from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. Informal A severe reprimand or expression of anger: gave me the dickens for being late.
  • n. Informal Used as an intensive: What in the dickens is that?

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. The devil.
  • n. In the phrase the dickens (Used as an intensifier).

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. The devil.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. The deuce: used interjectionally, with the definite article (formerly sometimes with the indefinite).

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. English writer whose novels depicted and criticized social injustice (1812-1870)
  • n. a word used in exclamations of confusion


Alteration of devil (influenced by the name Dickens).
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
Origin: 1590–1600; apparently a fanciful use of the proper name Dicken, form of Dick. (Wiktionary)



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  • Corruption of "Old Nick" - the Devil. (via NPR's Says You)

    August 6, 2011

  • "... and then shin for the raft like the dickens was after you!" HF 23

    December 7, 2006