What does the phrase “come hell or high water” mean and Where does it come from?

The phrase “come hell or high water” means: Let the consequences be whatever they may, however ill.

We’d say that this is considerably older than the date 1915, shown for it in A Dictionary of Americanisms.

In fact, we heard it commonly employed in Colorado and Wyoming some years earlier, and it is the sort of expression that one would expect to find studded through Bret Harte’s Western stories.

And, though the dictionaries describe “high water” as either being about the same thing as ordinary highest tide or ordinary highest flow of a stream, we’d translate the “high water” of this saying as referring specifically to the flash floods of water that roll down a canyon after a heavy storm above, sweeping everything before it.

Certainly that’s the kind of destructive force worthy of comparison with “hell.”