The old Old Norse word Hel derives from Proto-Germanic *khalija, which means "one who covers up or hides something", which itself derives from Proto-Indo-European *kel-, meaning "conceal". The cognate in English is the word Hell which is from the Old English forms hel and helle. Related terms are Old Frisian, helle, German Hölle and Gothic halja. Other words more distantly related include hole, hollow, hall, helmet and cell, all from the aforementioned Indo-European root *kel-.
The use of Hel in Norse words and phrases such as Helför ("Hel-journey," a funeral), Helsótt ("Hel-sickness," a fatal illness), implies that the word Hel referred to a common place of the dead like the English heathen hell. Since England was christianized, hell is seen as a placeof eternal torture for those who do not worship God or those who do not follow christian moral