\ ˈhel How to pronounce hell (audio) \

Definition of hell

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1a(1) : a nether world in which the dead continue to exist : hades
(2) : the nether realm of the devil and the demons in which condemned people suffer everlasting punishment often used in cursesgo to hell or as a generalized term of abusethe hell with it
b Christian Science : error sense 2b, sin
2a : a place or state of misery, torment, or wickedness war is hell— W. T. Sherman
b : a place or state of turmoil or destruction all hell broke loose
c : a severe scolding also : flak, grief gave me hell for coming in late
d : unrestrained fun or sportiveness the kids were full of hell often used in the phrase for the hell of it especially to suggest action on impulse or without a serious motivedecided to go for the hell of it
e : an extremely unpleasant and often inescapable situation rush-hour hell
3 archaic : a tailor's receptacle
4 used as an interjectionhell, I don't know! or as an intensivehurts like hellfunny as hell often used in the phrase hell of ait was one hell of a good fight or hell out ofscared the hell out of him or with the or inmoved way the hell up northwhat in hell is wrong, now?
from hell
: being the worst or most dreadful of its kind a vacation from hell
hell on
: very hard on or destructive to the constant traveling is hell on your digestive system
hell or high water
: difficulties of whatever kind or size will stand by her convictions come hell or high water
hell to pay
: dire consequences if he's late there'll be hell to pay
what the hell
used interjectionally to express a lack of concern about consequences or risksit might cost him half his estate … but what the hell— N. W. Aldrich born 1935


biographical name
\ ˈhel How to pronounce Hell (audio) \

Definition of Hell (Entry 2 of 2)

Stefan (Walter) 1962–     German (Romanian-born) chemist

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Examples of hell in a Sentence

Noun Getting the loan approved was pure hell. He went through hell during his divorce. She had to go through hell to get where she is today. Living with the disease can be a hell on earth. The pain has made her life a living hell.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun This is one hell of a farewell performance, full of wit and fire. Michael Phillips, chicagotribune.com, "‘Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom’ review: In 1927 Chicago, Chadwick Boseman, Viola Davis and August Wilson play glorious three-part harmony," 20 Nov. 2020 There’s no denying that this has been one hell of a week in American history. Sophie Vershbow, Vogue, "Another Great Thing About Biden’s Win: There’s Going to Be a Dog in the White House Again!," 7 Nov. 2020 There's no other way to put this: Tuesday was a hell of a win for Hamilton County's Republican prosecutor. Jason Williams, The Enquirer, "PX column: After another failed election for Ohio Democratic Party, will there be calls for leadership change?," 4 Nov. 2020 Being an income-earning parent during this pandemic is hell. Karla L. Miller, Washington Post, "Worker resents having to pick up slack for working moms and dads," 29 Oct. 2020 Justin Turner finally got his World Series title and Major League Baseball got its postseason TV riches, so to hell with everybody else. Nancy Armour, USA TODAY, "Opinion: Justin Turner controversy again reveals selfishness of our broken society," 28 Oct. 2020 To be blunt, first-year general manager James Click has a hell of a first offseason in front of him. James Yasko, Chron, "How the Astros can keep both George Springer, Carlos Correa for a long time," 26 Oct. 2020 To paraphrase a famous book, that is one hell of a catch. Adam Rogers, Wired, "The Preexisting Conditions of the Coronavirus Pandemic," 16 Oct. 2020 Cardi B had a hell of a weekend, because, well — someone has to. Natalie Morin, refinery29.com, "Cardi B Clarifies A Few Things About That Nude Photo & Offset," 15 Oct. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'hell.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of hell


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a(1)

History and Etymology for hell


Middle English helle, going back to Old English hell, helle, going back to Germanic *haljō (whence also Old Saxon hellia "abode of the dead," Old High German hella, hellia, Old Norse hel "abode of the dead, the death goddess," Gothic halja, translating Greek Háidēs), perhaps from an o-grade nominal derivative of the Germanic verbal base *hel- "cover, hide" — more at conceal

Note: The connection with *hel- "conceal" is traditional in the etymological literature, though given that the literal meaning of *haljō, the mythological abode of the dead, is unknown, it must be regarded as speculative.

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Learn More about hell

Time Traveler for hell

Time Traveler

The first known use of hell was before the 12th century

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Statistics for hell

Last Updated

23 Nov 2020

Cite this Entry

“Hell.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hell. Accessed 24 Nov. 2020.

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More Definitions for hell


How to pronounce Hell (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of hell

: the place where the devil lives and where evil people go after they die according to some religions
: a very difficult or unpleasant situation or experience
informal + impolite used to express anger, annoyance, etc.


\ ˈhel How to pronounce hell (audio) \

Kids Definition of hell

1 : a place where evil people are believed in some religions to suffer after death
2 : a place or state of misery or wickedness After the injury, life was hell.

More from Merriam-Webster on hell

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for hell

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about hell

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