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hel·​ter-skel·​ter ˌhel-tər-ˈskel-tər How to pronounce helter-skelter (audio)
: in undue haste, confusion, or disorder
ran helter-skelter, getting in each other's wayF. V. W. Mason
: in a haphazard manner


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: a disorderly confusion : turmoil
British : a spiral slide around a tower at an amusement park


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: confusedly hurried : precipitate
: marked by a lack of order or plan : haphazard
the helter-skelter arrangement of the papers, all mussed and frayedJean Stafford

Examples of helter-skelter in a Sentence

Adverb the sheep ran helter-skelter inside their pen when the coyote appeared in their midst goods arranged helter-skelter on the shelves of the variety store Noun in the helter-skelter at the amusement park the child got separated from his parents Adjective a bill that was pushed through committee in a last-minute helter-skelter burst of legislative activity papers, books, and unopened mail were stacked helter-skelter on the desk
Recent Examples on the Web
The Generals fed off each other with the helter-skelter defense. Craig J. Clary, Baltimore Sun, 1 Mar. 2024 In the contemporary, helter-skelter sweep of Mexico City, there is one place — in the southern borough of Xochimilco — where a vision of a watery, pre-Columbian capital may still be imagined. Patrick J. McDonnell, Los Angeles Times, 21 Mar. 2024 The helter-skelter start has the Warriors (27-26) emerging from the All-Star break in 10th place in the West at .500. Danny Emerman, The Mercury News, 21 Feb. 2024 Or, a helter-skelter museum dedicated to beer and Bigfoot. The Courier-Journal, 16 Feb. 2024 That helter-skelter transition threw much of the economics of entertainment out of whack. Jake Coyle, Fortune, 10 Nov. 2023 At the site of the festival, where, on Oct. 7, transporting electronic dance music gave way to the crack of Hamas rifle fire, cars are still scattered helter-skelter, some smashed, some incinerated by missiles, some virtually untouched, with keys and sunglasses resting on the driver’s seat. Roger Cohen Avishag Shaar-Yashuv, New York Times, 15 Oct. 2023 The staging marked one milestone in Spain’s helter-skelter passage to modernity. Callum McLennan, Variety, 2 Oct. 2023 The roll-out for Doja Cat’s forthcoming album has been helter-skelter, leaving fans and the media confused and unsure of whether to take her erratic posts on social media seriously. Jonah Valdez, Los Angeles Times, 31 Aug. 2023
The opening quarter-hour produced a fast but helter-skelter showing. The Enquirer, 25 Feb. 2023 After a helter-skelter start, Mr. Vovk and his top managers reorganized. Patricia Cohen, New York Times, 23 Feb. 2023

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'helter-skelter.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History



perhaps from Middle English skelten to come, go

First Known Use


1593, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1713, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1708, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of helter-skelter was in 1593

Dictionary Entries Near helter-skelter

Cite this Entry

“Helter-skelter.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/helter-skelter. Accessed 18 Jun. 2024.

Kids Definition


: in a confused and reckless manner : pell-mell
ran helter-skelter down the hill
: in no particular order : haphazardly
clothes strewn helter-skelter about the room
helter-skelter adjective

More from Merriam-Webster on helter-skelter

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