Green’s Dictionary of Slang

holy...! excl.

used in various oaths, usu. in conjunction with a euph. for God or Jesus; popularized in non-religious uses by the 1960s Batman TV series, when Robin, the superhero’s sidekick, created a wide variety of excls. on the model of ‘holy [n. pl.], Batman!’.

In exclamations

holy bones!

a mild excl.

[UK]A. Binstead Pitcher in Paradise 235: Holy bones! there are a lot of names there that would look dashed well on the back of a bill-stamp!
holy catfish!

a mild excl.

[US](con. 1899) E.S. O’Reilly Roving and Fighting 23: ‘Holy cat-fish!’ exclaimed the amazed Trice.
[US]C.B. Booth ‘Mr Clacksworthy Tells the Truth’ Detective Story 19 Oct. 🌐 Holy blue-eyed catfish!
[US]T.T. Flynn ‘The Deadly Orchid’ in Goodstone Pulps (1970) 104/1: ‘Holy catfish!’ I gasped.
[US]M. Millar Wives & Lovers (2016) 171: ‘Holy catfish!’.
holy cats!

a mild excl. of surprise, dismay, alarm.

[US]S. Ford Shorty McCabe 207: ‘Holy cats!’ says he. ‘Honest, professor, I didn’t mean a word of it.’.
[US]C.E. Mulford Bar-20 Days 186: Holy Cats! A log must ’a’ got jammed in the sluice-gate up there.
[US]Van Loan ‘“Butterfly” Boggs: Pitcher’ in Lucky Seventh (2004) 250: Holy cats! [...] It’s Boggs!
[UK]Nottingham Eve. Post 27 June 8/4: Holy cats, woman, don’t you see that lorry!
Pittsburgh Sun-Teleg. (PA) 14 July 58/3: ‘Holy cats — some rocks!’.
[US]O. Strange Sudden Takes the Trail 234: ‘Holy cats!’ he panted, as he grabbed a saving spur of stone.
[US]M. Millar Wives & Lovers (2016) 177: ‘The doctor thinks maybe I’ll have twins.’ ‘Holy cats!’’.
[UK](con. 1940s) D. MacCuish Do Not Go Gentle (1962) 238: Holy cats! Imagine that!
[Aus]C. Thiele ‘Lock-Out’ in Chatfield & Williamson Aus. Stories 90: ‘Holy cats!’ he ejaculated.
‘Chelsea G. Summers’ Twitter 23 Mar. 🌐 Holy cats!
holy cow!

(orig. US) an excl. of surprise or disappointment; note ext. in cit. 1971.

[US]Chicago Daily Trib. 8 Nov. 6: Holy Cow! WHY can’t they print ’em right?
[US]B. Appel Brain Guy (1937) 74: Holy cow! where’s your whiskey?
[US]N.Y. Times 8 July 15: The first test pilots to try her out landed, stepped out in amazement and said, ‘Holy cow, she’s a pursuit ship!’.
[US]N. Mailer Naked and Dead 618: A nun, holy cow [...] A nun!
[US]E. Dundy Dud Avocado (1960) 43: ‘Why? Oh, Holy Cow!’ I groaned.
[US]P. Highsmith Two Faces of January (1988) 121: He gave a laugh, a sad one. ‘Holy cow.’.
[US](con. 1920s) J. Thompson South of Heaven (1994) 59: Holy cow! [...] That must have given you a jolt.
[US]B. Moyers Listening to America 279: Holy-cow-in-the-manger, you’da thought Earl Warren himself had thrown the book at ’em.
[US]J. Heller Good As Gold (1979) 201: Holy cow! Ron, Ron would you mind repeating that one for the mike.
[US]W. Wharton Midnight Clear 66: Holy cow, you guys scared the snot out of me.
[UK]S. Bell If... 26 Mar. in If Files (1997) 140: Everyone shouts ‘Holy Cow! It’s the President’s penis!!’.
[UK]Guardian Editor 17 Mar. 19: Holy cow! I wouldn’t want to meet him in a dark alley.
holy crap! [crap n.1 (2)]

(US) a general excl. of amazement, surprise, annoyance etc.

