The phrase "to the Hilt" means in full or completely and done to the limit. The synonyms of "to the Hilt" include the words wholly, entirely, totally or fully. The phrase “to the hilt” is used as an idiomatic expression which can have both positive and negative overtones. For instance a person who is up to the hilt in his world tour would mean that he is thoroughly enjoying his trip and can be seen in a positive light. On the other hand being to the hilt in debts would be viewed as negative since it suggests the undesirable financial status of the person.
The noun hilt refers to the shaft or handle of a tool or weapon such as a dagger, sword etc. The origin of the word hilt can be traced back to Old English and related to the Old Saxon helta oar handle, Old Norse hjalt and German helza. The words, bottom, end, base, shank, stub, extremity, fag end, grasp, handgrip, etc can be used synonymously with the noun hilt. The hilt of the dagger or sword is the only portion that is visible when the weapon is plunged totally into something. The figurative use of the word hilt came to be first used in 1687 as seen in the phrase “to the hilt” which means completely or to the maximum limit.
Hilts normally refer to the handles of daggers or swords while the idiom "to the Hilt" implies a totality or done to the maximum. So it is common to use the phrase “dressed to the hilt” to describe someone who has taken great pains to dress up for the occasion, taking care of all the details. “Forge ahead, to the hilt” would figuratively mean to move forward to the limit.
“To the hilt” can be seen as a negative behavior when some one is buried to the hilt in debts. Similarly when someone is pursuing his desire to the hilt it may have negative connotations as he may be doing it at the cost of other significant issues. For instance a workaholic buried in his work to the hilt on most occasions may neglect his family, friends and social life to achieve his goals of earning more wealth. In the movie “Wall Street” the chairman is heard saying “your company is now leveraged to the hilt”. What he actually means is that the company has utilized borrowed funds to the maximum extent.