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[hak-uh l] /ˈhæk əl/
one of the long, slender feathers on the neck or saddle of certain birds, as the domestic rooster, much used in making artificial flies for anglers.
the neck plumage of a male bird, as the domestic rooster.
  1. the erectile hair on the back of an animal's neck:
    At the sound of footsteps, the dog raised her hackles.
  2. anger, especially when aroused in a challenging or challenged manner:
    with one's hackles up.
  1. the legs of an artificial fly made with feathers from the neck or saddle of a rooster or other such bird.
  2. hackle fly.
a comb for dressing flax or hemp.
verb (used with object), hackled, hackling.
Angling. to equip with a hackle.
to comb, as flax or hemp.
raise one's hackles, to arouse one's anger:
Such officiousness always raises my hackles.
Also, hatchel, heckle (for defs 5, 7).
Origin of hackle1
late Middle English
1400-50; late Middle English hakell; see heckle
Related forms
hackler, noun


[hak-uh l] /ˈhæk əl/
verb (used with object), hackled, hackling.
to cut roughly; hack; mangle.
1570-80; hack1 + -le; cognate with Middle Dutch hakkelen Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for hackles
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Fao's hackles were very evidently on the rise; Delcamp's face was hardening.

    The Galaxy Primes Edward Elmer Smith
  • But his hackles remained raised as he accompanied the boy into the cabin.

    Trading Jeff and his Dog James Arthur Kjelgaard
  • With hackles bristling and teeth bared he approached us, emitting savage growls.

    13 Days John Alan Lyde Caunter
  • One or two of the nearer wolves raised their hackles and growled.

    Dusty Star Olaf Baker
  • The hackles of the fly can be pressed against this, and so anointed with the greatest ease.

    Chats on Angling H. V. Hart-Davis
  • His stern was still erect, bladelike, his hackles almost as stiff as before.

    Jan A. J. Dawson
  • He took up the scent of the two Navajos who had escaped into the rocks, and followed it with his hackles erect.

    Lone Pine R. B. (Richard Baxter) Townshend
British Dictionary definitions for hackles


plural noun
the hairs on the back of the neck and the back of a dog, cat, etc, which rise when the animal is angry or afraid
anger or resentment (esp in the phrases get one's hackles up, make one's hackles rise)


any of the long slender feathers on the necks of poultry and other birds
  1. parts of an artificial fly made from hackle feathers, representing the legs and sometimes the wings of a real fly
  2. short for hackle fly
a feathered ornament worn in the headdress of some British regiments
a steel flax comb
verb (transitive)
to comb (flax) using a hackle
See also hackles
Derived Forms
hackler, noun
Word Origin
C15: hakell, probably from Old English; variant of heckle; see hatchel
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for hackles



Old English hacele "cloak, mantle" (cf. Old High German hachul, Gothic hakuls "cloak;" Old Norse hekla "hooded frock"). Sense of "bird plumage" is first recorded early 15c., though this might be from unrelated Middle English hackle "flax comb" (see heckle (n.)) on supposed resemblance of comb to ruffled feathers. Metaphoric extension found in raise one's hackles (as a cock does when angry) is first recorded 1881.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Idioms and Phrases with hackles
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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