[US] ‘The Rubber Salesman’ [comic strip] in B. Adelman Tijuana Bibles (1997) 50: Holy crap [...] She’s gone nuts.
People Mag. 17 Oct. 🌐 ‘Look! There’s Denzel Washington,’ marveled Daly. ‘Holy crap! Isn’t he good looking? Wow!’.
[US]C. Hiaasen Nature Girl 82: Holy crap. Is it fatal?
[UK]Guardian 21 Aug. 24: [cartoon caption[ Holy Crap! It’s a walrus of monstrous dimensions!
holy cripes! [cripes! excl.]

a general excl. of surprise, alarm etc.

Pittsburgh Sun-Teleg. (PA) 14 July 58/3: Holy cripes!’ thought Mike, as his bloodshot little rat eyes caught a glimpse of [the] diamond necklace’.
[US]D. Fuchs Low Company 74: ‘Holy cripes,’ Shorty said.
[Aus]J. Cleary Sundowners 208: ‘Holy cripes,’ Ocker Shand said.
Mercury News 1 Oct. 🌐 ‘The biggest shock for me was I didn’t see him for a couple of years,’ West said. ‘When I did, I said, “Holy cripes! What happened to this kid?”’.
holy crow! (also jeezum-crow!)

(US) a phr. of amazement, surprise.

[UK]F. Pollini Glover 141: Holy crow, all her troubles.
[US]S. King Stand (1990) 20: Holy Crow! You sure? [Ibid.] 1063: ‘Holy Crow,’ Ralph said.
[US]S. King Christine 533: Holy crow! I bet they ain’t there anymore.
[US]S. King It (1987) 924: ‘Jeezum-crow,’ Ben said.
Anchorage Daily News 1 Oct. 🌐 The bad news is that almost all of the experienced moderate Republican leaders are gone. There’s a chance Pete Kott will end up as House speaker. Holy crow.
holy cuss!

(US) excl. of surprise.

R. Skloot Henrietta Lacks 290: ‘Holy cuss!’ she yelled, ‘is it raining out there?’.
holy dooley! [? link to Larry Dooley n.]

(Aus.) a general expression of surprise.

[Aus]B. Hornadge Aus. Slanguage.
‘Aus. Sl.’ at 🌐 Holy dooley! : an exclamation of surprise = ‘Good heavens!’, ‘My goodness!’ ‘Good grief!’ or similar.
C.T. Adams Captive Moon 286: Holy dooley! That drug is bloody is amazing! Could it help Margo heal?
holy fly! (also holy flyback! by the holy fly!)

(Aus./Irish) a mild oath.

[Ire]L. Doyle Ballygullion (1927) 31: ‘I’ll tache her! I’ll not run afther her, not if she was “my lady.” Be the holy fly,’ sez he, pushin’ past me.
[Ire]L. Doyle Ballygullion 33: Be the holy fly [...] I’ll ask the first woman I meet!
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 12 Dec. 44/2: ‘Holy Flyback!!’ he added with conviction, ‘that blamed wired was HOT.’ [Ibid.] 48/3: ‘Holy Fly!’ ejaculated Hopley, with vehement faintness.
[Ire]S. Beckett Dream of Fair to Middling Women (1993) 71: By the holy fly I wouldn’t recommend you to ask me what class of a tree they were under when he put his hand on her and enjoyed that.
holy frost!

(Aus.) a general oath.

[Ire]T.C. Croker Fairy Legends and Traditions of the South of Ireland (1862) 217: ‘By the holy frost, then!’ says Paddy.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 9 May 5/4: It didn’t take him long to find out what was wrong. He prized open the case with his ‘dover,’ and his eye glittered with the light of triumph as he exclaimed, ‘Holy Frost, if there aint a horsehair got twisted up in it! And, my oath, it’s stuck pretty tight too’.
[Aus]Truth (Brisbane) 10 Apr. 5/3: This [advertisement] knocked Richard bandy. ‘Holy frost,’ he murmured, ‘can it be true?’ .
holy fuck! [fuck! excl.]

1. (orig. US) a general excl. used to express surprise, astonishment; thus joc. euph. holy fornicate!

