I've learned the meaning of "Go to hell" from the dictionary as

used to express angry rejection of someone or something

I have done my part of research by Googling "etymology for go to hell meaning" and I got a few sites like www.etymonline.com. However, they aren't very helpful.

I am curious about its etymology. If anybody knows, please explain it to me.

closed as off-topic by Mari-Lou A, jimm101, NVZ, tchrist Jan 5 '17 at 1:11

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  • The answer is in Etymonline Dictionary To wish someone would go to hell is in Shakespeare ("Merchant of Venice"). – Mari-Lou A Jan 4 '17 at 9:47
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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because the answer is found in Etymonline Dictionary, if the OP had done his research as claimed, he should have included this result in the post. – Mari-Lou A Jan 4 '17 at 9:49
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    @Mari-LouA - Strongly disagree. A brief notation of the fact that a single author used a phrase is not sufficient to determine a complete history of that phrase. – cobaltduck Jan 4 '17 at 16:47
  • @cobaltduck I wanted to edit the question, and include a linked reference, when I checked Etymonline, which basically cribs from the OED, and saw that there was a clear indication of when the phrase was first used, well either I deleted the OP's claim of having Googled its origin, or I had to change it completely. There is no research shown. None. This means the Q should be closed. But you can still upvote the two answers on this page, if you feel like it, both are worthy of attention. – Mari-Lou A Jan 4 '17 at 17:12

The English language has been primarily spoken either by Christian people or by people who are familiar with Christian concepts since part-way through the Old English period (after the Angle-Saxon people were converted). For that reason, Christian concepts have had a strong influence upon the language in a variety of ways both subtle and blatant, including ironically in most of its stronger terms (to use the concept of damnation in such a manner is arguably blasphemy, and hence a sin).

Mainstream Christian views of the afterlife offer the alternatives of Salvation in which one ends up in heaven, or Damnation in which one ends up in hell, with both being for all eternity (purgatory and limbo complicate the matter somewhat but aren't relevant). There are other Christian views, but most of them are relatively recent.

Hence, go to hell, damn you, damned, darn (a variant of damn considered less forceful), to hell with you/it/them/him/etc., devil take him (dialect de'il take him relatively common at one point) and other expressions conveying that you hope for, or expect, the damnation of the subject are quite common.

In usage they are considered mild expletives - not very polite, but less offensive than the sex-based expletives.


What’s to explain? Hell is the worst place you can wish anyway to go to, even if only in your imagination. The expression goe to hell is found in Shakespeare's 'Merchant of Venice'.

  • there is a subtler use in Hamlet, "In heaven; send hither to see: if your messenger find him not there, seek him i' the other place yourself." – rosends Dec 26 '12 at 18:09
  • @Dan: What, Wembley? (at 1:25) – Mitch Dec 26 '12 at 18:44
  • @Mitch: There are probably people living in Slough who pray for the friendly bombs to fall, so they can ascend to Wembley, and be greeted by 72 virgins – FumbleFingers Dec 28 '12 at 21:56

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