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[bil-ingz-geyt or, esp. British, -git]
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  1. coarsely or vulgarly abusive language.
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Origin of billingsgate

First recorded in 1645–55; orig. the kind of speech often heard at Billingsgate, a London fish market at the gate of the same name


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Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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Examples from the Web for billingsgate

Historical Examples

  • "I don't choose to descend to Billingsgate," said Sir Francis.

    Kept in the Dark

    Anthony Trollope

  • "That'll do, Forsythe," said Sampson, interrupting the flow of billingsgate.

    The Wreck of the Titan

    Morgan Robertson

  • Listen to the young woman, you Mackrell, or you'll get Billingsgate!

  • They talk forever and forever, and that is the kind of billingsgate they use.

    The Innocents Abroad

    Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens)

  • Lady Mallowe's temper was as elemental as any Billingsgate could provide.

    T. Tembarom

    Frances Hodgson Burnett

British Dictionary definitions for billingsgate


  1. obscene or abusive language
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Word Origin

C17: after Billingsgate, which was notorious for such language


  1. the largest fish market in London, on the N bank of the River Thames; moved to new site at Canary Wharf in 1982 and the former building converted into offices
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Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for billingsgate


1670s, the kind of coarse, abusive language once used by women in the Billingsgate market on the River Thames below London Bridge.

Billingsgate is the market where the fishwomen assemble to purchase fish; and where, in their dealings and disputes they are somewhat apt to leave decency and good manners a little on the left hand. ["Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue," 1811]

The place name is Old English Billingesgate, "gate of (a man called) Billing;" the "gate" probably being a gap in the Roman river wall. The market is mid-13c., not exclusively a fish market until late 17c.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper