Come hell or high water is an idiom that means one will complete a task or be successful whatever happens. The phrase underscores a commitment to overcoming any obstacles that may arise on the path to one’s goal.
Idioms, like come hell or high water, are figurative expressions defined differently than their literal meanings. These phrases create analogies or word pictures and are popular in informal speech patterns in modern English. Understanding how to use these expressions can help you master the finer points of the English language and its nuances.
This article explores the meaning behind the confusing expression come hell or high water, its origin, synonyms, and various ways to use it. In addition, we’ve provided a fun quiz to test your knowledge.
Keep reading to learn how to use the idiom come hell or high water in your materials and everyday conversations.
What Does the Idiom Come Hell or High Water Mean?
The idiom come hell or high water is used to say that a particular task or goal will undoubtedly be accomplished despite potential challenges or adverse circumstances.
The Cambridge Dictionary states, “If you say that you will do something come hell or high water, you mean that you are determined to do it, despite any difficulties that there might be.” Similarly, Merriam-Webster says it is “used to say that something will definitely happen or be done even though other events or situations might make it difficult.”
This phrase conveys a steadfast attitude, emphasizing the willingness to overcome any obstacles that stand in the way of accomplishing a goal.
Variations of the Idiom
Some variations of the idiom come hell or high water include the following:
- Whether hell or high water comes
- Even if high water or hell should arrive
- Even through high water or hell
- Despite the onset of hell or high water
- Even if hell or high water should interfere
How Is Come Hell or High Water Commonly Used in Context?
Come hell or high water is an informal expression that’s more commonly used in conversation or informal writing. Delve into its applications, discover real-world examples, and get tips on effective usage.
What Are the Different Ways to Use Come Hell or High Water?
- Commitment to a goal: “I will climb to the top of that hill, come hell or high water.”
- Making a promise: “I’ll be at your party, come hell or high water.”
- Facing a challenge: “I’ll be there for you, come hell or high water, whatever happens.”
- Overcoming adversity: “You’ll finish the three-peaks race, come hell or high water.”
- Personal strength: “I will stay strong, come hell or high water.”
Where Can You Find Examples of Come Hell or High Water?
Although used in informal and casual conversation, come hell or high water is a popular idiom and is regularly used to express overcoming adversity to achieve an end goal. You’ll find it used in everyday conversation, literature, and songs.
The phrase is commonly used in movie titles, such as the film “Hell or High Water” (2016).
Here are some examples of come hell or high water being used in online resources:
And though she hasn’t had much luck with her romantic or business ventures so far, with such grit, we’re sure she will succeed one day, come hell or high water. (Mumbai Mirror)
What I’ve learned, after listening to hours of conversations with so many incredible humans, is this: music is a force of energy, and come hell or high water, it will sustain, says Deike. (Billboard Magazine)
I was so angry that something like this could happen in America that I decided I was going to get involved, come hell or high water. (The Florida Phoenix)
What Are Some Tips for Using Come Hell or High Water Effectively?
Here are some tips for effectively using come hell or high water in everyday conversations:
- Know the meaning: The idiom is an informal way of describing an intention to overcome adversity to achieve a goal.
- Use descriptive language: When using the idiom, enhance its effectiveness by combining it with descriptive language that paints a word picture of achieving a goal, no matter what.
- Be mindful of the audience: Come hell or high water might be more appropriate for use among your friends or family. However, individuals unfamiliar with the idiom might not understand it well.
- Use alternatives sparingly: Be mindful of using alternatives sparingly to maintain the idiomatic relationship and clarity of the expression and create more impact.
- Use it in conversational phrases: Incorporate the phrase into conversation or sentences to make your speech flow naturally.
- Avoid overuse: Don’t overuse the idiom, as that can reduce its effectiveness and impact.
What Is the Origin of the Idiom Come Hell or High Water?
The idiom come hell or high water originated in America in the 19th century. It was first seen in print in May 1882 in The Burlington Weekly Hawk Eye, an Iowa newspaper.
However, it’s likely to have been used first by the early pioneers who arrived in the early 1700s to colonize the United States. Those brave folk had many obstacles and challenges to overcome. However, their determination to carve a living and make a home on the wild frontier remained undaunted, come hell or high water.
How Did the Idiom Evolve Over Time?
Over time, the idiom was used to describe a challenging situation where someone was determined to overcome adversity, no matter what. Come hell or high water, the person would succeed in their endeavor, no matter what challenges or obstacles life throws at them.
What Are Some Related Terms to Come Hell or High Water?
To fully understand its idiomatic use, you must understand the context and meaning of the expression. Knowing the related terms can help you better know how to define the idiom properly.
- No matter what happens
- Come rain or shine
- Against the odds
- Whatever it takes
- By hook or by crook
- Give up
- Abandon ship
- I surrender
- I’m not bothered
Come Hell Or High Water: Test Your Knowledge!
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Come hell or high water is a relatively modern English idiom, having first appeared in print in the 1800s, although it was probably used by United States pioneers in the 1700s.
The idiom come hell or high water means you will achieve something, no matter your challenges or adversity. So, when you hear the phrase, it means the person saying it intends to do something or meet a challenge regardless of what obstacles they might face.