Origin of the word hell

The word “hell” is believed to originate from the Norse word “Hel”.

the word “Hell” in the English language comes from “Hel.”


The Old Norse feminine proper noun Hel is identical to the name of the location over which she rules, Old Norse Hel. The word has cognates in all branches of the Germanic languages, including Old English hell (and thus Modern English hell), Old Frisian helle, Old Saxon hellia, Old High German hella, and Gothic halja.


Presumably, hel/helle originally referred to the same kind of Germanic pagan underworld as the Norse Hel, and Christian missionaries to the Anglo-Saxons used the closest word they could find in Old English to refer to Satan’s realm.

https://norse-mythology.org/cosmology/t … s/helheim/

The English word may be in part from Old Norse mythological Hel


Hel is described as a cold realm and ruled by a cold female diety (also called Hel).

As a realm, Hel is described as a cold, shadowy place, inhabited by the souls of individuals who died in a so-called ‘cowardly manner’ (i.e., not in battle). In this way, it can be seen as the polar opposite of Valhalla – Odin’s hall of perpetual feasting, whose doors only open for those slain in conflict.


The concept of Hel seems to be more like Sheol/Hades.

where one goes after death isn’t any kind of reward for moral behavior or pious belief, or punishment for immoral behavior or impious belief.

It wasn’t a place of eternal bliss or torment as much as it was simply a continuation of life somewhere else.

https://norse-mythology.org/cosmology/t … s/helheim/

A depiction of Hel by Johannes Gehrts, 1889