hell on wheels


the place or state of punishment of the wicked after death; the abode of evil and condemned spirits; Gehenna or Tartarus.
any place or state of torment or misery: They made their father's life a hell on earth.
something that causes torment or misery: Having that cut stitched without anesthesia was hell.
the powers of evil.
the abode of the dead; Sheol or Hades.
extreme disorder or confusion; chaos: The children let both dogs into the house, and all hell broke loose.
heck1 ( def 2 ).
a receptacle into which a tailor throws scraps.
Also called hellbox. Printing. a box into which a printer throws discarded type.
the utterance of “hell” in swearing or for emphasis.
the hell, Informal.
(used as an intensifier to express surprise, anger, impatience, etc.): Why the hell can't the trains run on time?
(used sarcastically or ironically to express the opposite of what is being stated): Are you listening to me? The hell you are!
(used to express surprise, irritation, disgust, etc.)
Verb phrases
hell around, Slang. to live or act in a wild or dissolute manner: All they cared about was drinking and helling around.
be hell on, Slang.
to be unpleasant to or painful for.
to be harmful to: These country roads are hell on tires.
for the hell of it, Informal.
to see what will happen; for adventure, fun, excitement, etc.: For the hell of it, let's just get on the next bus and see where it takes us.
with no particular purpose; for no special reason: I called him up for the hell of it, and he offered me a job.
get / catch hell, Slang. to suffer a scolding; receive a harsh reprimand: We'll get hell from our parents for staying out so late again.
give someone hell, Informal. to reprimand or reproach severely.
go to hell in a handbasket, Informal. handbasket ( def 2 ).
hell on wheels, Slang. extremely demanding, fast-paced, aggressive, effective, or the like: The new job is hell on wheels. Our sales staff is hell on wheels when it comes to getting the most out of every account.
like hell, Informal.
with great speed, effort, intensity, etc.: We ran like hell to get home before the storm. She tried like hell to get him to change his mind.
(used sarcastically or ironically to express the opposite of what is being stated): He says the motor will never break down? Like hell it won't!
play hell with, Slang. to deal recklessly with; bring injury or harm to: Snowstorms played hell with the flow of city traffic.
raise hell, Slang.
to indulge in wild celebration.
to create an uproar; object violently to: She'll raise hell when she sees what your rabbit has done to her garden.
the / to hell with, Informal. (used to express dismissal, rejection, contempt, disappointment, or the like): If we have to walk five miles to see the view, the hell with it! He wouldn't even speak to me, so to hell with him!
what the hell, Informal. (used to express lack of concern or worry, indifference, abandonment, surrender, etc.): As long as you're borrowing $100, what the hell, borrow $200.

before 900; Middle English, Old English hel(l); cognate with Old High German hell(i)a (German Hölle), Old Norse hel, Gothic halja; akin to Old English helan to cover, hide, and to hull2

hell-like, adjective

1. inferno. 2. anguish, agony, torture.

1, 2. heaven, paradise.
Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
hell (hɛl)
1.  (sometimes capital) Christianity
 a.  the place or state of eternal punishment of the wicked after death, with Satan as its ruler
 b.  forces of evil regarded as residing there
2.  (sometimes capital) Hel Hades See also Sheol (in various religions and cultures) the abode of the spirits of the dead
3.  pain, extreme difficulty, etc
4.  informal a cause of such difficulty or suffering: war is hell
5.  (US), (Canadian) high spirits or mischievousness: there's hell in that boy
6.  a box used by a tailor for discarded material
7.  rare a gambling house, booth, etc
8.  as hell (intensifier): tired as hell
9.  informal for the hell of it for the fun of it
10.  informal from hell denoting a person or thing that is particularly bad or alarming: neighbour from hell; hangover from hell
11.  informal give someone hell
 a.  to give someone a severe reprimand or punishment
 b.  to be a source of annoyance or torment to someone
12.  informal hell of a, helluva (intensifier): a hell of a good performance
13.  hell for leather at great speed
14.  informal hell or high water, come hell or high water whatever difficulties may arise
15.  informal hell to pay serious consequences, as of a foolish action
16.  informal like hell
 a.  (adverb) (intensifier): he works like hell
 b.  an expression of strong disagreement with a previous statement, request, order, etc
17.  informal play hell with, play merry hell with to throw into confusion and disorder; disrupt
18.  raise hell
 a.  to create a noisy disturbance, as in fun
 b.  to react strongly and unfavourably
19.  informal the hell : the hell I will
 a.  (intensifier) used in such phrases as what the hell, who the hell, etc
 b.  an expression of strong disagreement or disfavour
20.  informal an exclamation of anger, annoyance, surprise, etc (Also in exclamations such as hell's bells, hell's teeth, etc)
[Old English hell; related to helan to cover, Old Norse hel, Gothic halja hell, Old High German hella]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
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Word Origin & History