[US]D. Jenkins Semi-Tough 52: ‘Goddamn holy fornicate Christmas bundle of fried chicken!" Elroy hollered.
[US]J. Ellroy Suicide Hill 33: On one side of the lawn a plastic Saint Francis stood guard over a flock of Walt Disney squeeze toys [...] ‘Holy fuck,’ he whispered.
[US](con. early 1950s) J. Ellroy L.A. Confidential 110: Holy shit fuck.
[UK]M. Dibdin Dark Spectre (1996) 29: ‘Holy fuck!’ said Greg.
[UK]C. McPherson Port Authority 14: Holy fuck.
[Scot]T. Black Gutted 6: Holy shit [...] holy mothering fuck.
[US]T. Piccirilli Last Whisper in the Dark 261: Holy fuck, I thought.
[US]T. Swerdlow Straight Dope [ebook] And I’m like holy fuck.

2. (US) used attrib. to imply remarkableness.

[US]S. King Finders Keepers (2016) 115: Miss Todd (not exactly fair of face but with a holy-shit body).
holy fuckballs!

(US) a general excl. used to express surprise, astonishment.

J. Ketcham I Am Jennie [ebook] Holy fuckballs—strangers?! But... how... Really?
[US]T. Robinson Rough Trade [ebook] ‘One…two…HOLY FUCKBALLS!’ Furious barking erupted from the back door of the house.
holy gee! (also holy chee! ...G! ...gees! ...ginger! ...jeez! hully chee! ...gee! ...jee! by the hully gee!)

a mild excl. of surprise, dismay, alarm.

[US]S. Crane Maggie, a Girl of the Streets (2001) 20: Hully gee! Dey makes me tired.
[US]S. Crane in N.Y. Press Nov. in Stallman (1966) 103: Hully chee! Everything’s dumped.
[US]S. Crane in N.Y. Press 22 Apr. in Stallman (1966) 39: Hully Jee dis is a new breed.
[US]Dly Public Ledger (Maysville, KY) 8 Apr. 1/2: Holy G! Murder in Irish! Suffering Henry! Great Kilkenny cats!
[US]‘Frederick Benton Williams’ (H.E. Hamblen) On Many Seas 285: Hully Gee! How did yes fellers git in there?
[US]E.W. Townsend Chimmie Fadden 9: Say, did you ever drink dat stuff, champagne? Holy gee, it’s rank!
[US]J. Flynt World of Graft 73: Hully gee, no!
[US]Ade People You Know 89: ‘Hully Chee!’ exclaimed the Artist. ‘He’s Croaked.’.
[US]D.G. Phillips Susan Lenox II 119: ‘Holy Gee!’ cried Susan’s new acquaintance.
T.A. Dorgan ‘Daffydills’ in Atlanta Constitution (GA) 6 Oct. 10: Hully gee Rummy, I didn’t think you was this sick.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 13 Aug. 32/2: America’s goin’ t’ know how Australia’s treated me, and, by the hully gee, when America knows that, she’s goin’ t’ stand by Australia.
[US]G.E. Griffin Ballads of the Regiment 34: Toe the mark and ‘Hully Gee!’.
[Ire]Joyce Ulysses 507: Holy ginger, it’s kicking and coughing up and down in her guts already!
[US]C. McKay Banjo 184: ‘Holy Gees!’ cried Kid Irish.
[US]S.J. Perelman in Marschall That Old Gang o’ Mine (1984) 149: Hully gee, boss.
[US]H. Roth Call It Sleep (1977) 317: Holy Chee! No wonner guineas c’n fart wit’ gollic bombs!
[US]H.A. Smith Rhubarb 182: Holy Jeez! It’s a wonder to me you don’t get arrested.
[US]Mad mag. Aug.–Sept. 13: Hully chee! I wonder what he brought back with him.
[US]E. De Roo Young Wolves 27: Holy gee! Some business man you are.
[US](con. c.1920) J. Havoc Early Havoc 67: Holy gee, I’m as gay as can be.
[US]S. King Stand (1990) 158: Holy gee, Poke!
holy guacamole! (also holy gamoley!)

an excl. of astonishment.

