[ heel ]
See synonyms for heel on Thesaurus.com
  1. the back part of the human foot, below and behind the ankle: I got blisters on my heels from these boots.

  2. the back part of the foot of any of various vertebrates.

  1. Usually heels . the hind feet or hooves of some animals, such as the horse.

  2. the foot as a whole: He was hung by the heels.

  3. the part of a sock, shoe, or the like covering the back part of the wearer's foot: Too bad I don’t know how to darn—the heel of this sock has developed a rather large hole.

  4. a solid, raised base or support of leather, wood, rubber, etc., attached to the sole of a shoe or boot under the back part of the foot: Do you carry a similar boot with a lower heel?

  5. heels, women’s low-cut shoes with thin or thick heels of medium or high height: I don’t wear heels anymore unless it’s a wedding or a fancy night out.

  6. something resembling the back part of the human foot in position, shape, etc.: All that remained of the loaf was the crusty heel.

  7. the rear of the palm, adjacent to the wrist: To perform CPR on an adult, begin by placing the heel of your hand on the center of the person’s chest.

  8. the latter or concluding part of something, especially a meeting: The 40-page bill was brought in at the heel of the legislative session, and it passed without sufficient consideration.

  9. the lower end of any of various more or less vertical objects, as rafters, spars, or the sternposts of vessels.

  10. Nautical.

    • the after end of a keel.

    • the inner end of a bowsprit or jib boom.

  11. the crook in the head of a golf club.

  12. Building Trades. the exterior angle of an angle iron.

  13. Railroads. the end of a frog farthest from a switch.

  14. Horticulture. the base of any part, as of a cutting or tuber, that is removed from a plant for use in the propagation of that plant.

verb (used without object)
  1. (of a dog) to follow at one's heels on command: I’ve taught my dog to sit, but can’t get him to heel yet.

  2. to use the heels, as in dancing: Concentrating on our movement, we heel, toe, and swing, our hands gently clasped.

verb (used with object)
  1. to follow at the heels of; chase closely: His mare followed close behind him, like a well-trained hunting dog heeling its master.

  2. to furnish with heels, as shoes: As a youth in his family’s cobbler shop in Manhattan, he heeled the shoes of many a movie star before they were stars.

  1. to kick or strike with the back part of the foot: The forward heeled the ball into the path of his teammate, who kicked it into the net.

  2. to perform (a dance) with the heels.

  3. Golf. to strike (the ball) with the heel of the club.

  4. to arm (a gamecock) with spurs.

Verb Phrases
  1. heel in, to cover temporarily (the roots and most of the stem of a plant) with soil prior to permanent planting: If you can’t plant them right away, you can dig a trench and heel in the seedlings, setting them close together and covering the roots with soil or moist mulch.

Idioms about heel

  1. at heel, close behind, especially as an animal behind a person leading it: The dog would sit, stay, come, and lie down on command, and would walk at heel with or without a leash.She walked out as soon as the gate opened, and the dog followed her to heel without a backward look.: Also to heel .

  2. at one's heels, close behind one: The police are at his heels.

  1. bring to heel, to get control over; force to submit: The authorities deployed the army to bring the rebels to heel.

  2. cool one's heels, to be kept waiting, especially because of deliberate discourtesy: The producer let the actors who were waiting to be auditioned cool their heels in the outer office.

  3. down at the heels, having a shabby, slovenly, or rundown appearance, especially because of lack of resources: This town, once a thriving manufacturing hub, has been down at the heels for quite some time.: Also down at heel, down at the heel, out at heels, out at the heels .

  4. heels over head. head (def. 69).

  5. his heels, Cribbage. a jack turned up as a starter, counting two points for the dealer.

  6. kick up one's heels, to have a vigorously entertaining time; frolic: Grandfather could still kick up his heels now and then.

  7. lay by the heels,

    • to arrest and imprison.

    • to prevail over; render ineffectual: Superior forces laid the invaders by the heels.

