Where does the saying “Sam Hill” come from and What does Sam Hill mean?

After long and diligent search for some American of sufficient prominence in a bygone generation to justify the continued use of his name, even to the present time, in such sayings as “to run like Sam Hill,” “What the Sam Hill,” “Who the Sam Hill,” and so on, we have come to the reluctant conclusion that the editors of The Dictionary of Americanisms were right in calling the term “a euphemism for hell.”

It may be, as Edwin V. Mitchell says in his Encyclopedia of American Politics (1946), that there was a Colonel Samuel Hill of Guilford, Connecticut, who continuously ran for and was elected to public office in both town and state, but this colonel, though perhaps locally prominent, does not turn up in any of the numerous biographical records we have consulted.

Nor does Mr. Mitchell supply any dates.

The expression itself had sufficiently widespread usage to extend into Schuyler County, New York, by 1839.

About Karen Hill

Karen Hill is a freelance writer, editor, and columnist. Born in New York, her work has appeared in the Examiner, Yahoo News, Buzzfeed, among others.

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