shoulder, ‘this gettin’ me up in the middle of the night.’.
[UK]J. Curtis Gilt Kid 194: Die. That was the hell of a note.
[US]J.M. Cain Mildred Pierce (1985) 342: Well say, this is a hell of a note.
[US]W.R. Burnett Little Men, Big World 243: ‘Dying doesn’t settle everything.’ ‘That’s a hell of a note,’ said Arky. ‘What about his family?’.
[US]J. Thompson Texas by the Tail (1994) 104: Mitch grinned wryly. ‘A hell of a note, isn’t it, Lee?’.
[US]J. Webb Fields of Fire (1980) 104: That’s a hell of a note [...] It’ll take a little getting used to. I just hadn’t expected to be hated.
[US]Aaron Tippin ‘Ain’t That a Hell of a Note’ [lyrics] Now you can’t sugar coat what she really wrote. / Ain’t that a hell of a note.
hell on

1. (US) very fond of.

[US]Congressional Globe 31 Jan. App. 91: Mammy has always been hell on dignity! [DA].
[US]J. O’Connor Wanderings of a Vagabond 398: Ole Myers, he’s working fur a palm, he’s h—l on money, and I believe that’s his game.
[US]C.G. Finney Circus of Dr Lao 8: Generally these circus impresarios are hell on having their names smeared all over the place.

2. difficult or problematic for.

[US] in G. Legman Limerick (1953) 22: An afternoon of joy / Is hell on the old boy.
[US](con. 1920s) J.T. Farrell Judgement Day in Studs Lonigan (1936) 562: Hell on a lot of ’em if the bank fails.
[US]H.S. Thompson letter 10 May Proud Highway (1997) 336: I know it is hell on you to go out and meet the postman and get nothing but letters from me.

3. (US) very hard on, opposed to.

[UK]H. Brown Walk in Sun 88: This platoon is hell on non-coms.
[US]E. Thompson Garden of Sand (1981) 187: ‘That old man is sure hell on Roosevelt,’ someone observed.
hell on wheels (n.) (also Hades on wheels, hell on roller-skates)

(orig. US) anyone or anything regarded as the equivalent of hell, usu. referring to character, speed or enthusiasm; also attrib.

[US]S. Bowles Summer Vacation Colorado (1869) 21: It is a most aggravated specimen of the border town of America, not inaptly called ‘Hell on Wheels’ [DA].
[UK]N. Devon Jrnl 1 June 2/2: The population being composed to a great extent of the vagabopnds of all nations, these towns were sometimes called ‘Hell upon wheels’.
[UK]Chelmsford Chron. 13 Sept. 8/2: Cheyenne is a place which [...] ten years ago [...] was known as ‘Hell upon Wheels.’ It was then the settlement of navvies [...] Drinking was their chief occupation.
[NZ]S. Crane in Truth (N.Y.) 18 Mar. in Stallman (1966) 19: The letters on the sign [...] shone redly like great clots of blood. It was hell on roller-skates.
[UK]Lincs. Chron. 17 July 2/4: Mr Howard’s apt description of motor cars as ‘hell on wheels’.
[US]Sat. Eve. Post 24 Oct. 10/1: A mule [...] whose name was Hell-on-wheels [DA].
[UK]Exeter & Plymouth Gaz. 13 Oct. 3/6: Lying overhead, in the choking atmosphere of that Hades on wheels.
[US](con. 1917–18) C. MacArthur War Bugs 141: He was a swell gut, but hell on wheels socially.
[US](con. 1920s) J.T. Farrell Judgement Day in Studs Lonigan (1936) 772: Some day, he, Studs Lonigan, was going to bust loose like hell on wheels.
[US]E. O’Neill Iceman Cometh Act IV: I could smoke Sweet Caporals, and mop up a couple of beers, thinking I was a hell-on-wheels sport.
[US]F. Brown Night of the Jabberwock (1983) 7: The woman was such a hell on wheels that Bonney’d have admitted to anything to get free of her.
[US]A.E. Morgan Six-Eleven (1966) 197: You probably think you’re hell on wheels.
[US]E. Bunker No Beast So Fierce 13: In the idiom of jails [...] I’m a motherfucker! [...] hell on wheels, outrageously unpredictable, a virtuoso of crime.
[US]N. Heard House of Slammers 39: Now that boy was really hell-on-wheels.
hell or high water

see separate entry.

