[ heel ]
See synonyms for heel on Thesaurus.com
  1. the back part of the human foot, below and behind the ankle.

  2. an analogous part in other vertebrates.

  1. either hind foot or hoof of some animals, as the horse.

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

  3. the part of a stocking, shoe, or the like covering the back part of the wearer's foot.

  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.

  5. heels, women’s low-cut shoes with thin or thick heels of medium or high height.

  6. something resembling the back part of the human foot in position, shape, etc.: a heel of bread.

  7. the rear of the palm, adjacent to the wrist.

  8. the latter or concluding part of anything: the heel of a session.

  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 with object)
  1. to follow at the heels of; chase closely.

  2. to furnish with heels, as shoes.

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

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

  3. to arm (a gamecock) with spurs.

verb (used without object)
  1. (of a dog) to follow at one's heels on command.

  2. to use the heels, as in dancing.

Verb Phrases
  1. heel in, to cover temporarily (the roots and most of the stem of a plant) with soil prior to permanent planting.

Idioms about heel

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

  1. down at the heels, having a shabby, slipshod, or slovenly appearance.: Also down at heel, down at the heel, out at heels, out at the heels .

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

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

  4. lay by the heels,

    • to arrest and imprison.

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

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

  6. 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 .

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

  8. to heel,

    • close behind: The dog followed the hunter to heel.

    • under control or subjugation: The attackers were brought swiftly to heel.

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

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

  • Again the yacht swung out into the river, gathering headway quickly and skimming along, heeling very gently.

    The Rival Campers Afloat | Ruel Perley Smith
  • All at once it snapped; the tiller swung useless and the boat whirled around, heeling in the stiffening wind, and drove shoreward.

    In Search of the Unknown | Robert W. Chambers
  • So off we go heeling well to the breeze as our funny, high-slung lateen sail drives us shoreward at a great rate.

  • The ship was heeling over till her lee bulwarks were smothered in the fast-rising sea.

    The Missing Ship | W. H. G. Kingston
  • "I was so mad I didn't stop to smell weather," admitted the master, bracing himself to meet a fresh list of the heeling Polly.

    Blow The Man Down | Holman Day

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.