(used to express surprise, irritation, disgust, etc.)

Verb Phrases

hell around, Slang. to live or act in a wild or dissolute manner: All they cared about was drinking and helling around.


    be hell on, Slang.
    1. to be unpleasant to or painful for: These shoes are hell on my poor feet.
    2. to be harmful to: These country roads are hell on tires.
    for the hell of it, Informal.
    1. to see what will happen; for adventure, fun, excitement, etc.: For the hell of it, let's just get on the next bus and see where it takes us.
    2. with no particular purpose; for no special reason: I called him up for the hell of it, and he offered me a job.
    get/catch hell, Slang. to suffer a scolding; receive a harsh reprimand: We'll get hell from our parents if we stay out late again.
    give someone hell, Informal. to reprimand or reproach severely.
    go to hell in a handbasket, Informal. handbasket(def 2).
    hell on wheels, Slang. extremely demanding, fast-paced, aggressive, effective, or the like: The new job is hell on wheels. Our sales staff is hell on wheels when it comes to getting the most out of every account.
    like hell, Informal.
    1. with great speed, effort, intensity, etc.: We ran like hell to get home before the storm. She tried like hell to get him to change his mind.
    2. (used sarcastically or ironically to express the opposite of what is being stated): He says the motor will never break down? Like hell it won't!
    play hell with, Slang. to deal recklessly with; bring injury or harm to: Snowstorms played hell with the flow of city traffic.
    raise hell, Slang.
    1. to indulge in wild celebration.
    2. to create an uproar; object violently to: She'll raise hell when she sees what your rabbit has done to her garden.
    the/to hell with, Informal. (used to express dismissal, rejection, contempt, disappointment, or the like): If we have to walk five miles to see the view, the hell with it! He wouldn't even speak to me, so to hell with him!
    what the hell, Informal. (used to express lack of concern or worry, indifference, abandonment, surrender, etc.): As long as you're borrowing $100, what the hell, borrow $200.

Origin of hell

before 900; Middle English, Old English hel(l); cognate with Old High German hell(i)a (German Hölle), Old Norse hel, Gothic halja; akin to Old English helan to cover, hide, and to hull2
Related formshell-like, adjective

Synonyms for hell

Antonyms for hell

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

British Dictionary definitions for give someone hell



Christianity (sometimes capital)
  1. the place or state of eternal punishment of the wicked after death, with Satan as its ruler
  2. forces of evil regarded as residing there
(sometimes capital) (in various religions and cultures) the abode of the spirits of the deadSee also Hel, Hades, Sheol
pain, extreme difficulty, etc
informal a cause of such difficulty or sufferingwar is hell
US and Canadian high spirits or mischievousnessthere's hell in that boy
a box used by a tailor for discarded material
rare a gambling house, booth, etc
as hell (intensifier)tired as hell
for the hell of it informal for the fun of it
from hell informal denoting a person or thing that is particularly bad or alarmingneighbour from hell; hangover from hell
give someone hell informal
  1. to give someone a severe reprimand or punishment
  2. to be a source of annoyance or torment to someone
hell of a or helluva informal (intensifier)a hell of a good performance
hell for leather at great speed
hell or high water or come hell or high water informal whatever difficulties may arise
hell to pay informal serious consequences, as of a foolish action
like hell informal
  1. (adverb)(intensifier)he works like hell
  2. an expression of strong disagreement with a previous statement, request, order, etc
play hell with or play merry hell with informal to throw into confusion and disorder; disrupt
raise hell
  1. to create a noisy disturbance, as in fun
  2. to react strongly and unfavourably
the hell informal
  1. (intensifier) used in such phrases as what the hell, who the hell, etc
  2. an expression of strong disagreement or disfavour
the hell I will


informal an exclamation of anger, annoyance, surprise, etc (Also in exclamations such as hell's bells, hell's teeth, etc)

Word Origin for hell

Old English hell; related to helan to cover, Old Norse hel, Gothic halja hell, Old High German hella
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 give someone hell



Old English hel, helle, "nether world, abode of the dead, infernal regions," from Proto-Germanic *haljo "the underworld" (cf. Old Frisian helle, Dutch hel, Old Norse hel, German Hölle, Gothic halja "hell") "the underworld," literally "concealed place" (cf. Old Norse hellir "cave, cavern"), from PIE *kel- "to cover, conceal, save" (see cell).

The English word may be in part from Old Norse Hel (from Proto-Germanic *halija "one who covers up or hides something"), in Norse mythology the name of Loki's daughter, who rules over the evil dead in Niflheim, the lowest of all worlds (nifl "mist"). Transfer of a pagan concept and word to a Christian idiom. In Middle English, also of the Limbus Patrum, place where the Patriarchs, Prophets, etc. awaited the Atonement. Used in the KJV for Old Testament Hebrew Sheol and New Testament Greek Hades, Gehenna. Used figuratively for "state of misery, any bad experience" since at least late 14c. As an expression of disgust, etc., first recorded 1670s.

Expression Hell in a handbasket is attested by 1867, in a context implying use from a few years before, and the notion of going to Heaven in a handbasket is from 1853, with a sense of "easy passage" to the destination. Hell or high water (1874) apparently is a variation of between the devil and the deep blue sea. To wish someone would go to hell is in Shakespeare ("Merchant of Venice"). Snowball's chance in hell "no chance" is from 1931; till hell freezes over "never" is from 1832. To ride hell for leather is from 1889, originally with reference to riding on horseback. Hell on wheels is said to be from 1843 in DAS; popularity dates from 1869 in reference to the temporary workers' towns along the U.S. transcontinental railroad and their vices.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Culture definitions for give someone hell


The dwelling place of Satan, devils, and wicked souls condemned to eternal punishment after death; a place of pain and torment. (Compare heaven.)

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Idioms and Phrases with give someone hell

give someone hell

Also, give someone the devil. Scold someone harshly. For example, The boss gave them hell for not finishing in time, or Mom will give her the devil if she doesn't get home soon. Also see give it to, def. 1.


In addition to the idioms beginning with hell

  • hell has no fury like a woman scorned
  • hell of a
  • hell on wheels
  • hell or high water, come
  • hell to pay

also see:

  • (all hell) break loose
  • devil (hell) of a
  • for the hell of it
  • give someone hell
  • go to hell
  • hot as hell
  • like a bat out of hell
  • like hell
  • mad as a hornet (hell)
  • not a hope in hell
  • raise Cain (hell)
  • road to hell is paved with good intentions
  • shot to hell
  • snowball's chance in hell
  • till hell freezes over
  • to hell and gone
  • to hell with
  • what the hell
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.