Try Our Apps


Challenge: Tongue Twisters


[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.
Cite This Source
Examples from the Web for heckler
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • In 1654 the spire was destroyed by lightning; the skilful architect heckler was obliged to rebuild it sixty five feet high.

  • He was a stout man, dressed in a dark jacket, and had the appearance of a heckler.

  • Homer Crawford drifted away again before the heckler recovered.

    Black Man's Burden Dallas McCord Reynolds
  • Then the bearded attorney, whose fame was secure as a heckler of witnesses, rose dramatically from his chair.

    The Tempering Charles Neville Buck
  • I was an uncommon grand hand at the bools mysel, and could throw the ba as far as Robbie King the heckler—ye mind, Tammie?

    Merkland Mrs. Oliphant
British Dictionary definitions for heckler


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
Cite This Source
Word Origin and History for heckler

agent noun from heckle (v.); mid-15c., from late 13c., as a surname (Will. le Hekelere). Modern sense of "one from the audience who taunts a public speaker" is from 1885. Fem. form hekelstere is attested from c.1500.



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
Cite This Source

Word of the Day

Difficulty index for heckle

Few English speakers likely know this word

Word Value for heckler

Scrabble Words With Friends

Nearby words for heckler