Use the noun dickens for emphasis, or to express surprise — for example, you might ask, "What the dickens is this goat doing in the kitchen?"

The old-fashioned dickens is a gentle and inoffensive replacement for a profanity. Instead of shocking your grandmother by cursing, you can instead say, "After shoveling all that snow, my back hurts like the dickens." This exclamation has been around since the late 1500's, when it became a substitute for devil, but no one's sure exactly why dickens was used. It may be from the last name Dickens, though it definitely pre-dates the writer Charles Dickens.

Definitions of dickens
  1. noun
    a word used in exclamations of confusion
    “the dickens you say”
    synonyms: deuce, devil
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    type of:
    exclaiming, exclamation
    an abrupt excited utterance
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