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heck

Line breaks: heck
Pronunciation: /hɛk
 
/

Definition of heck in English:

exclamation

1Expressing surprise, frustration, or dismay: oh heck, I can’t for the life of me remember
More example sentences
  • I surprised my parents, heck I even surprised Mrs. Morgan, the old lady next door.
  • Flipping heck, dash it, and crumbs - I think I'm becoming a potty mouth.
  • Flippin heck, this is in another class altogether.
1.1 (the heck) Used for emphasis in questions and exclamations: what the heck’s the matter?
More example sentences
  • Jen mentions Jason's big question - how the heck do bloggers have the time to write so much stuff?
  • Which brings up the inevitable question: What the heck has Bob been doing?
  • Dex looked at me and gave a freaked out smile as to say where the heck did that question come from after one creepy long stare?
1.2 (a heck of a ——) Used for emphasis in various statements or exclamations: it was a heck of a lot of money
More example sentences
  • This was going to be one heck of a frustrating experience for the both of them.
  • He's funny, sexy as hell, a heck of a nice guy, unmarried, good values, yadda yadda.
  • That seems like a heck of a lot of money to sit on your butt all day.

Origin

late 19th century (originally northern English dialect): euphemistic alteration of hell.

More
  • hell from (Old English):

    Hell descends from an ancient Indo-European root with the sense ‘to cover, hide’ which also gave rise to Latin celare (root of conceal (Middle English) and occult) and to English hole ( see hold), helmet (Late Middle English), and heel ‘to set a plant in the ground and cover its roots’. This was originally unconnected with the Old English word for the part of the foot, but rather came from helian ‘cover’.

    The infernal regions are regarded as a place of torment or punishment, and many curses and exclamations, such as a hell of a— or one hell of a—, depend on this. These expressions used to be shocking, and until the early 20th century were usually printed as h—l or h—. Alterations such as heck (late 19th century) served the same softening purpose in speech as well as in writing. The saying hell hath no fury like a woman scorned is a near quotation from a 1697 play by William Congreve: ‘Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned, Nor Hell a fury like a woman scorned.’ The dramatist Colley Cibber had used very similar words just a year earlier, and the idea was commonplace in the Renaissance. It can be traced back to the Greek dramatist Euripides of the 5th century bc. Strictly the ‘fury’ is one of the Furies of Greek mythology, frightening goddesses who avenged wrong and punished crime, but most people now use and interpret it in the sense ‘wild or violent anger’. The proverb the road to hell is paved with good intentions dates from the late 16th century, but earlier forms existed which omitted the first three words. Grumpy and misanthropic people everywhere will agree with the French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre who wrote in 1944: ‘Hell is other people.’

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