"Like hell I will!"

Can someone explain this expression to me? It usually comes across in the following situation:

X: “Y, you’re going to cut off your arm and give it to me.”

Y: “Like hell I will!” (meaning no friggin way)

Obviously, the expression means “NO!” but why? I can’t figure it out. Where did this expression come from, and is there any explanation as to why it means what it means?

I’ve heard it a lot, but I heard it on TV last night and it finally piqued my interest.

Oops. I thought this was the “evil Yoda” thread.

surely someone must know the origin of this expression… this is the straight dope for satan’s sake!

This use of “hell” as a “postpositive interjection” goes back in print in the US to at least 1845. The quote then was

It could “express ittitation, incredulity, irony, or scorn.”


It pays to split the phrase in two to take a good look at it, IMHO.

From this site:

And (oddly enough), this entry from an Alternative Ukranian dictionary online reminded me of the English Regency usage: “The Devil I will!”

“Like Hell” is the intensive, and I’d say the “I will!” part, usually said with a raised, emotional uptone at the end, comes from pre-1800s English usage.