Anonymous asked in Education & ReferenceWords & Wordplay · 1 decade ago

What does "Heavens to Betsy Mean?"?

16 Answers

  • 1 decade ago
    Favorite Answer

    The meaning is simple enough: it’s just a mild exclamation of shock or surprise. It is almost exclusively an American expression. As to where it came from, nobody has the slightest idea. It seems to be one of those traditional sayings that have been around in the language for generations, but which only latterly have come to be recorded in print. The big Oxford English Dictionary has a first citation from 1914, but I’m told it can be found as far back as 1891. Some have tried to trace it to the Revolutionary War and to Betsy Ross, but have failed; others think it may have something to do with the frontiersman’s rifle, often called Old Betsy, but there’s no evidence that saying and name are associated. Charles Earle Funk, who in 1955 used the phrase as part of the title of a book about curious phrases, said that its origins were “completely unsolvable”. We have to leave it as one of the great mysteries of lexicography, along with the similar heavens to Murgatroyd. Unless someone reading this knows different?

  • 4 years ago


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  • 4 years ago

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    This American phrase has been in circulation since the latter part of the 19th century, although its use faded throughout the 20th century and it is now something of an anachronism. The first example of it that I can find is in Rose Terry Cooke's book of short stories Huckleberries Gathered from New England Hills, 1891: 'Heavens to Betsy!' gasped Josiah. Of course, what we would like to know is who Betsy was. Various theories have been put forward but it is unlikely that she will be identified, if indeed Betsy ever was a real person - which seems doubtful. The etymologist Charles Earle Funk published Heavens to Betsy! and other curious sayings in 1955. In that he ventured the opinion that the origins of 'Heavens to Betsy' were "completely unsolvable".

  • 3 years ago

    Heavens To Betsy

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  • 4 years ago

    Has anyone ever heard the British use this word. "Bloody"? Yes, most people have. It happens that the word aforementioned is a contraction of the previously frequently used exclamation of "By the Lady!" Which was Catholic slang for the Virgin Mary. Now, after the reformation of England, people couldn t just go around saying things like that or they might be put in prison, hung, or beheaded; according to rank. Therefore, people had to come up with something else to say. King Henry VIII died a relatively short time after the reformation, and for may years after the kingdom swung from Protestantism to Catholicism and back again. By the time Queen Elizabeth I came to the throne people had had enough time to come up with a new exclamation. "Heavens to Betsy!" And by so saying they could affirm their loyalty to the Protestant Church and Her Majesty without being blasphemous to either.

  • 4 years ago

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  • 1 decade ago

    Heaven's to Betsy! is just an old expression (of surprise) like later expressions Good grief! or Holy cow! or even later ones, which tend to be quite crude.

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    5 years ago

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  • 1 decade ago

    A mild exclamation of surprise.

    This American phrase has been in circulation since the latter part of the 19th century, although its use faded throughout the 20th century and it is now something of an anachronism. The first example of it that can be found is in Rose Terry Cooke's book of short stories Huckleberries Gathered from New England Hills, 1891:

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