verb (used with object), heck·led, heck·ling.

to harass (a public speaker, performer, etc.) with impertinent questions, gibes, or the like; badger.


Origin of heckle

1275–1325; Middle English hekelen, variant of hechelen to comb flax; akin to hackle1, hatchel
Related formsheck·ler, noun

Synonyms for heckle

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for heckle

Contemporary Examples of heckle

Historical Examples of heckle

  • Had the Centralia crowd hired them to heckle the new pitcher?

    Mystery Wings

    Roy J. Snell

  • "Hout, tout," quoth the wife, and made the heckle flee at it.

  • 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

  • But then Dalrymple had not been there to heckle and insult his superior; he was gone nobody knew where.

    My Lord Duke

    E. W. Hornung

  • At first there was a disposition to interrupt, to heckle, but it grew fainter and soon gave way to complete silence.


    Elisabeth von Arnim

British Dictionary definitions for heckle



to interrupt (a public speaker, performer, etc) by comments, questions, or taunts
Also: hackle, hatchel (tr) to comb (hemp or flax)


an instrument for combing flax or hemp
Derived Formsheckler, noun

Word Origin for heckle

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

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