hack·​le | \ˈha-kəl \

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 \

Definition of hackle (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

: to comb out with a hackle

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Other Words from hackle


hackler \ˈha-​k(ə-​)lər \ 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

If the past is a predictor, that one will raise hackles. Tamar Haspel, Vox, "The public doesn’t trust GMOs. Will it trust CRISPR?," 24 July 2018 Their support may be put to the test in the coming year, as Wilcox talks about pursuing strategies that raise hackles among some educators. Ann Doss Helms, charlotteobserver, "CMS leader has won fans among teachers. But these moves may test their loyalty.," 13 July 2018 Crivella’s connection to the Universal church has raised hackles before. Washington Post, "Rio city council votes against opening impeachment of mayor," 12 July 2018 Crivella's connection to the Universal church has raised hackles before. Fox News, "Rio city council votes against opening impeachment of mayor," 12 July 2018 Janowitz raises hackles as the perfectly irritating Trevor. Deborah Young, The Hollywood Reporter, "'Bikini Moon': Film Review | Shanghai 2018," 27 June 2018 When Twitter came up in conversation, so did my hackles. Shaunacy Ferro, The Cut, "I Unfollowed My Boyfriend on Twitter to Save Our Relationship," 26 June 2018 Another point of contention a new program with comedian Michelle Wolf, who famously raised the hackles of conservatives at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner in April. refinery29.com, "Not All Republicans Are Boycotting Netflix Over Obama — & The Numbers Show It," 2 June 2018 But the demo — which amounted to a series of extremely high-tech crank calls — raised a lot of hackles. Kevin Roose, New York Times, "Kevin’s Week in Tech: Are Google’s A.I.-Powered Phone Calls Cool, Creepy, or Both?," 11 May 2018

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.

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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

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Statistics for hackle

Last Updated

23 Nov 2018

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Time Traveler for hackle

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

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More from Merriam-Webster on hackle

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with hackle

Nglish: Translation of hackle for Spanish Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about hackle

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