hell’s a popping (also hell a-popping, hell is popping, hell pops (loose), hellzapoppin’)

(orig. US) a general phr. of intensification, implying aggression, chaos, forcefulness; also attrib.

[US]J. Miller First Fam’lies in the Sierras 88: Hell’s a poppin’, I tell yer.
[US]A. Garcia Tough Trip Through Paradise (1977) 239: If them squaw men had brought enough whiskey [...] for all the other Injuns in camp to get drunk on, there would sure have been hell a popping.
[US]F. Francis Jr Saddle and Mocassin 147: Well, there’ll be hell a-popping whenever they do come together.
[US]R.G. Hampton Major in Wash. City 9: If I was home now there’d be h—l a poppin’ in our neighborhood [HDAS].
[US]J. Kelley Thirteen Years in Oregon Penitentiary 12: Then hell commenced to pop.
[US]H.L. Wilson Ruggles of Red Gap (1917) 93: ‘Hell begins to pop!’ said he.
[US](con. WWI) L.C. McCollum ‘Cooties’ in Lost Battalion [Internet] But there was plenty hell a-poppin’, / If a ‘Buck’ had one to spare.
[US](con. 1918–19) S.V. Benét Beginning of Wisdom 290: It sounded as if hell was poppin’ all over Chinatown.
[US]C.E. Mulford Hopalong Cassidy Returns 193: An’ if they did I reckon mebby hell will pop hereabouts right soon.
[US]G.H. Mullin Adventures of a Scholar Tramp 116: Hell will sure be a-poppin’ if we don’t get a train out o’ here purty soon.
[US]‘Ellery Queen’ Roman Hat Mystery 21: Move fast, Mr. Panzer, before hell pops.
[US]J. Conroy World to Win 226: There would be hell a-popping with all them yipping at once.
[US]J. Steinbeck Grapes of Wrath (1951) 38: Jesus! [...] Hell musta popped here.
[UK] in Campbell & Campbell War Paint 15: [aircraft nose art] Hellzapoppin.
[US]S.J. Perelman ‘Sleepy-Time Extra’ Keep It Crisp 110: One morning in early April, hell started popping.
[US]‘F. Bonnamy’ Self Portrait of Murder (1951) 18: Major Shane of Intelligence would do well to find out, before any chance hell did pop, exactly where the big hero belonged in the picture.
[US]‘F. Bonnamy’ Blood and Thirsty (1952) 223: All hell is popping.
[UK]A. Salkey Quality of Violence (1978) 183: You can’t tell what might happen, what with St Thomas in this mad-up state and hell poppin’ loose all ’bout the place.
[US]W. Brown Teen-Age Mafia 67: You walk into that police net and all hell is going to start popping.
[US]Harper’s Mag. Sept. 100: Flashing film shots in the background, hellzapoppin sound effects, [etc] [HDAS].
[US]J. Stahl Permanent Midnight 139: Needless to say, it’s network hellzapoppin’!
K. Lucas ‘All my life I’ve wanted to be a Barrow Boy’ in Obfuscation News Apr. Issue 20 [Internet] That’s not the same colour as the Flute worn by Dick in Mary Poppins. It’s more like Hells-A-Popping.
hell to pay (also holy heck to pay, sulphur smoke to pay) [the myth of the ‘Faustian bargain’]

serious consequences will follow; usu. as there’ll be hell to pay.

