The bent in hell-bent is the past participle of the verb to bend, a word through at least 23 meanings in the OED.

You are watching: What does hell bent for leather mean

To be “bent on something” is to be determined to carry out a certain point. Ex. He was bent upon coming to be Prime Minister. She was bent on proving him wrong.

One of the interpretations of “to bend” is “to go in a particular direction.” Literally, then, to be “hell-bent” would intend “going in the direction of hell.” The method we usage it, to be “hell-bent on something” indicates to be wholeheartedly determined to obtain something done. The OED gives these citations:

1731 Ab-origines in Arms..did then retype, In Haste to Susquehanna Ft, Hell bent on Thoughts of Massacree.

1835 A huge encampment of saveras,..‘hell-bent on carnage’.

1891The state of Texas, or at least its legislature, went hell-bent for the reform of railroadways.

The OED specifies “hell-bent” as both adjective and also adverb:

hell-bent: adj. Usually in predicative use, with on, upon, or infinitive. Determined to achieve something at all costs; passionately or recklessly intent.

hell-bent: adv. In a hell-bent manner; through no effort or sources spared; all out, wholeheartedly, totally; determinedly, doggedly.

The expression hell-for-leather implies at “breakneck rate, exceptionally fast” and was initially used through referral to riding on horseago. It might have actually originated with Kipling. The earliest citation in the OED is from an 1889 Kipling story, “The Valley of the Shadow.”

CAPT. M. (Jealously) Then don’t say it! Leave him alone. It’s not bad sufficient to croak over. Here, Gaddy, take the chit to Bingle and also ride hell-for-leather. It’ll execute you great. I can’t go.JUNIOR CHAPLAIN. (Flicking M.’s charger.) That’ll perform, thanks. Turn in, Gadsby, and also I’ll bring Bingle back–ahem–‘hell-for-leather.’

The foffered expression hell-bent for leather (1926) is reportedly an Amerihave the right to coinage that foffers hell-bent via hell-for-leather and indicates “recklessly rapid.”

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5 Responses to ““Hell-bent” and also “Hell-for-leather””

Deb Kincaidon March 03, 2010 3:04 pm

Interesting! I only THOUGHT I kbrand-new the finish interpretation of the words. Thanks for this post.

Don Sassanoon March 03, 2010 3:37 pm

Excerpt from the “Rawhide” TV display Theme:

Rollin’, rollin’, rollin’Though the streams are swollenKeep them dogies rollin’Rawhide!Rain and wind and weatherHell-bent for leatherWishin’ my gal was by my side.All the points I’m missin’,Good vittles, love, and also kissin’,Are waiting at the end of my ride

–from Lyrics (On) Demand

Cathyon March 03, 2010 6:20 pm

Oh my gosh! Thanks to Don for those lyrics to Rawhide. I sang that song as a little girl and also I never kbrand-new what that line was saying. I would certainly sing, “Rain and wind and weather. Da-da-dah for leather.” Now I know!

Markon March 08, 2010 3:13 pm

People that are described as being “hell-bent for leather” might likewise be people that are simply incredibly identified to get a new pair of chaps or pumps.

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mailavon March 18, 2010 2:15 am

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