Definition of dickens in English:



informal, dated
  • [in singular] Used for emphasis, or to express annoyance or surprise when asking questions.

    ‘what the dickens is going on?’
    ‘they work like the dickens’
    • ‘‘It hurt like the dickens,’ the first-term congressman said.’
    • ‘This is going to hurt like the dickens, but you'll have to bear with it.’
    • ‘And daylilies bloom like the dickens in coastal Southern California, even outflowering roses.’
    • ‘On a bad day, the knees and hips that haven't already been replaced hurt like the dickens.’
    • ‘He is in a dickens of a bind, it seems to me, morally, ethically, and legally.’


Late 16th century: a euphemism for ‘devil’, probably a use of the surname Dickens.