A. Paget Paget Papers letter 29 July (1896) II 311: Did you not know that there has been hell to pay between the Dukes of York and Cumberland.
[UK]Leicester Jrnl 22 June 2/3: There will be hell to pay if the matter (Wright against Wardle) comes on for trial.
[UK]Marryat Snarleyyow II 28: ‘Hell to pay and no pitch hot,’ added Jemmy.
[UK]R. Barham ‘Lay of St. Romwold’ Ingoldsby Legends (1842) 235: They’d have certainly upset his cabriolet, / And there’d been the – a name I won’t mention – to pay.
[US]T.J. Dimsdale Vigilantes of Montana in ‘Mark Twain’ Roughing It (1972) 93: Get your horse at once, and go home, or there will be — to pay.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 7 Mar. 12/1: You must have heard of it; for some thought / The times were out of joint – / And there’s been sulphur-smoke to pay / Around by Darling Point!
[US]G. Devol Forty Years a Gambler 95: He then rushed into a gentleman’s room where his wife was, and then there was h—l to pay.
[US]S. Crane Red Badge of Courage (1964) 115: It’ll be hell t’ pay stoppin’ them.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 13 Dec. 19/3: And tell her, if dinner’s not ready in half-an-hour, there’ll be hell to pay.
[US]‘Commander’ Clear the Decks! 249: When this thug Schmidt tried to engage the boss’ daughter as a maid there’s holy heck to pay.
[US]Mencken letter 19 Nov. in Riggio Dreiser-Mencken Letters II (1986) 362: If the thing ever becomes suddenly acute there will be hell to pay.
[US](con. 1918) J. Stevens Mattock 275: We did suspect there’d be more or less hell to pay, for we knowed how Junie’d quit him.
[US]H. Miller Tropic of Capricorn (1964) 66: She’s a whore clean through and I know if I put her on there’ll be hell to pay.
[US]Mezzrow & Wolfe Really the Blues 66: Mrs. Hitchcock packed up and took a powder and there was hell to pay.
[US]C. Himes Crazy Kill 115: [If] we break in, there’s going to be hell to pay. He’s liable to get us busted down to harness.
[Ire]B. Behan Brendan Behan’s Island (1984) 24: There was hell to pay, but all I remember of the row was her voice roaring again and again [...] ‘There’s no honest whores left.’.
[UK]P. Theroux Picture Palace 235: There would be hell to pay.
[US]N. Pileggi Wiseguy (2001) 195: Two of the Boston College basketball players I was paying screwed up on another game and there was hell to pay.
[US]S. King Dolores Claiborne 32: I knew there’d be hell to pay if she got a good start before I could get the bedpan under her.
[UK]Indep. Rev. 15 May 1: There was, apparently, ‘hell to pay’ when Olga found out.
hell to split (adv.) (also hell-a-tootin’, hellety split)

(US) at breakneck speed.

[US]Terr. Enterprise 1 Jan. 1/4: The firemen in [...] returning to house their hose carts came ‘hellety split’ [DA].
[US]J. Hay ‘Little Breeches’ Pike County Ballads (1897) 12: Hell-to-split over the prairie Went team, Little Breeches and all.
[US]W.M. Raine Brand Blotters (1912) 120: Jim Little saw her cutting across country from the head-gates hell-to-split.
[US]W. Smitter F.O.B. Detroit 134: A man without brains could [...] run his car hell-a-tootin’ up and down Woodward Avenue.
[US]J.M. Cain Moth (1950) 163: I piled after her hell to split.
hell with the lid off (n.)

(US) something extremely difficult or hard to bear.

[US]M. Philips Newspaper 219: The late James Parton said that Pittsburgh at night reminded him of ‘hell with the lid taken off’.
[US](con. 1899) H.P. Bailey Shanghaied out of Frisco 166: Ef they don’t put him in irons to-night he’ll be Hell with the lid off in the mornin’!
[US]Gunsmoke [CBS-TV] It was hell with the lid off [HDAS].
I’ll go hopping to hell (also I’ll go to hell, I’ll go hopping, I’ll go hopping to hell backwards)

a phr. implying the speaker’s amazement, approval or admiration.

[Aus]D. Niland Call Me When the Cross Turns Over (1958) 50: Bow-tie Deeley’s mouth fell open. ‘Well, I’ll go hopping to hell backwards!’ he cried.
[NZ]G. Slatter Gun in My Hand 198: ‘It’s me. Ron.’ ‘Well, I’ll go hopping. So it is.’.
[NZ]R. Morrieson Pallet on the Floor 88: ‘Well, I’ll go to hell,’ Jack said.
look like hell (v.)

of a person, to appear extremely unwell, whether through actual illness or through the effects of drink or drugs.

[US] ‘Johnny’s Dead’ in Lingenfelter et al. Songs of the Amer. West (1968) 49: He was all tuckered out / And his oxen looked like h---.
[US]A. Kapelner Lonely Boy Blues (1965) 116: Harry, you look like hell! You look like a dead dog!
[US]G.V. Higgins Patriot Game (1985) 17: You looked like hell out there on the course.
seven kinds of hell

intense unpleasantness; usu. with knock/kick/beat/thump..., to beat severely.

Courier-Jrnl (Louisville, KY) Sun. Mag. 30 Apr. 5/1: Somebody [...] shot up old Callahan’s place Wedneasday and been raising seven kinds of hell ever since.
Fool-Killer (Boomer, NC) 1 Sept. 4/2: Every machine that tries to fly for war will get seven kinds of hell knocked out of it the first trip.
[UK]Leeds Mercury 9 Oct. 4/3: God! Dusty — war ain’t just ordinary hell! It’s seven kinds o’ hell packed into one.
[UK] (ref. to 1920s) L. Duncan Over the Wall 154: Either you produce, or I’m going to slap seven kinds of hell out of you.
[UK]Northampton Mercury 20 Mar. 1/6: Give us the ships and we will knock seven different kinds of hell out of the Hun, the Wop, and the Jap.
[UK]Stage (London) 17 June 4/6: Wild Wee Willie Haris hammered seven kinds of hell out of the paino.
(con. 1945) Maui Time V:21 [Internet] This will be the bloodiest fight in Marine Corps history. We’ll catch seven kinds of hell on the beaches.
Espnstar.com 8 Oct. [Internet] Thirty or more players beat seven kinds of hell out of each other for eighty minutes, and then applaud each other off the pitch.
‘Jean McArthur’ posting 6 July on ‘Where is Everybody’ topic at Brachman.net [Internet] She must have gone through seven kinds of hell growing up.
what in hell...?

see separate entry.

what the hell

see separate entries.

where the hell...?

see separate entry.

who in hell...?

see separate entry.

who the hell...?

see separate entry.

In exclamations

get to hell (out of...)! (also get to the devil (out of...)! ...Jesus (out of...)!)

a harsh demand that one go away.

[US](con. 1899) H.P. Bailey Shanghaied Out of Frisco 110: Git to ’ell out of it!
[US]D. Hammett ‘The Big Knockover’ Story Omnibus (1966) 308: ‘Get to hell upstairs,’ she ordered.
[Aus]X. Herbert Capricornia (1939) 25: When one stole in to him he growled, ‘Get to hell!’ [Ibid.] 104: Get to the devil out of it! [Ibid.] 446: Get to hell out of it!
[US]H. Miller Roofs of Paris (1983) 14: Now get to Jesus out of my way!
[Aus]D. Stivens Jimmy Brockett 57: And now, get to hell out of here. [Ibid.] 87: Now, get to hell before I throw you into the street.
[Aus]F.J. Hardy Yarns of Billy Borker 80: There’s a daily plane service, so I can get to hell out of this place.
go to hell!

1. a general excl. of dismissal.

