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See more synonyms for helter-skelter on Thesaurus.com
  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.
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  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.
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  1. tumultuous disorder; confusion.
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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

Related Words for helter-skelter

chaotic, haphazard, hurried, headlong, jumbled, arbitrary, carelessly, confused, disorderly, hastily, random, recklessly, slapdash, hurry-scurry, about, anyhow, around, hit-or-miss, hotfoot, impetuously

Examples from the Web for helter-skelter

Historical Examples of helter-skelter

  • 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


  1. haphazard or carelessly hurried
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  1. in a helter-skelter manner
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  1. British a high spiral slide, as at a fairground
  2. disorder or haste
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Word Origin for helter-skelter

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


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.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper