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From Middle English helle, from Old English hel, hell, helle (“nether world, abode of the dead, hell”), from Proto-Germanic *haljō (“nether world, concealed place”), from Proto-Indo-European *kel- (“to cover, conceal, save”). Cognate Dutch hel (“hell”), German Hölle (“hell”), Swedish helvete (“hell”), Icelandic hel (“the abode of the dead, death”). Also related to the Hel of Germanic mythology. See also hele.
- In various religions, the place where some or all spirits are believed to go after death
- Do Muslims believe that all non-Muslims go to hell?
- (Abrahamic religions, uncountable) The place where devils live and where sinners are tortured after death
- May you rot in hell!
- 1667, John Milton, Paradise Lost
- Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven.
- 1916, James Joyce, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
- Hell is a strait and dark and foul-smelling prison, an abode of demons and lost souls, filled with fire and smoke.
- (euphemisms for Christian place for damned souls after death): Hades, heck, infernal region, inferno, netherworld, underworld
- (Mormonism): Spirit Prison
- (in Abrahamic religions, uncountable): heaven
hell (plural hells)
- (countable, hyperbolic) A place or situation of great suffering in life.
- My new boss is making my job a hell.
- I went through hell to get home today.
- 1879, General William T. Sherman, commencement address at the Michigan Military Academy
- There is many a boy here today who looks on war as all glory, but, boys, it is all hell.
- 1986, Metallica, “Disposable Heroes” (song), in Master of Puppets (album):
- Why, am I dying? / Kill, have no fear / Lie, live off lying / Hell, hell is here
- (countable) A place for gambling.
- W. Black
- a convenient little gambling hell for those who had grown reckless
- 1907, Joseph Conrad, The Secret Agent
- […] the air of moral nihilism common to keepers of gambling hells and disorderly houses; […]
- W. Black
- An extremely hot place.
- You don't have a snowball's chance in hell.
- Used as an intensifier in phrases grammatically requiring a noun
- I'm as mad as hell and I'm not going to take it any more.
- What the hell is wrong with you?
- He says he's going home early? Like hell he is.
- (obsolete) A place into which a tailor throws his shreds, or a printer his broken type.
- (Can we find and add a quotation of Hudibras to this entry?)
- In certain games of chase, a place to which those who are caught are carried for detention.
- (not polite) Used to express negative discontent.
- Oh, hell! I got another parking ticket.
- (not polite) Used to emphasize
- Hell, yeah!
From Proto-Germanic *haljō, ultimately from Proto-Indo-European *ḱel- (“to cover, hide, conceal”). Cognate with Old Frisian helle, hille, Old Saxon hel, hellia, Old Dutch hella, Old High German hella, hellia, Old Norse hel, Gothic 𐌷𐌰𐌻𐌾𐌰 (halja).