[[UK]Shakespeare Merchant of Venice III ii: Let fortune go to hell for it, not I].
[UK]‘Quiz’ Grand Master VI. 142: Gentlemen, you may go to H—ll [OED].
Jon Bee A Dict. of theTurf, The Ring, The Chase, etc. 95: ‘Go to hell vid ye,’ is the cutting reply to moralists who would open upon the mischiefs attendant upon robbery.
[UK]Marryat Mr Midshipman Easy II 251: He then applied to Gascoigne who told him in a very surly tone to go to h-ll.
[Aus]Bell’s Life in Sydney 25 July 2/6: He told me to go to H—.
[US]‘Ned Buntline’ Mysteries and Miseries of N.Y. III 107: Go to h--l, and see!
[US]Jeffersonian Republican (Stroudsburg, PA) 2 Sept. 1/2: He was, however, repulsed with a ‘go to h—ll’.
[UK](con. 1840s–50s) H. Mayhew London Labour and London Poor I 21/1: If the father vexes him or snubs him [...] he’ll tell his father to go to h--l.
[US]A. Garcia Tough Trip Through Paradise (1977) 45: I told him he could go plumb to hell.
[UK]‘Walter’ My Secret Life (1966) VI 1288: ‘You go to Hell,’ said others to those two.
[UK]A. Morrison Child of the Jago (1982) 46: ‘Got a match?’ ‘Go t’ ’ell!’.
[Aus]H. Lawson ‘His Brother’s Keeper’ in Roderick (1972) 523: ‘Go to hell!’ said Jack.
[Ire]Joyce ‘Counterparts’ Dubliners (1956) 90: He went through the narrow alley of Temple Bar quickly, muttering to himself that they could all go to hell.
[UK]‘Sapper’ Female of the Species (1961) 77: ‘Go to hell,’ remarked Drummond tersely.
[US]H. McCoy They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? in Four Novels (1983) 18: You go to hell, you big ape.
[UK]J. Cary Moonlight (1995) 174: We had our usual quiet clash with the usual trimmings, really out of exasperation, I suppose. A gesture of disgust, a sort of go-to-hell.
[US]R. Chandler Long Good-Bye 238: But I can always tell a cop to go to hell. Go to hell, Bernie.
[US]H. Selby Jr Last Exit to Brooklyn (1966) 19: She screamed at him to go to hell.
[US]Cab Calloway Of Minnie the Moocher and Me 134: I told Bill to go straight to hell.
[US](con. 1940s–60s) H. Huncke ‘Detroit Redhead’ Eve. Sun Turned Crimson (1998) 104: It would sure give him a lot of pleasure to tell him to go to hell.
[UK]J. Baker Death Minus Zero (1998) 132: ‘Go to hell,’ he said.
J. Tanamor For All the Wrong Reasons 52: One of my favorite expressions is, go to hell. [...] ‘You don’t like my tie, well then go to hell.’.
‘Titania’ Blood is thicker than love Part 3 [Internet] Well if that’s the way you feel about it, Barned, you can go hopping to hell, and take Caro with you!

2. attrib. use of sense 1.

[US]Jackson & Christian Death Row 73: They were giving me go-to-hell looks.
go to hell across lots!

(US, also go to the devil across lots!) a general excl. of dismissal; the implication is that they should go with speed.

[US]B. Young Journal of Discourses I 83: I cut one of their throats from ear to ear, saying ‘Go to hell across lots’ [DA].
[UK]B. Young Speech n.p.: I swore in Nauvoo, when my enemies were looking me in the face, that I would send them to hell across lots if they meddled with me [F&H].
[US]T. Winthrop John Brent 195: You may go to the devil across lots, on that runt pony of yourn, with your new friends, for all I care.
[US]W. Stegner Mormon Country 211: Isaac in his sermons grew solemner, and surer in his mind that the Gentiles were going to hell across lots [DA].
go to hell or Connaught! [a law, passed in 1654, forcing Irish landowners out of Ulster, Munster and Leinster]

an excl. of aggressive dismissal, go where you want but don’t expect me to be bothered!

