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 heckling

Contemporary Examples of heckling

Historical Examples of heckling

  • Robert bore his heckling, however, with great patience and adroitness.

    Robert Elsmere

    Mrs. Humphry Ward

  • It would be worth going to hear her heckling that beast on votes for women.

    Lalage's Lovers

    George A. Birmingham

  • It was my first experience of heckling, and for the moment I was taken aback.

    A Far Country, Complete

    Winston Churchill

  • There was no "heckling," no inquisition, nothing but kindness.

  • The Council went on heckling Sonier and he resigned and went to Lausanne.

    The Spell of Switzerland

    Nathan Haskell Dole

British Dictionary definitions for heckling



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 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).



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.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper