Understanding the Idiom: "go through hell" - Meaning, Origins, and Usage

Idiom language: English

Have you ever heard someone say they are going through hell? This idiom is often used to describe a difficult or painful experience that someone is enduring. It can refer to physical, emotional, or mental suffering.

The phrase “go through” implies that the person is actively experiencing the hardship and must endure it until it comes to an end. The word “hell” adds emphasis to the severity of the situation, as it is often associated with intense pain and suffering.

This idiom can be used in a variety of contexts, from describing a personal struggle to referencing a larger societal issue. It is important to understand its meaning and usage in order to communicate effectively with others who may use this expression.

  • The origin of the idiom
  • Examples of how it is used in conversation
  • Tips for understanding its meaning based on context
  • How to use it appropriately in your own communication

By gaining a better understanding of this common idiom, you will be able to connect more effectively with those around you who may be experiencing difficult times.

Origins and Historical Context of the Idiom “go through hell”

The idiom “go through hell” is a commonly used expression in English language that refers to experiencing extreme difficulties or hardships. It is often used to describe a situation where someone has to endure an unpleasant experience, such as a challenging period in their life or a difficult task at work.

The origins of this idiom can be traced back to ancient Greek mythology. In Greek mythology, the underworld was known as Hades, which was ruled by the god of the same name. According to legend, Hades was a place where souls went after death and were judged for their actions in life. Those who had led virtuous lives were rewarded with eternal happiness while those who had lived wickedly were punished with eternal suffering.

Over time, this concept of Hades became associated with any place or situation that caused extreme pain and suffering. The phrase “go through hell” eventually evolved from this idea and came to be used more broadly in everyday language.

In modern times, the idiom “go through hell” continues to be widely used across different cultures and languages. Its popularity can be attributed to its ability to succinctly convey the idea of facing adversity and overcoming it with resilience and determination.

Usage and Variations of the Idiom “go through hell”

When we say that someone has “gone through hell,” we mean that they have experienced a difficult or painful situation. This idiom is often used to describe extreme challenges, such as surviving a natural disaster or battling a serious illness. However, there are many variations of this idiom that can be used in different contexts.

One common variation is to say that someone is “going through hell and high water.” This means that they are facing obstacles and difficulties from all directions, but they are determined to persevere. Another variation is to say that someone is “putting themselves through hell.” This implies that the person is voluntarily subjecting themselves to a difficult situation for some greater purpose.

In some cases, the phrase “hell on earth” may be used instead of “go through hell.” This emphasizes the severity of the situation and suggests that it feels like an unbearable burden. Additionally, people may use other idioms with similar meanings, such as “in hot water” or “up against the wall.”

Synonyms, Antonyms, and Cultural Insights for the Idiom “go through hell”


  • Experience a nightmare
  • Endure a trial by fire
  • Be put through the wringer
  • Suffer greatly
  • Bear the brunt of something difficult


  • Cruise through an easy task
  • Enjoy a walk in the park
  • Breeze through without any trouble
  • Have it easy compared to others’ struggles
    • Cultural Insights:

      In Western culture, there is often an emphasis on perseverance and overcoming obstacles. This may be why idioms like “go through hell” are commonly used to describe difficult experiences. In contrast, some Eastern cultures may place more value on avoiding suffering altogether or finding inner peace despite external challenges.

      Practical Exercises for the Idiom “go through hell”

      In order to fully grasp the meaning of the idiom “go through hell”, it is important to practice using it in various contexts. By doing so, you can gain a deeper understanding of its nuances and how it can be applied in different situations.

      Exercise 1: Writing Prompts

      Choose one of the following writing prompts and incorporate the idiom “go through hell” into your response:

      • Describe a time when you had to overcome a difficult obstacle.
      • Tell a story about someone who went through a challenging experience but came out stronger on the other side.
      • Create a fictional scenario where someone must go through hell in order to achieve their goal.

      Exercise 2: Role Playing

      Pick a partner and act out different scenarios where one person is going through a tough time while the other offers support and encouragement. Use the idiom “go through hell” in your dialogue to convey empathy and understanding.

      Note: These exercises are meant to be fun ways to practice using idiomatic expressions. Remember that idioms should not be taken literally, as they often have figurative meanings that may not make sense if translated word-for-word.

      Common Mistakes to Avoid When Using the Idiom “go through hell”

      When using the idiom “go through hell,” it is important to be mindful of common mistakes that can lead to misunderstandings or misinterpretations. While this expression may seem straightforward, there are nuances and subtleties that can impact its meaning.

      Avoiding Literal Interpretations

      One common mistake when using this idiom is taking it too literally. Going through hell does not necessarily mean experiencing physical torture or punishment. Instead, it typically refers to a difficult or challenging experience, often one that lasts for an extended period of time.

      To avoid confusion, it’s important to use context clues and understand the intended meaning behind the phrase. For example, if someone says they “went through hell” during a job interview process, they likely mean that the experience was stressful and emotionally draining rather than physically painful.

      Avoiding Overuse

      Another mistake to avoid when using this idiom is overusing it in conversation or writing. While it can be a powerful way to describe a challenging situation, relying on it too heavily can make your language repetitive and lose its impact.

      Mistake Solution
      Using literal interpretations Paying attention to context clues and understanding intended meaning
      Overusing the idiom Varying language and finding alternative ways to express difficulty or challenge


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