Drogheda Argus 23 Dec. 4/1: ‘ By the Powers!’ ejaculated the driver, ‘the wreckers hare been here, playing “hell or Connaught” [...]’ [The] wreckers were Orangemen, who attacked the houses of Catholics, smashed their furniture, and burned them out, giving them the choice of going to hell to Connaught.
[Ire](ref. to mid-17C) Cork Examiner 5 Mar. 3/4: When the ancestors of the people of Ulster, under Cromwell, took the lands of Ulster from their then possessors, they gave those whom they did not exterminate the alternative of going to " hell or Connaught" (laughter). The poor creatures accepted the alternative, and went to Connaught.
[UK]Newry Examiner 23 Sept. 2/4: Orangeism has triumphed. [...] Go revel again in your fiendish orgies, strike down the helpless woman and weeping baby, pull the houses about the heads of the Papists, [...] and tell them to go to hell or Connaught.
Irish Times (Dublin) 29 Apr. 2/5: Major O’ Gorman [...] was of opinion that if the Government took the Irish railways every man now employed upon them would be got rid of in less than three weeks, and told ‘go to hell or Connaught’ .
[UK]J. Ware Passing Eng. of the Victorian Era 143/2: Go to Hell or Connaught (Hist.). Be off. From the time of Cromwell, but still heard, especially in Protestant Ireland. Means utter repudiation of the person addressed. The Parliament (1653–54) passed a law, driving away all the people of Ireland who owned any land, out of Ulster, Munster, and Leinster.
hell and tommy! (also hell and maria!)

a general excl.

[UK] ‘Love in the City’ in Bentley’s Misc. Aug. 131: Why, hell and Tommy!
[Aus]W.A. Sun. Times (Perth) 20 Feb. 6/2: ‘Hell and Tommy!‘ said he to the W.K.S.C.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 30 July 12/3: ’Ell and Tommy! Yer didn’t think I fell UP and bashed agin a cloud, did yer?
[Aus]E. Dyson Spats’ Fact’ry (1922) 91: ‘Ellen Tommy!’ wailed the rapid marrier, ‘canrn’t a man give hisself away with a pound iv tripe?’.
[US]B. Appel Brain Guy (1937) 202: Hell’n Maria. Jees. Holy Moses. That was swell of Duff.
[US]W. Pegler George Spelvin Chats 93: You smoke an underslung pipe and holler ‘Hell-an’-Maria!’ at the right time and place.
[Aus]D. Niland Call Me When the Cross Turns Over (1958) 37: Suppose I was to dress up, real flash, in those places – hell and Tommy, I bet I’d feel the same then.
hell’s bells! (also hell’s boots! ...britches! ...fire! ...flames! ...fury! ...jerry bells! ...smoke! ...teeth!)

a general mild. excl., usu. implying irritation or disappointment.

