Is Heck a bad word that you can’t say at work? Here’s the answer

Sometimes when you’re talking to someone, they might not be the type of person to say a swear word. And even for them, “Hell” is off-limits.

These people are somewhat religious a lot of the time and saying “Heck” is a friendly alternative to Hell.

Is “Heck” a bad word?

There is a bit of debate surrounding whether or not “Heck” is a bad word, and the answer is yes and no. It’s certainly not a compliment, but nobody would be too offended if you were to say it to them.

Today, I want to talk about where this word comes from and how it differs from other words.

Just a word of warning, maybe don’t read this article out loud in front of your parents.

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F*ck, Hell, Heck

Some of the people who are a little bit more open about their language might use the word “f*ck”. In unpleasant situations, they might exclaim “What the f*ck is going on?”.

“F*ck” is the most powerful word that you can use in this situation.

If you don’t wish to swear, you can instead say “Hell”.

“What the Hell is going on?”

Hell is slightly less rude than “f*ck”, but if you’re in polite company, it can be useful in getting your point across.

And for those of us who want to be extra careful about our language, we can use the word “heck”. The problem with Hell is that it could be seen as blasphemy, and can be upsetting to religious people.

“Heck” on the other hand, does not have this issue. The word doesn’t even appear in the Bible.

Origin of the phrase “What the heck”

Today, the word “heck” is spoken in most English speaking countries across the world, including the USA. But it has its origins in the same country that the language has its roots in. England.

But unlike much of the language, “Heck” does not come from London. But instead the more northern parts of the country.

Most language experts believe that “Heck” is a portmanteau of the other two words we’ve spoken about “f*ck” and “hell”.

Funny how it was created as a combination of the two words but has since become a toned-down version of them.

A place called Heck

If there is such a place “Hell” (and I’m not saying if there is or isn’t, this is just a thought experiment), then indeed it would it be funny if there was also a place called “Heck”?

In Heck, things are bad. But not terrible like they are in Hell.

For example, in Hell, you would be woken up by being stabbed by several red hot knives. But in Heck, you would be woken up by Cardi-B’s WAP and to turn off the music, you would need to walk over a cold, grubby floor.

Can you say “What the heck” at work?

There are plenty of words that it’s okay to say in front of your friends, but maybe you should avoid saying them when you’re at work. Examples of such terms may include “loser” “stupid” and “heck”.

I would argue that there may be some situations when you can use “heck” at work. If you’re talking to a colleague, you still need to be polite, but you don’t need to be too professional. Therefore so long as you don’t use it to insult them, it’s okay to say “heck”.

However, if you’re talking to one of your customers, I would avoid the use of “heck” altogether.

Why “Heck” can’t replace F*ck or Hell

I would not recommend using the word “heck” every single time you wish to say “f*ck” or “hell”. Because whilst both of them are bad words, there will be some situations when saying a bad word can be necessary.

I’m not saying that you need to swear all the time, but in situations where a swear word is warranted, you need to use that word.

“What the Heck?” is an appropriate thing to say when you’re struggling to do a crossword. But if there’s been a fire in your neighbourhood, “What the Hell?” is going to have more impact.

Altered Curse Words

“Heck” is far from the only altered curse words. Sometimes, using words that sound like curse words but aren’t can help up to show we’re annoyed but not quite annoyed enough to swear.

“Gosh Darn it” sounds similar to “God Dammit”, which some might be upset by if they are religious.

“Shut the front door” sounds similar to “Shut the f*ck up” but without the use of the F-Word.

“Oh shoot” has a similar sound to “Oh shit”.

In the TV show “The Good Place”, the main characters cannot swear, if they try to say f*ck they’ll say “fork” and sh*t turns into “shirt. Although unlike our other examples, this isn’t a choice. The ashholes that created the rule are a bunch of forking shirts.

Heck vs Heckle

“Heck” sounds almost like another word that we use “Heckle”. But despite how similar “Heck” and “Heckle” sound, they aren’t related at all, and they have totally different etymologies.

“Heckle” comes from the Old Dutch “Hekelen” which means to ask questions severely. It’s what you might find an audience member who’s had a bit too much to drink doing if they go to a comedy show doing.

We swear too much

Even if there are some situations where “heck” doesn’t do the job, I would argue that we do swear way too much. I know people who swear every other sentence.

When you swear too much, this goes to show that you have a terrible vocabulary. If you can’t think of any words to use other than the naughty ones, it usually suggests that this is because you don’t know any other words.

The second reason is that every time you swear, you make those words less impactful. If you get sworn at by someone who swears all the time, the insults will mean nothing.


There has been a bit of debate around whether or not “heck” is a bad word. And that all depends on what you mean when you say “bad word”.

It’s not a word that many people will be upset with you if you use. But it’s not a word that you would say when you’re in a good mood.