[US]Galveston Dly News (TX) 20 May 14/2: Great Caesar’s armpit! Sweet suffering catfish! Holy gamoley! [...] I have have seen the cathedrals of commerce.
[UK]Guardian Rev. 17 June 3/1: Holy guacamole this guy had a crystal ball! He predicted everything [...] Guy’s a freaking genius.
holy hell! (also holy biddy! ...Egypt! ...hokey! ...horror! ...J! ...Jack the Ripper! ...snakes!)

a mild excl. of surprise, dismay, alarm.

Dollar Newspaper 10 June 3/2: In I went, one leg, but — holy Egypt! out I cum again, howling! [DA].
[US]A.F. Hill Our Boys 301: Holy horror!
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 18 Dec. 9/1: ‘Holy snakes!’ cried the tall divine as he skipped briskly off, ‘I’d better clear from this’.
[UK]Whitstable Times 28 Mar. 3/1: Holy snakes! [...] why do you keep all these pigs.
[Ire]L. Doyle Ballygullion 199: Holy Biddy, is the house afire!
[UK](con. 1900s) S. Leslie Oppidan 58: ‘Holy Jack the Ripper,’ he exploded. ‘Does he think he’s coxing the Monarch?’.
[UK]A. Christie Secret Adversary (1955) 140: ‘Holy snakes!’ he ejaculated. ‘is this really you?’.
[UK]Nottingham Eve. Post 2 Oct. 1/6: Holy snakes! ‘Reptilian Wonders’ Arrive.
[US]B. Appel Brain Guy (1937) 61: Holy hell, Christmas right round the corner.
[Ire]‘Flann O’Brien’ Third Policeman (1974) 49: Well, by the holy Hokey!
[UK]R. Grinstead They Dug a Hole 39: What’s the word in French for walk? Holy J., we’ll have to be after making signs.
[US]P. Thomas Down These Mean Streets (1970) 86: Holy hell, you tore up the ground running.
[US]H. Lessig ‘PIN’ in ThugLit July-Aug. [ebook] The [ATM} machine spits out 45 Andrew Jacksons and I’m like, holy hell.
holy James Street! (also Holy James’s Street and Jacobs!) [James Street, Dublin, site of the Guinness brewery, and Jacobs Biscuit factory]

(Irish) a general excl.

[Ire]E. Mac Thomáis Janey Mack, Me Shirt is Black 153: Holy James’s Street and Jacobs, Mickey Mouse sure caused a fair bit of excitement in those far-off days.
D. Bolger From These Green Heights 10: Holy James Street, but it’s warm. Do the Corporation ever turn the heat off?
holy Joe!

see separate entry.

holy jumped-up Jesus! (also holy Creeping Jesus! holy hopping Jesus! holy jumped-up be-jeebers! holy jumped-up Jehosophat! holy sneaking Jesus!)

a general excl.

[US]P. Kyne Cappy Ricks 186: ‘Holy jumped-up Jehosophat!’ murmured Cappy.
[US]N. Algren Somebody in Boots 175: Holy Creepin’ Jesus, man, didn’t she look like her though? [Ibid.] 206: H-Holy s-sneakin-Jesus.
[US]N. Algren Man with the Golden Arm 250: ‘Holy Jumped-up Jesus,’ Sparrow protested.
[US]P. Whelton In Comes Death 87: Well, holy jumped-up bejeebers.
[US]S. King Finders Keepers (2016) 8: Holy hopping Jesus, Morrie! We hit the jackpot.
holy jumping...!

see separate entry.

holy mackerel!

see separate entry.

holy mackinaw!

(US) a mild excl.

[US]C.E. Mulford Bar-20 xxiv: Th’ Lord help Billy! Holy Mackinaw!
[US]Madison Jrnl (LA) 30 Aug. 3/4: Holy Mackinaw! I went out into the wilderness givin’ thanks.
holy moly! (also holy moley!) [var. on holy Moses under holy adj. The catchphrase favoured by the comic-book character Captain Marvel]

(orig. US juv.) a general excl. of amazement or shock.

