Dictionary.com
definitions
  • synonyms

helter-skelter

[hel-ter-skel-ter]
See more synonyms for helter-skelter on Thesaurus.com
adverb
  1. in headlong and disorderly haste: The children ran helter-skelter all over the house.
  2. in a haphazard manner; without regard for order: Clothes were scattered helter-skelter about the room.
Show More
adjective
  1. carelessly hurried; confused: They ran in a mad, helter-skelter fashion for the exits.
  2. disorderly; haphazard: Books and papers were scattered on the desk in a helter-skelter manner.
Show More
noun
  1. tumultuous disorder; confusion.
Show More

Origin of helter-skelter

1585–95; rhyming compound, perhaps based on *skelt, Middle English skelten to hasten (< ?); reduplication with initial h parallel to hubble-bubble, higgledy-piggledy, etc.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for helter-skelter

Historical Examples

  • Nobody but he could have twisted and turned in such a helter-skelter fashion.

    The Tale of Kiddie Katydid

    Arthur Scott Bailey

  • Sometimes, but not very often, she threw them helter-skelter about the room.

    The Good Soldier

    Ford Madox Ford

  • I only know we ran quickly, helter-skelter, back home, back to Mazapevka.

    Jewish Children

    Sholem Naumovich Rabinovich

  • But this cannot be done by helter-skelter or haphazard administration.

  • She flung off her coat in a helter-skelter way, and rolled up her sleeves.

    A Spoil of Office

    Hamlin Garland


British Dictionary definitions for helter-skelter

helter-skelter

adjective
  1. haphazard or carelessly hurried
Show More
adverb
  1. in a helter-skelter manner
Show More
noun
  1. British a high spiral slide, as at a fairground
  2. disorder or haste
Show More

Word Origin

C16: probably of imitative origin
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 helter-skelter

adv.

also helter skelter, 1590s, perhaps from skelte "to hasten, scatter hurriedly," with the first element there merely for the sake of rhyme. As an adjective from 1785.

Show More
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper