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[bil-ingz-geyt or, esp. British, -git] /ˈbɪl ɪŋzˌgeɪt or, esp. British, -gɪt/
coarsely or vulgarly abusive language.
Origin of billingsgate
1645-55; orig. the kind of speech often heard at Billingsgate, a London fish market at the gate of the same name
vituperation, vilification, invective, scurrility, vulgarity. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for billingsgate
Historical Examples
  • billingsgate Fish Market was not half so wicked as I had heard.

    Twenty Years in Europe Samuel H. M. Byers
  • "That'll do, Forsythe," said Sampson, interrupting the flow of billingsgate.

    The Wreck of the Titan Morgan Robertson
  • He was not a pious bird—belonging to Slivers, he could hardly be expected to be—and his language was redolent of billingsgate.

    Madame Midas Fergus Hume
  • They talk forever and forever, and that is the kind of billingsgate they use.

    The Innocents Abroad Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens)
  • That scorns to stoop to billingsgate, or ape the bold bargee.

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

    T. Tembarom Frances Hodgson Burnett
  • Or why are we to be attacked first with cannon on one side, and then with billingsgate on the other side of this vexed question?

  • It is time to go away, and soon billingsgate will be nearly desolate.

    The Children's Book of London Geraldine Edith Mitton
  • Steam carriers collect the fish from the fleets around the coast and deliver them packed in ice at billingsgate every night.

    A Terminal Market System Mrs. Elmer Black
  • The anecdote of Dr. Johnson and the billingsgate virago is well known.

    The Slang Dictionary John Camden Hotten
British Dictionary definitions for billingsgate


obscene or abusive language
Word Origin
C17: after Billingsgate, which was notorious for such language


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
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
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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.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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