[US]Gettysburg Compiler (PA) 27 Mar. 4/5: ‘Rolly polly, bright and jolly!’ Maybe ‘Remmy,’ my faithful typewriter, should have spelt it, ‘Roly poly, holy moly!’.
Coshocton (OH) County Democrat 13 Mar. n.p.: The pudgy-cheeked, wild-haired Jimmy sat back at his familiar desk yesterday and ejaculated: ‘Holy Moly, what we’re going to do with this team!’.
[US]S. King Stand (1990) 16: Holy moly! If he’d a been doing sixty we’d all be dead.
[US]C. Hiaasen Double Whammy (1990) 281: ‘What’s she weigh, anyhow?’ ‘Twenty-nine even.’ ‘Holy moly.’ Fast Eddie gasped.
[US]D. Burke Street Talk 2 205: Holy Moley! How much money did you win?
[US]C. Cook Robbers (2001) 215: Tell you everything I know, tell you stuff I don’t know. Holy moly, I’ll make up shit.
[Aus]S. Maloney Big Ask 125: Holy moley, I thought, this is about my parting words to young Dazzer.
[UK]interview with female space voyager on BBC World Service 20 Feb. [radio] Holy moly! we’re goin’ to space!
holy monkey!

an excl. of surprise, disbelief.

[UK]‘Charles Raven’ Und. Nights 180: ‘Holy monkey,’ said Toby [...] ‘It’ll take us till the end of time.’.
holy Moses! (also by the Moses! holy Mike! holy Moe! holy sneaking Moses! )

a general excl. of amazement or shock; note ext. in cit. 1876.

[UK]Comic Almanack Apr. 223: ‘Holy Moshesh!’ says Abednego.
[US]D. Corcoran Pickings from N.O. Picayune (1847) 21: ‘O, Holy Moses!’ exclaimed O’Toole.
[US]A.F. Hill Our Boys 178: Howly Moses!
[US]J. Miller First Fam’lies in the Sierras 101: Be the Moses, it’s a plate of holy wafers!
[UK]C. Hindley Life and Adventures of a Cheap Jack 109: Screw your courage to the sticking place, and by the holy-jumping-mother-of-Moses – who was my uncle – we’ll not fail.
[US]C.A. Siringo Texas Cow Boy (1950) 39: He jumped ten feet in the air and roared out ‘Holy Moses!’.
[Aus]H. Lawson ‘Visit of Condolence’ in Roderick (1972) 32: Holy Moses! carn’t a feller arsk a civil queschin?
[UK]R. Whiteing No. 5 John Street 214: ’Oly Moses! what points he could ha’ given the Prince o’ Wiles!
[Aus]‘Rolf Boldrewood’ In Bad Company 109: Fancy Bill [...] settin’ out to burn steamers and kill people! Holy Moses!
[US]H. Green Actors’ Boarding House (1906) 102: Holy Moses! A grizzly, and not a hundred feet away!
[US]S.F. Call 21 May 5/1: Holy Mike, who don’t they heat this place?
[Aus]Truth (Sydney) 27 July 11/4: See them wimmin. Holey Moses!
[US]A. Irvine My Lady of the Chimney Corner 144: ‘Holy Moses!’ he exclaimed, ‘what a breath.’.
[UK]‘Sapper’ Jim Maitland (1953) 71: ‘Holy Moses!’ he muttered.
[Scot]Sun. Post (Lanarks) 4 Apr. 8/3: Now what, by the holy Mike, did this discovery portend?
[US]H. Roth Call It Sleep (1977) 361: Pullin’ him! Hully Muzziz! Look! In de hole!
[US]N. Algren Somebody in Boots 359: ‘Holy sneakin’-Moses,’ he exclaimed.
[UK]G. Blake Shipbuilders (1954) 79: ‘Holy Mike!’ sighed Jim.
[UK]‘Henry Green’ Loving (1978) 21: Holy Moses look at the clock.
[US]G. Fowler Schnozzola 22: But a guy would come in and buy wine, Holy Moe!
[Aus]D. Niland Big Smoke 173: Holy Moses, that job as a nightwatchman wouldn’t make it any better.
[US]F. Kohner Affairs of Gidget 91: Two weeks! Holy Moses!
[US]L. Rosten Dear ‘Herm’ 9: Holy Moses, why are you not listed in the Phone Book like any other law-abident citizen?
[Aus]N. Keesing Lily on the Dustbin 24: Women used to let off steam domestically with a fine range of substitute expletives. ‘Holy Moses!’, ‘Holy mackerel!’, ‘great balls of fire’, ‘good gravy’, ‘jumping Jehosaphat’, and ‘muddy great buckets of pitch’.
[UK]Indep. Rev. 20 Mar. 3: Holy Moses!
[US]T. Robinson Hard Bounce [ebook] Holy Moses on a trampoline.
holy Peoria! [Peoria, Illinois]

