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verb (used with object), heck·led, heck·ling.
  1. to harass (a public speaker, performer, etc.) with impertinent questions, gibes, or the like; badger.
  2. hackle1(def 7).
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  1. hackle1(def 5).
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Origin of heckle

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


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Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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British Dictionary definitions for heckler


  1. to interrupt (a public speaker, performer, etc) by comments, questions, or taunts
  2. Also: hackle, hatchel (tr) to comb (hemp or flax)
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  1. an instrument for combing flax or hemp
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Derived Formsheckler, 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

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.

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"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).

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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.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper