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disreputable, impoverished New York City neighborhood, the name attested from 1879. The phrase was used from at least 1866 as an intensive form of Hell.
Hell's kitchen (American), a horrible slum. Hell's Kitchen, Murderer's Row, and the Burnt Rag are names of localities which form collectively the worst place in New York. [Albert Barrère and Charles G. Leland, "A Dictionary of Slang, Jargon & Cant," 1889]