• synonyms


[hak-uh l]
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  1. 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.
  2. the neck plumage of a male bird, as the domestic rooster.
  3. hackles,
    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.
  4. Angling.
    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.
  5. a comb for dressing flax or hemp.
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verb (used with object), hack·led, hack·ling.
  1. Angling. to equip with a hackle.
  2. to comb, as flax or hemp.
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  1. raise one's hackles, to arouse one's anger: Such officiousness always raises my hackles.
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Also hatchel, heckle (for defs 5, 7).

Origin of hackle1

1400–50; late Middle English hakell; see heckle
Related formshack·ler, noun


[hak-uh l]
verb (used with object), hack·led, hack·ling.
  1. to cut roughly; hack; mangle.
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Origin of hackle2

1570–80; hack1 + -le; cognate with Middle Dutch hakkelen
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words


Examples from the Web for hackle

Historical Examples

  • There too is the hackle which is the old device of the De Brays.

    The White Company

    Arthur Conan Doyle

  • After the first hackle, called a ruffler, six other finer hackles were often used.

  • Kills well with hackle when the water is slightly discoloured.

  • The hackle was a board with long, sharp steel teeth set in it.

  • The body and hackle, when put on, should therefore appear as shown in Fig. 14.

    Old Flies in New Dresses

    Charles Edward Walker

British Dictionary definitions for hackle


  1. any of the long slender feathers on the necks of poultry and other birds
  2. angling
    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
  3. a feathered ornament worn in the headdress of some British regiments
  4. a steel flax comb
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verb (tr)
  1. to comb (flax) using a hackle
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See also hackles
Derived Formshackler, 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

Word Origin and History for hackle


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.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper