bil·​lings·​gate | \ ˈbi-liŋz-ˌgāt How to pronounce billingsgate (audio) , British usually -git \

Definition of billingsgate

: coarsely abusive language

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Choose the Right Synonym for billingsgate

abuse, vituperation, invective, obloquy, billingsgate mean vehemently expressed condemnation or disapproval. abuse, the most general term, usually implies the anger of the speaker and stresses the harshness of the language. scathing verbal abuse vituperation implies fluent and sustained abuse. a torrent of vituperation invective implies a comparable vehemence but suggests greater verbal and rhetorical skill and may apply to a public denunciation. blistering political invective obloquy suggests defamation and consequent shame and disgrace. subjected to obloquy and derision billingsgate implies practiced fluency and variety of profane or obscene abuse. directed a stream of billingsgate at the cabdriver

Billingsgate Has Origins in a London Fish Market

From the time of the Roman occupation until the early 1980s, Billingsgate was a fish market in London, England, notorious for the crude language that resounded through its stalls. In fact, the fish merchants of Billingsgate were so famous for their swearing that their feats of vulgar language were recorded in British chronicler Raphael Holinshed's 1577 account of King Leir (which was probably Shakespeare's source for King Lear). In Holinshed's volume, a messenger's language is said to be "as bad a tongue … as any oyster-wife at Billingsgate hath." By the middle of the 17th century, billingsgate had become a byword for foul language.

Examples of billingsgate in a Sentence

the intemperate billingsgate to which the staff in customer service were sometimes subjected

First Known Use of billingsgate

1652, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for billingsgate

Billingsgate, old gate and fish market, London, England

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The first known use of billingsgate was in 1652

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Cite this Entry

“Billingsgate.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 26 Jul. 2021.

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