Helter skelter or helter-skelter

As a noun, adjective, and adverb, this term is spelled the same way: helter-skelter. It means to be disorderly, confused, hurried, or haphazard. Outside of the United States, the noun form can be used as a name for a certain kind of amusement park ride that twists and turns around a tower.

Helter skelter, without a hyphen, is often used for the title of songs, books, or movies.


The exact origin of the term is unknown but it dates from the late sixteenth century.


The backdrop of the main stage collapsed in the rain and people had to run helter-skelter to protect themselves. [The Hindu]

As RSL’s standard approach in the new 4-3-3 look evolves each week, the results are becoming increasingly clear that the club figured out what went wrong in the helter-skelter 3-3 home-opening draw against Philadelphia on March 14. [The Salt Lake Tribune]

This helter-skelter of unprecedented changes was not only welcome to providers of oil, coal, natural gas, aluminum, copper, iron ore, etc., plus precious metals such as gold, silver and platinum, but generated huge amounts of excess liquidity that was invested worldwide. [The Desert Sun]

In short, it is the sort of place where you can ride a helter-skelter, participate in a magick ritual, find an antique bargain and get into a bar fight, all within the space of some 200 yards. [The Telegraph]

Curt Gentry, an author and well-regarded biographer of J. Edgar Hoover who had his biggest commercial success when he teamed up with Vincent Bugliosi to write the 1974 blockbuster “Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders,” died on July 10 in San Francisco. He was 83. [The New York Times]


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