[Ire]S. Lover Legends and Stories 193: ‘Hell’s bells attind your berrin,’ says they, ‘you vagabone.’.
[UK]Dickens Oliver Twist (1966) 421: ‘Hell’s fire!’ cried Sykes.
[US]G. Thompson Jack Harold 33: Hell’s fury – all is lost!
[US]A. Adams Log Of A Cowboy 108: ‘Hell’s fire and little fishes!’ said Joe Stallings [...] ‘it’s not supper or breakfast that’s troubling me, but will we get any dinner to-morrow?’.
[US]G.W. Peck Peck’s Bad Boy Abroad 93: ’Ells-fire, h’am blowed.
[US]H.A. Franck Zone Policeman 88 167: ‘I haven’t been issued a gun or handcuffs yet,’ I hinted. ‘Hell’s fire, no?’ queried the Inspector. ‘Tell the station commander at Gatun to fix you up’.
[UK]‘Sax Rohmer’ Dope 217: ‘Hell’s smoke!’ he snapped.
[US](con. 1918) L. Nason Top Kick 18: ‘Hell’s bells and the devil to ring ’em,’ groaned Nell.
[UK]R. Carr Rampant Age 27: Hell’s britches!
[US]A.J. Barr Let Tomorrow Come 83: Hell’s fire, Kallich, you oughtn’t to of done that.
[US]O. Strange Sudden 25: Hell’s flames, it’s Kit Purdie.
[UK]S. Horler London’s Und. 114: ‘Hell’s bells!’ he cried. ‘And I took you for the best kind of sucker! I thought you’d be easy!’.
[UK]N. Marsh Death in Ecstasy 275: ‘Hell’s boots!’ said Alleyn.
[UK]S. Lister Mistral Hotel (1951) 184: Hell’s bells! For God’s sake don’t let Betty know I brought Mona back with me.
[US]O. Strange Sudden Takes the Trail 68: ‘Hell’s flames!’ he swore.
[US]W. Guthrie Seeds of Man (1995) 273: Hell’s little jerrybells, don’t ask me.
[US](con. 1943–5) A. Murphy To Hell and Back (1950) 54: ‘Some girl in trouble?’ ‘Why hellsfire, no.’.
[US]J. Jones From Here to Eternity (1998) 718: Hells fire, you’ll be beating me at poker up at the Club within two or three months.
[Aus]K. Tennant Joyful Condemned 80: Hell’s holy bells [...] Where’d you get that skinny little brat with the baby?
[US](con. 1950) R. Leckie March to Glory (1962) 20: Hell’s fire, Sarge, I ain’t scared o’ no snakes.
[UK](con. c.1928) D. Holman-Hunt My Grandmothers and I (1987) 168: ‘Hell’s bells!’ roared Papa.
[NZ]B. Crump Hang On a Minute, Mate (1963) 141: Hell’s bloody teeth! he cried disgustedly.
[US](con. 1940s) M. Dibner Admiral (1968) 376: ‘Hell’s fire,’ Tully said.
[US]L.K. Truscott IV Dress Gray (1979) 202: Hell’s bells, maybe I never did.
[UK]J. Sherwood Botanist at Bay 38: Hell’s bells and buggy wheels, a real pommy princess from the darling old cobwebby Yuke Kay.
[UK]K. Lette Llama Parlour 37: No bull? The second card? Hells Bells.
[NZ]McGill Reed Dict. of N.Z. Sl. 100: hell’s bells and buckets of gravy Cute, if pallid, exclamation. [...] hell’s bells and buggy wheels Mild exclamation.
[UK]D. Seabrook Jack of Jumps (2007) 312: Hell’s bells, what a story: drugs, violence, kinky fun.
hell’s delight!

an all-purpose excl.

[US]G.V. Hobart Jim Hickey 11: Then he turned to his friend, the light comedian, and said, quite irrelevantly: ‘Hellsdelight!’.
I’ll be go to hell!

(US) a mild excl.; euph. for I’ll be damned! under damn v.

[US]DN [DARE].
[US] ‘Moon Mullins in “Nerts”’ [comic strip] in B. Adelman Tijuana Bibles (1997) 31: Well I’ll be go to hell.
[US]L. Uris Battle Cry (1964) 174: I’ll be go to hell, that’s great.
[US](con. early 1950s) J. Peacock Valhalla 80: Well I’ll be go to hell, Hugh thought wonderingly.
[US]D. Ponicsan Last Detail 63: Now I gotta go to some friggin luncheonette and pay a buck for breakfast. I’ll be go to hell.
[US]‘Heat Moon’ Blue Highways 96: ‘Would anybody stop a black man if he wanted a drink in here?’ ‘I’ll be go to hell.’.
the hell with...! (also the heck with...!)

a mild oath of annoyance or dismissal.