an excl. of surprise.

[US]D. Westlake Busy Body 1178: Holy Peoria! You mean it!
holy shit! (also holy piss! holy shit on a shamrock!) [shit n. (1a)]

a general excl. of surprise or astonishment.

[US]H.S. Thompson Hell’s Angels (1967) 279: ‘Holy shit!’ mumbled Tiny.
[US]T. Whitmore Memphis-Nam-Sweden 155: Moscow! That’s supposed to be the center of the whole Communist world. Holy shit!
[US]J. Sayles Union Dues (1978) 342: Holy-shit-on-a-shamrock! You don’t catch me goin near that fucker.
[US]J. Webb Fields of Fire (1980) 363: Holy shit. That’s weak, Captain.
[US]S. King It (1987) 801: ‘Holy shit, that hurts!’ Victor roared.
[US]T. Wolfe Bonfire of the Vanities 57: I said please pick up the fucking phone! I mean holy shit!
[US]C. Hiaasen Native Tongue 196: Chelsea caught up with him and related the problem. ‘Holy piss,’ said Kingbury.
[US]Tarantino & Avery Pulp Fiction [film script] 96: Holy shit.
[UK](con. 1951) C. Logue Prince Charming 118: Philip said: ‘Holy shit, a castration nightmare.’.
[UK]Indep. on Sun. 25 July 28: ‘Holy shit!’ said an aghast American tourist.
M.E. Dassad ‘Chickenhawk’ at 🌐 Holy shit I nearly came then as I saw that thing split her cheeks.
[UK]M. Collins Keepers of Truth 128: Holy shit. You didn’t just make that up, did you?
[US]J. Lethem Fortress of Solitude 422: Holy shit! This world might be a dungeon these days, but a few voices called out to a few others.
[Aus]L. Redhead Rubdown [ebook] Holy shit. The ute had braked twenty metres from me.
[UK]G. Iles Turning Angel 359: ‘Holy shit!’ says Mia softly.
[US]K. Tomlinson ‘Thicker Than Water’ in C. Rhatigan and N. Bird (eds) Pulp Ink 2 [ebook] ‘Holy shit,’ Josh said.
[US]N. Walker Cherry 25: ‘Holy shit! Your pupils are huge’ ‘I’m on ecstasy’.
[Aus]C. Hammer Silver [ebook] ‘For good? Holy shit. For good?’.
[US]A. Trebek The Answer Is 69: ‘Holy shit!’ I said. I jumped out of bed. ‘That’s it! I’m going to lose the bet!’.
[Ire]L. McInerney Rules of Revelation 59: ‘[H]oly shit, Izzy, I wouldn’t have brought that up [...] no wonder he’s ossified!’.
holy smoke!

see separate entry.

holy toads!

(US) a general excl.

[US]Eve. Star (Wash., DC) 1 Aug. 31/3: ‘Holy toads!’ said the older mnan apprehensively.
holy wars!

a general excl.

[UK]Sporting Times 25 Apr. 1/2: ‘Holy wars!’ exclaimed the man when he laid odds to a lot of money on Mr. Assheton-Smith’s five thousand pounder [...] and saw him beaten.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 20 Aug. Red Page/1: Oh, ’oly wars! Ain’t ole July dead tough!
[Aus]C.J. Dennis ‘Hitched’ in Songs of a Sentimental Bloke 81: ‘I’m trustin’, later on,’ sez Ginger Mick, / ‘To celebrate the chris’nin’.’ . . . ’Oly wars!