Definition of play hell (or merry hell) in English:

play hell (or merry hell)

phrase

British
informal
  • 1Create havoc.

    ‘the kids play merry hell until she tells them to go to bed at once’
    • ‘This played hell with us in the classroom the next day as we would lose lots of sleep.’
    • ‘Eventually I have always lost money, because these places sell drinks and that plays hell on my concentration.’
    • ‘We caught up with her as she was driving home from a three hour trip along a mountainous Oregon highway that played hell with the cell-phone connection.’
    • ‘On a beautiful, cloudless day it was utterly icy cold and there was a ‘lazy wind’ (it cuts straight through you rather than bothering to go round) that was playing hell with my attempts at backhand passes.’
    • ‘The news played hell with the parents of the children, who were on the verge on going hysterical.’
    • ‘But I would have played hell if it hadn't been offered.’
    • ‘Trouble was, it never got done, until the doctor himself arrived and played merry hell because I hadn't been given anything to eat or drink for almost 2 days.’
    • ‘The huge chunk of ice has played merry hell with the normal ocean currents, stopping much of the sea ice from breaking up during the Antarctic summer.’
    • ‘You'll do anything to be near them, accepting pot after pot of coffee, even though it'll play hell with your plumbing.’
    • ‘He wanted her gone because she was playing hell with his senses.’
    • ‘Constant honking was heard throughout the day playing hell with a peaceful residential locality.’
    • ‘When you can't eat, or get sick from antibiotics, which play hell with your stomach, when you can finally eat, Burger King seems very appealing.’
    • ‘We found the leftmost track the easiest, but we're still talking tricky and they'll play hell with your pedalling rhythm, as the lane you're in ends with frustrating regularity and everyone else's lane looks a much better bet…’
    • ‘Whatever force was playing merry hell with her life, she had the strong feeling that it wasn't through with them yet.’
    • ‘Also, there was one weapon the enemy surprised us with in this campaign, and they played hell with us.’
    • ‘My informant excused himself shortly afterwards, on the grounds that his associate would play merry hell if he was late for lunch.’
    • ‘Labor's policy was to play merry hell with health, education and the police.’
    • ‘The Sri Lankan cricketers are a worried lot, since their contracts have not been renewed yet with the officials playing merry hell according to information received by Rover.’
    • ‘This fun series plays merry hell with biographical facts.’
    1. 1.1 Cause damage.
      ‘the rough road played hell with the tyres’
      • ‘Sometimes I think these people would be annoyed if Jesus did return, because it would play hell with their fundraising.’
      • ‘It plays hell with contact lenses and the officers' laptop computers, and clogs up weapons, which have to be cleaned daily.’
      • ‘Of course, sand does play hell on your kit, but I don't really think that's the point the LA Times was trying to get across.’
      • ‘It plays hell with your social life.’