  8. on / upon the heels of, closely following; in quick succession of: On the heels of the hurricane came an outbreak of looting.

  9. show a clean pair of heels, to leave one's pursuers or competitors behind; outrun: The thief showed his victim a clean pair of heels.: Also show one's heels to .

  10. take to one's heels, to run away; take flight: The thief took to his heels as soon as he saw the police.

Origin of heel

First recorded before 850; Middle English hele, heil(l)e; Old English hēla, hǽla; cognate with Old Frisian hēla, Dutch hiel, Old Norse hǣll; see hock1

Other words from heel

  • heel·less, adjective

Words that may be confused with heel

Words Nearby heel

Other definitions for heel (2 of 3)

[ heel ]

verb (used without object)
  1. to incline to one side; cant; tilt: The ship heeled in going about.

verb (used with object)
  1. to cause to lean or cant.

  1. a heeling movement; a cant.

Origin of heel

First recorded 1565–75; variant of earlier heeld (the -d was reinterpreted or misinterpreted as a sign of the past tense); Middle English helden, hielden, hælden “to bend, incline”; Old English -hildan, -hieldan, -heldan “to lean, slope, incline”; akin to Old English heald “inclined,” Old Norse hallr “sloping”

Other definitions for heel (3 of 3)

[ heel ]

  1. a contemptibly dishonorable or irresponsible person: We all feel like heels for ducking out on you like this.

  2. Professional Wrestling. a headlining wrestler who plays a villainous role and typically loses matches to the wrestler playing a heroic character.: Compare face (def. 19).

Origin of heel

An Americanism first recorded in 1910–15; perhaps from heel in the extended sense “someone or something in a very low position”; perhaps from down-at-the-heels (applied to an undesirable person constantly at one's heels); perhaps a euphemistic shortening of shit-heel

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use heel in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for heel (1 of 2)


/ (hiːl) /

  1. the back part of the human foot from the instep to the lower part of the ankle: Compare calcaneus

  2. the corresponding part in other vertebrates

  1. the part of a shoe, stocking, etc, designed to fit the heel

  2. the outer part of a shoe underneath the heel

  3. the part of the palm of a glove nearest the wrist

  4. the lower, end, or back section of something: the heel of a loaf

  5. horticulture the small part of the parent plant that remains attached to a young shoot cut for propagation and that ensures more successful rooting

  6. nautical

    • the bottom of a mast

    • the after end of a ship's keel

  7. the back part of a golf club head where it bends to join the shaft

  8. rugby possession of the ball as obtained from a scrum (esp in the phrase get the heel)

  9. slang a contemptible person

  10. at one's heels or on one's heels just behind or following closely

  11. dig one's heels in See dig in (def. 5)

  12. down at heel

    • shabby or worn

    • slovenly or careless

  13. kick one's heels or cool one's heels to wait or be kept waiting

  14. rock back on one's heels to astonish or be astonished

  15. show a clean pair of heels to run off

  16. take to one's heels to run off

  17. to heel disciplined or under control, as a dog walking by a person's heel

  1. (tr) to repair or replace the heel of (shoes, boots, etc)

  2. to perform (a dance) with the heels

  1. (tr) golf to strike (the ball) with the heel of the club

  2. rugby to kick (the ball) backwards using the sole and heel of the boot

  3. to follow at the heels of (a person)

  4. (tr) to arm (a gamecock) with spurs

  5. (tr) NZ (of a cattle dog) to drive (cattle) by biting their heels

Origin of heel

Old English hēla; related to Old Norse hǣll, Old Frisian hêl

Derived forms of heel

  • heelless, adjective

British Dictionary definitions for heel (2 of 2)


/ (hiːl) /

  1. (of a vessel) to lean over; list

  1. inclined position from the vertical: the boat is at ten degrees of heel

Origin of heel

Old English hieldan; related to Old Norse hallr inclined, Old High German helden to bow

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

Other Idioms and Phrases with heel


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.

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.