O.E. hel, helle "nether world, abode of the dead, infernal regions," from P.Gmc. *khaljo (cf. O.Fris. helle, O.N. hel, Ger. Hölle, Goth. halja "hell") "the underworld," lit. "concealed place," from PIE *kel- "to cover, conceal, save" (see cell). The Eng. word may be in
part from O.N. Hel (from P.Gmc. *khalija "one who covers up or hides something"), in Norse mythology Loki's daughter, who rules over the evil dead in Niflheim, the lowest of all worlds (nifl "mist"), a death aspect of the three-fold goddess. Transfer of a pagan concept and word to a Christian idiom, used in the K.J.V. for O.T. Heb. Sheol, N.T. Gk. Hades, Gehenna. Used figuratively for "any bad experience" since at least 1374. As an expression of disgust, etc., first recorded 1678. Hell-bent is from 1835. Hell-raiser is from 1914 (to raise hell is from 1896); hellacious is 1930s college slang. Expression Hell in a handbasket is c.1941, perhaps a revision of earlier heaven in a handbasket (c.1913), with a sense of "easy passage" to whichever destination. Expression hell of a _____ is attested from 1776. Hell or high water is apparently a variation of between the devil and the deep blue sea. To wish someone would go to hell is in Shakespeare (1596). Snowball's chance in hell "no chance" is from 1931; till hell freezes over "never" is from 1919. To ride hell for leather is from 1889, originally with reference to riding on horseback. Hell on wheels is from 1843.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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American Heritage
Cultural Dictionary

hell definition

The dwelling place of Satan, devils, and wicked souls condemned to eternal punishment after death; a place of pain and torment. (Compare heaven.)

The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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Bible Dictionary

Hell definition

derived from the Saxon helan, to cover; hence the covered or the invisible place. In Scripture there are three words so rendered: (1.) Sheol, occurring in the Old Testament sixty-five times. This word sheol is derived from a root-word meaning "to ask," "demand;" hence insatiableness (Prov. 30:15, 16). It is rendered "grave" thirty-one times (Gen. 37:35; 42:38; 44:29, 31; 1 Sam. 2:6, etc.). The Revisers have retained this rendering in the historical books with the original word in the margin, while in the poetical books they have reversed this rule. In thirty-one cases in the Authorized Version this word is rendered "hell," the place of disembodied spirits. The inhabitants of sheol are "the congregation of the dead" (Prov. 21:16). It is (a) the abode of the wicked (Num. 16:33; Job 24:19; Ps. 9:17; 31:17, etc.); (b) of the good (Ps. 16:10; 30:3; 49:15; 86:13, etc.). Sheol is described as deep (Job 11:8), dark (10:21, 22), with bars (17:16). The dead "go down" to it (Num. 16:30, 33; Ezek. 31:15, 16, 17). (2.) The Greek word hades of the New Testament has the same scope of signification as sheol of the Old Testament. It is a prison (1 Pet. 3:19), with gates and bars and locks (Matt. 16:18; Rev. 1:18), and it is downward (Matt. 11:23; Luke 10:15). The righteous and the wicked are separated. The blessed dead are in that part of hades called paradise (Luke 23:43). They are also said to be in Abraham's bosom (Luke 16:22). (3.) Gehenna, in most of its occurrences in the Greek New Testament, designates the place of the lost (Matt. 23:33). The fearful nature of their condition there is described in various figurative expressions (Matt. 8:12; 13:42; 22:13; 25:30; Luke 16:24, etc.). (See HINNOM.)

Easton's 1897 Bible Dictionary
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American Heritage
Idioms & Phrases

hell on wheels

Tough, aggressive, wild, or mean, as in Watch out for the bosshe's hell on wheels this week. This expression originated with the building of the Union Pacific Railroad in the 1860s, when it denoted the last town on the line, which was carried on freight cars as the track was extended. The town consisted mainly of tents occupied by construction gangs, liquor dealers, gamblers, and other camp followers known for their rough and often vicious ways.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
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