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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 heckling
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • But make this weakness not your heckling ground Where you would spar for favors.

    The Mortal Gods and Other Plays Olive Tilford Dargan
  • It was my first experience of heckling, and for the moment I was taken aback.

    A Far Country, Complete Winston Churchill
  • There was a good deal of heckling, but at last they arrived at some decision, though by no means unanimously.

    The Escaping Club A. J. Evans
  • The Council went on heckling Sonier and he resigned and went to Lausanne.

    The Spell of Switzerland Nathan Haskell Dole
  • Suppose a little clique of them have arranged the meeting with the intention of heckling the speaker?

    An American Suffragette Isaac N. Stevens
British Dictionary definitions for heckling


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 heckling



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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