The English Word Hell

The English word Hell grew into its present meaning. Horne Tooke says that hell, heel, hill, hole, whole, hall, hull, halt and hold are all from the same root. "Hell, any place, or some place covered over. Heel, that part of the foot which is covered by the leg. Hill, any heap of earth, or stone, etc., by which the plain or level surface of the earth is covered. Hale, i.e., healed or whole. Whole, the same as hale, i.e., covered. It was formerly written whole, without the w, as a wound or sore is healed, or whole, that is, covered over by the skin, which manner of expression will not seem extraordinary if we consider our use of the word recover. Hall, a covered building, where persons assemble, or where goods are protected from the weather. Hull, of a nut, etc. That by which a nut is covered. Hole, some place covered over. 'You shall seek for holes to hide your heads in.' Holt, holed, hol'd holt. A rising ground or knoll covered with trees. Hold, as the hold of a ship, in which things are covered, or the covered part of a ship."

The word was first applied to the grave by our German and English ancestors, and as superstition came to regard the grave as an entrance to a world of torment, Hell at length became the word used to denote an imaginary realm of fiery woe.

Dr. Adam Clarke says: "The word Hell, used in the common translation, conveys now an improper meaning of the original word; because Hell is only used to signify the place of the damned. But as the word Hell comes from the Anglo-Saxon helan, to cover, or hide, henee the tiling or slating of a house is called, in some parts of England (particularly Cornwall), heling, to this day, and the corers of books (in Lancashire), by the same name, so the literal import of the original word hades was formerly well expressed by it."—Com. in loc.

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