Hell Bent for Leather

Contents: Meaning | Origin | Spread

Meaning

What does Hell Bent for Leather mean?

Hell bent for leather is a popular expression, though a bit archaic by our time, used for expressing an unwavering need for speed.

The phrase consists of two parts: “hell bent” which refers to a strong determination, and “for leather” which is an allusion to the material a saddle is made of, resembling the phrase Big Iron.

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Origin

What's the origin of Hell Bent for Leather?

Although it is not known when exactly the expression “Hell bent for leather” was formed, it comes from a similar colloquialism, originating from the British Army: “Hell for Leather”, which first appeared in the early 1860’s.

“Hell bent for leather” was first published in print in The London Magazine in 1912.

Spread & Usage

How did Hell Bent for Leather spread?

Throughout the 20th century, the popularity of the phrase grew significantly, becoming associated with the wild west, thanks to the romanticizing work of western motion pictures and novels.

A notable film of the Western genre, titled “Hell Bent for Leather” premiered in the United States on February 1st, 1960.

It was also the title of a 1978 Judas Priest song, that inspired many covers and remakes in the years to follow.

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