Achilles' heel

noun

: a vulnerable point

Did you know?

When the hero Achilles was an infant, his sea-nymph mother dipped him into the river Styx to make him immortal. But since she held him by one heel, this spot did not touch the water and so remained mortal and vulnerable, and it was here that Achilles was eventually mortally wounded. Today, the tendon that stretches up the calf from the heel is called the Achilles tendon. But the term Achilles' heel isn't used in medicine; instead, it's only used with the general meaning "weak point"—for instance, to refer to a section of a country's borders that aren't militarily protected, or to a Jeopardy contestant's ignorance in the Sports category.

Examples of Achilles' heel in a Sentence

I'm trying to lose weight, but ice cream is my Achilles' heel. the food supply proved to be the nation's Achilles' heel in its defense against terrorist attacks
Recent Examples on the Web Free throws are huge again Free-throw shooting continues to be an Achilles' heel for this IU team. Zion Brown, The Indianapolis Star, 31 Jan. 2024 The shape of the bag was intentionally placed on the Achilles' heel. Venesa Coger, refinery29.com, 11 July 2023 Battery life is this phone's Achilles' heel. Julian Chokkattu, Wired, 10 Aug. 2020 One major feature of modern medical devices, wireless remote control capability, is also their Achilles' heel. Discover Magazine, 10 Aug. 2011 As is often the case, Apple's Achilles' heel is the price of its products. Ben Gottesman, PCMAG, 31 Mar. 2023 Apple’s Achilles' heel is the price of its products. PCMAG, 23 Feb. 2023 Obviously, that's probably Georgetown's Achilles' heel. Adam Baum, The Enquirer, 21 Jan. 2023 The allure of Montecito, as with many places in California, has proven to also be its Achilles' heel — where natural beauty means living on the edge of possible disaster. Corina Knoll, New York Times, 17 Jan. 2023

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'Achilles' heel.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

Etymology

from the story that Achilles was vulnerable only in the heel

First Known Use

1840, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of Achilles' heel was in 1840

Dictionary Entries Near Achilles' heel

Cite this Entry

“Achilles' heel.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/Achilles%27%20heel. Accessed 18 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition

Achilles' heel

noun
Achil·​les' heel
ə-ˌkil-ēz-
: a special or personal weakness
Etymology

named for Achilles, warrior in Greek legend

Word Origin
In Greek legend, Achilles' mother protected him from harm by dipping him in the River Styx. However, she held him by the heel while doing it. As a result this heel did not get wet and thus was not protected. Later, during the Trojan War, Achilles was killed by Paris, a Trojan prince, who shot him in the unprotected heel with an arrow. The term Achilles' heel has since come to refer to any weak spot or point.
Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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