[US]D. Hammett Maltese Falcon (1965) 412: Next time I tried to put over a fast one they’d stop me so fast I’d swallow my teeth. Hell with that.
[US]J.T. Farrell To Whom It May Concern 18: The hell with this crap. I’m going out to get drunk. And the hell with my stomach.
[US]Mezzrow & Wolfe Really the Blues 163: If we don’t hit the headlines and cop the gold, the hell with it.
[US]‘Hal Ellson’ Tomboy (1952) 101: The hell with him. Anybody that wants him can have him.
[US]W.R. Burnett Little Men, Big World 15: Anyway, the hell with it. I’m a columnist. I don’t print police news. [Ibid.] 50: Maybe nobody seemed to themselves to fit in. The hell with it, anyway.
[US]P. Thomas Down These Mean Streets (1970) 111: A little voice bugged me: You’re on your way, baby, you’re walking into junkies’ alley. ‘Aw, the hell with you,’ I half blurted out.
[US]D. Goines Dopefiend (1991) 26: ‘The hell with it,’ she reasoned.
[US](con. early 1950s) J. Ellroy L.A. Confidential 307: They gave me the brush-off, so I say the heck with them.
[UK]Guardian G2 13 Jan. 5: The hell with orders, I thought. I’ll just go ahead and fire.
to hell with...!

a dismissive excl., go away! be done with!

[UK]J. Wetherell Adventures of John Wetherell (1954) 31 Jan. 227: My name you shall all know is Jack Waddell and to hell with you and your francs.
‘Artemus Ward’ ‘A Mayoralty Election’ [Internet] To h—l wid yez workin’ men’s ticket, ‘ere’s the ticket yez want!
[Aus]‘Banjo’ Paterson ‘How Gilbert Died’ in Man from Snowy River (1902) 130: We’ll drink success to the roving boys, / And to hell with the black police.
[UK]Sporting Times 4 Feb. 1/3: A colonel got drunk and proposed a toast, ‘To hell with the British,’ which was drank with enthusiasm.
[UK]D.L. Sayers Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club (1977) 63: To hell with the plate!
[UK]G. Kersh Night and the City 74: To hell with the Salvation Army!
[Ire]S. O’Casey Red Roses for Me Act I: Aw, to hell with her!
[US]J. Thompson Swell-Looking Babe 113: To hell with them. To hell with the hotel.
[UK]Wodehouse Jeeves in the Offing 121: To hell with anyone who calls her a half-wit.
[US]Cab Calloway Of Minnie the Moocher and Me 16: I said to hell with school.
C. Hartwick Ladies With Prospects 198: Won’t it bring out his long-lost devotion? If it doesn’t, to hell with him.
to hell with it!

a mild dismissive excl., I’m done with it!

[UK](con. 1840s–50s) H. Mayhew London Labour and London Poor I 55/2: If this here is free-trade, then to h--- with it, I say!
[UK]Cheltenham Chron. 12 June 8/7: When he saw the packet in the safe, he said, ‘To hell with it’.
[US](con. 1920s) J.T. Farrell Young Manhood in Studs Lonigan (1936) 231: Hell with that for this boy.
Aberdeen Jrnl. 8 Jan. 3/3: I said to myself, ‘To hell with it,’ and threw up the job.
[US]N. Mailer Naked and Dead 279: To hell with it, it’s Gallagher’s bloody nose, not mine.
[US]‘Blackie’ Audett Rap Sheet 106: Charlie Floyd told them girls to hell with it.
[US]H.S. Thompson letter 15 Nov. in Proud Highway (1997) 241: But I’m not pessimistic yet, and I’m making progress, so to hell with it.
[UK]Wodehouse Much Obliged, Jeeves 38: It was as if Nature had said to itself ‘Oh to hell with it’.
[US]C. Hiaasen Lucky You 280: God, she’s so pretty. To hell with it.