What does "raise holy hell" mean? Is it a common phrase to use? I Googled the phrase, but couldn't find any definition.

It is used in the following context:

In the end it was Stanley Stewart, from the family's third generation, who raised holy hell (including knocking over a table during a heated argument) and finally convinced the family to move ahead with its own branding campaign.

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    In the UK I think people say "raise merry hell" more often. Jun 11, 2012 at 11:04
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    @FumbleFingers Neither are a particularly common expression in the UK, but yes, raise merry hell is used a bit more. We're more likely to talk about creating chaos or mayhem.
    – Lunivore
    Jun 11, 2012 at 12:57
  • @Lunivore: If by that you mean you think they're both more common in America, I disagree. Here's my evidence that holy hell has recently shot to prominence in the US, whereas merry hell has always been the UK's preference. And the "prevalence" figures suggest the "merry" version actually occurs more often in the UK, per million words in print. Jun 11, 2012 at 14:03
  • I have no idea whether they're common in America; just saying it's not an expression I really hear in the UK, though I do read it in older books. I'm in the UK and couldn't possibly comment on the US. It is entirely possible that it's more common in the UK, just saying that more common doesn't mean common.
    – Lunivore
    Jun 11, 2012 at 15:51

2 Answers 2


It means to create havoc or chaos, usually in a confrontational or argumentative way.

If you search for raise hell you'll find the definition you're looking for - here's one. The word holy is just there as emphasis. I particularly like the way in which holy and hell used together - being opposites - show the breadth of the chaos that holy hell will create.

  • Ah, that was why I couldn't find any definition... :S thanks a lot for your help!
    – vul3
    Jun 11, 2012 at 9:49

To raise / create: Holy Hell; Merry Hell; All Hell; Hell on Earth; a Hell of a Stink, were widely used expressions in UK English as recently as the late 20th Century. The use of 'religious' references [ Holy; Hell; Jesus; etc] in UK English as curses has a long history with words such as 'Zounds' = HIS wounds / Jesus' wounds, being common in Shakespearian and subsequent times. This use has declined rapidly with the decline in perceived fear of divine power and retribution.
A similar softer cursing - ruddy = bloody; heck = hell has also fallen into non-use.
Modern UK cursing, swearing and personal abuse now focuses on, for example: sexual references utilizing the short Anglo Saxon words for sexual [Female] parts, and the act of copulation.

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