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[hek-uh l] /ˈhɛk əl/
verb (used with object), heckled, heckling.
to harass (a public speaker, performer, etc.) with impertinent questions, gibes, or the like; badger.
hackle1 (def 7).
hackle1 (def 5).
Origin of heckle
1275-1325; Middle English hekelen, variant of hechelen to comb flax; akin to hackle1, hatchel
Related forms
heckler, noun
1. bait, provoke, needle, hector, hound. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for heckle
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • After all, you're not a professional explainer of the universe that I should heckle you thus.'

  • I was going to heckle him, when he explained—and with what so far unknown deference, in him, to one's bewilderment!

    The Romantic Lady Michael Arlen
  • A few Southern sympathizers who attempted to heckle the speakers were quickly shouted down.

  • Here all the men of the village congregated daily to smoke, swap jokes, and heckle those who worked.

    Walter and the Wireless Sara Ware Bassett
  • So five or six of them, all speaking together, began to heckle and cross-question Pelivan.

British Dictionary definitions for heckle


to interrupt (a public speaker, performer, etc) by comments, questions, or taunts
(transitive) Also hackle, hatchel. to comb (hemp or flax)
an instrument for combing flax or hemp
Derived Forms
heckler, noun
Word Origin
C15: Northern and East Anglian form of hackle
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 heckle

early 14c., "to comb (flax or hemp) with a heckle;" from heckle (n.) or from related Middle Dutch hekelen. Figurative meaning "to question severely in a bid to uncover weakness" is from late 18c. "Long applied in Scotland to the public questioning of parliamentary candidates" [OED]. Related: Heckled; heckling.


"flax comb," c.1300, hechel, perhaps from an unrecorded Old English *hecel or a cognate Germanic word (cf. Middle High German hechel, Middle Dutch hekel), from Proto-Germanic *hakila-, from PIE *keg- "hook, tooth" (see hook).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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