: coarsely abusive language.

1. A steady stream of billingsgate could be heard coming from the basement after my father hit his thumb with his hammer.
2. “Today, billingsgate rules the waves; the airwaves, that is, thanks to George Carlin and the other First Amendment activists who have followed him on stage.” — From an article by David Rossie in the Press & Sun-Bulletin (Binghamton, New York), March 11, 2012.

From the time of the Roman occupation until the early 1980s, Billingsgate was a fish market in London, England, notorious for the crude language that resounded through its stalls. In fact, the fish merchants of Billingsgate were so famous for their swearing that their feats of vulgar language were recorded in British chronicler Raphael Holinshed’s 1577 account of King Leir (which was probably Shakespeare’s source for King Lear). In Holinshed’s volume, a messenger’s language is said to be “as bad a tongue … as any oyster-wife at Billingsgate hath.” By the middle of the 17th century, “billingsgate” had become a byword for foul language.


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