Origin of down-at-the-heels
- the after end of a keel.
- the inner end of a bowsprit or jib boom.
verb (used with object)
verb (used without object)
Origin of heel1
Related Words for down-at-heelmiserable, vulgar, petty, humble, gaudy, run-down, shabby, dingy, faded, messy, seedy, threadbare, sleazy, limited, plebeian, menial, base, low, hack, obscure
Examples from the Web for down-at-heel
Historical Examples of down-at-heel
Its latter days were dreary, down-at-heel, and disreputable enough.Art in England
What a tousled-haired, down-at-heel, out-at-elbows Clerkenwell exile!Nights in London
There were two or three buckeens in the hall, and Darby and one of the down-at-heel serving-boys were laying the evening meal.The Wild Geese
Stanley John Weyman
Nothing swept and garnished; nothing evincing one grain of past or present reverence—a down-at-heel indifferent idolatry.The Spirit of Rome
She looked complacently down at her stubby little feet in their down-at-heel beaded slippers.Olive in Italy
- the bottom of a mast
- the after end of a ship's keel
- shabby or worn
- slovenly or careless
Word Origin for heel
Word Origin for heel
"back of the foot," Old English hela, from Proto-Germanic *hanhilon (cf. Old Norse hæll, Old Frisian hel, Dutch hiel), from PIE *kenk- (3) "heel, bend of the knee" (cf. Old English hoh "hock").
Meaning "back of a shoe or boot" is c.1400. Down at heels (1732) refers to heels of boots or shoes worn down and the owner too poor to replace them. For Achilles' heel "only vulnerable spot" see Achilles. To "fight with (one's) heels" (fighten with heles) in Middle English meant "to run away."
"to lean to one side," in reference to a ship, Old English hieldan "incline, lean, slope," from Proto-Germanic *helthijanan (cf. Middle Dutch helden "to lean," Dutch hellen, Old Norse hallr "inclined," Old High German halda, German halde "slope, declivity"). Re-spelled 16c. from Middle English hield, probably by misinterpretation of -d as a past tense suffix.
"contemptible person," 1914 in U.S. underworld slang, originally "incompetent or worthless criminal," perhaps from a sense of "person in the lowest position" and thus from heel (n.1).
see Achilles' heel; at someone's heels; bring to heel; cool one's heels; dig in (one's heels); drag one's feet (heels); head over heels; kick up one's heels; on the heels of; out at the elbows (heels); set back on one's heels; show one's heels; take to one's heels; to heel; turn on one's heel.