Hell in a Handbasket


What does Hell in a Handbasket mean?

Hell in a handbasket refers to a popular allegorical figure of speech, used to describe situations that are headed toward total disarray: a Clusterfuck.

It can have numerous variations, which include Hell in a handcart or bucket.


What's the origin of Hell in a Handbasket?

While the exact origins of the expression are not known, popular explanations invoke the basket, which contained the heads of the victims of a guillotine execution, while others refer to the biblical story of Moses who was set on the Nile in a basket.

The allegory was already featured on religious imagery, like Borsch’s painting, titled The Haywain where demons are taking people to hell in a cart.

Spread & Usage

How did Hell in a Handbasket spread?

“Hell in a handbasket” started gaining prominence in the United States around the time of the 1840’s gold rush, when people started interacting more with baskets.

The expression, apart from popular use had made its way into religious sermons, as well as various journals, during the 1800’s.

“Hell in a handbasket” was first defined on Urban Dictionary in 2003, with numerous other entries written since.

It was also featured in popular culture, as a line in the video game Left 4 Dead, as well as the title of a 2011 Meat Loaf album.

External resources

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