What does "by heaven" mean here?

I should be far enough from imagining, he replied, that I knew the cause of any of them, by heaven I should;

closed as off-topic by tchrist, FumbleFingers, anongoodnurse, Mari-Lou A, Hellion Jan 2 '14 at 21:16

This question appears to be off-topic. The users who voted to close gave this specific reason:

  • "Questions that can be answered using commonly-available references are off-topic. A list of these references can be found here: List of general references" – tchrist, FumbleFingers, anongoodnurse, Mari-Lou A, Hellion
If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • 1
    It's just an exclamation like 'indeed!' or 'forsooth!'. Kind of old-fashioned, not really used anymore. There's not much additional literal meaning to 'by heaven I should', it just means that the speaker is intensifying what he just said. – Mitch Jan 2 '14 at 14:02
  • It's shortened from something like "I swear by heaven/God/Jesus/etc." As reflected in other "minced oaths" such as archaic Egad! and Irish Bejasuz! – FumbleFingers Jan 2 '14 at 14:08

It means the same thing as "by God", and it probably came about because people wanted to avoid saying "God" in vain. Similar to words like "gosh" or "golly".

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.