Is “Hellish” a Bad Word?

The only time the word “hellish” would be something classified as “bad” is when you say in front of someone who has a very religious worldview. Other than that, “hellish” isn’t bad in and of itself; it’s how you choose to use it in a sentence. Like any other word, it’s about the intention of usage and context.

“Hellish” can be a great word to describe conditions, an experience or to illustrate feelings about any given event. It’s a real word with a long history and its meaning has morphed and changed throughout the years.

A “Hellish” Definition

“Hellish” describes someone, something, or someplace which is torturous, evil, painful, cruel, or pertaining to crushing the soul.

“Hellish” Etymology; Metamorphoses

The word “hellish” has its roots in the word “hell,” which initially comes from the ancient Nordic belief referencing a goddess named “Hel.” She ruled the underworld and handled dead souls that did not make it to the halls of Valhalla. This is the Viking concept of an honorable death awarded to those warriors who died in battle.

Hell, in this context, wasn’t necessarily bad or evil, although it could be. The Nordic idea of hell is a place where souls go after a person died of illness, accident, starvation, or some other similar situation. But, there was another area reserved in this underworld realm for those who murdered, raped, stole, or committed other crimes in life.

But, since the introduction of Christian and Islamic ideologies, the understanding and meaning of “hell” changed. This became the infamous place of “fire and brimstone,” where sinners against the word of God go for their eternal torment. This is how we relate “hellish” today when used in a sentence.

Examples of “Hellish”

Consider the examples below that incorporate “hellish” as an adjective. This will illustrate, portray and/or describe a noun to paint it in a negative light.

This hellish summer heat is intolerable.

The behavior and mannerisms of the children were hellish.

Waiting for the doctor in an emergency room can be a hellish experience.


“Hellish” isn’t a bad word per se, but it may be somewhat offensive to someone who has strong religious leanings. This will be particularly true for people who are Christian or Muslim. Therefore, you can use “hellish” as you like but be mindful around friends and family who have an orthodox worldview.