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Today’s Origin

Bat out of hell
Some claim that it can be traced back to Aristophanes The Birds 414 BC. “Then that bat of a Chaerephon came up from hell to drink the camel’s blood.” Such a reference, interesting though it may be, is coincidental rather than etymological, especially since like a bat out of hell only appears in this form for the first time during the early 20th century. For centuries, these poor maligned creatures have been associated with the occult, so the allusion to hell is understandable. Furthermore, to the eye, their jerky erratic flight patterns give further support to the meaning of the expression as in to move extremely quickly, without thought, as if in a panic. Although of course, the flight of bats with their acute sonar systems is far from erratic. The expression may have been around before this but it became very popular with World War I aviators and appeared in print for the first time in 1921, in America in fact, in the John Don Passos novel The Three Soldiers. “We went like a bat out of hell along a good state road.”