hack·​le | \ ˈha-kəl How to pronounce hackle (audio) \

Definition of hackle

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1a : one of the long narrow feathers on the neck or saddle of a bird
b : the neck plumage of the domestic fowl
2 : a comb or board with long metal teeth for dressing flax, hemp, or jute
3 hackles plural
a : erectile hairs along the neck and back especially of a dog
b : temper, dander the issue raised some hackles
4a : an artificial fishing fly made chiefly of the filaments of a cock's neck feathers
b : filaments of cock feather projecting from the head of an artificial fly


hackled; hackling\ ˈha-​k(ə-​)liŋ How to pronounce hackle (audio) \

Definition of hackle (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

: to comb out with a hackle

Other Words from hackle


hackler \ ˈha-​k(ə-​)lər How to pronounce hackle (audio) \ noun

Did you know?

In its earliest uses in the 15th century, hackle denoted either a bird's neck plumage or an instrument used to comb out long fibers of flax, hemp, or jute. Apparently, some folks saw a resemblance between the neck feathers of domestic birds—which, on a male, become erect when the bird is defensive—and the prongs of the comb-like tool. In the 19th century, English speakers extended the word's use to both dogs and people. Like the bird's feathers, the erectile hairs on the back of a dog's neck stand up when the animal is agitated. With humans, use of the word hackles is usually figurative. When you raise someone's hackles, you make them angry or put them on the defensive.

Examples of hackle in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun In my experience the best flies for this time of year are often trout flies like size 12 beetles and bushy dry flies on top and beadhead soft hackle and wooly buggers subsurface. Bill May, baltimoresun.com/maryland/carroll, 4 July 2021 The use of both red and yellow hackles is striking; the pattern’s flat silver tinsel adds flash and attractiveness. Mike Valla, Field & Stream, 14 May 2020 The ways young children play can also raise animals’ hackles. Alla Katsnelson, New York Times, 15 Apr. 2020 The mere mention of the word even seemed to raise Yelich's hackles. Todd Rosiak, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 18 Feb. 2020 Rubio’s other ideas are the sort that shouldn’t really raze libertarian hackles that much: expanding the federal per-child tax credit, reforming the Small Business Administration, and so on. Jim Geraghty, National Review, 13 Dec. 2019 Parking in the lot is cheap, and street parking free, so finding a spot for Spot won’t raise your hackles. Los Angeles Times, 27 Sep. 2019 This feline profiteering raised the hackles of an animal-rights activist in Florida named Carole Baskin, a dotty, hippie-ish blonde who wears almost exclusively leopard-print clothing and floral crowns. Rachel Syme, The New Yorker, 26 Mar. 2020 And their experiences raise hackles when compared to politicians and celebrities who sometimes are tested without delay. Dennis Wagner, USA TODAY, 13 Mar. 2020 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'hackle.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of hackle


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


1599, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for hackle


Middle English hakell; akin to Old High German hāko hook — more at hook

Learn More About hackle

Time Traveler for hackle

Time Traveler

The first known use of hackle was in the 15th century

See more words from the same century

Listen to Our Podcast About hackle

Dictionary Entries Near hackle

hacking pocket



See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for hackle

Cite this Entry

“Hackle.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hackle. Accessed 16 Aug. 2022.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

More from Merriam-Webster on hackle

Nglish: Translation of hackle for Spanish Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about hackle


Test Your Vocabulary

The Great British Vocabulary Quiz

  • union jack speech bubble
  • Named after Sir Robert Peel, what are British police called?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!