\ 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 curses go to hell or as a generalized term of abuse the 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 motive decided 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 interjection hell, I don't know! or as an intensive hurts like hellfunny as hell often used in the phrase hell of a it was one hell of a good fight or hell out of scared the hell out of him or with the or in moved 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 risks it 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

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.
See More
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Phil makes her life a living hell, leading Rose to become a closet alcoholic, but takes her shy son Peter (Kodi Smit-McPhee) under his wing. Brian Truitt, USA TODAY, 3 Dec. 2021 Just as Motown was an evolution in music rather than a revolution, Gordy was an economic bootstrapper rather than a hell-raiser. Washington Post, 2 Dec. 2021 Our movie is raunchy as hell and hilarious, but it’s also down-to-Earth, closer to real life. Los Angeles Times, 29 Nov. 2021 People have been going through hell all over the country because of this pandemic. ABC News, 28 Nov. 2021 What the hell kind of paper are they getting cut by in Lincoln? Ryan Ford, Detroit Free Press, 28 Nov. 2021 Find out what your authentic self is and be that, come hell or high water. Angie Martoccio, Rolling Stone, 26 Nov. 2021 In the music video for the song, Lil Nas X is seduced out of what appears to be the Garden of Eden, falls into hell and gives the devil a lap dance. NBC News, 24 Nov. 2021 That epic poem — which created the modern image of purgatory, hell and paradise — was dedicated to Beatrice, whose spirit helps guide Dante’s soul through the afterlife in the story. San Diego Union-Tribune, 23 Nov. 2021

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.

See More

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.

Learn More About hell

Time Traveler for hell

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Dictionary Entries Near hell




See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for hell

Last Updated

6 Dec 2021

Cite this Entry

“Hell.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hell. Accessed 7 Dec. 2021.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

More Definitions for hell



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
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

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about hell


Test Your Vocabulary

Name that Thing: Flower Edition

True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!