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hack·​le ˈha-kəl How to pronounce hackle (audio)
: one of the long narrow feathers on the neck or saddle of a bird
: the neck plumage of the domestic fowl
: a comb or board with long metal teeth for dressing flax, hemp, or jute
hackles plural
: erectile hairs along the neck and back especially of a dog
: temper, dander
the issue raised some hackles
: an artificial fishing fly made chiefly of the filaments of a cock's neck feathers
: filaments of cock feather projecting from the head of an artificial fly


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

transitive verb

: to comb out with a hackle
hackler 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
That is certainly the thrust of Kellett’s play — Yoli pushes her parents to examine their parenting, questions their understanding of identity, and generally raises their hackles with her Gen Z approach to life. Maureen Lee Lenker, EW.com, 18 Mar. 2024 Despite the hackles, the former governor’s avoidance of race is still good politics in the GOP contest. Dan Morrison, USA TODAY, 20 Jan. 2024 Every election, a revolution? Both the previous government and the new one have raised hackles in their exercise of the law, depending on who’s doing the judging. Lenora Chu, The Christian Science Monitor, 20 Feb. 2024 Early Utahns, largely members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and their preference for lowbrow entertainment, raised the eyebrows and hackles of church President Joseph F. Smith. Mark Eddington, The Salt Lake Tribune, 17 July 2023 The hackle feather tails also hide the trebles, providing a bit of extra stealth and flutter. Joe Cermele, Field & Stream, 4 Jan. 2024 The tweet raised government hackles and the BBC briefly suspended him. Naman Ramachandran, Variety, 28 Sep. 2023 At the same time, the Biden administration, just like its two predecessors and Congress, is doing just enough to raise hackles in Beijing. Shay Khatiri, National Review, 12 Sep. 2023 So who is Nasser, and why might his new role raise the hackles of climate-conscious investors? Anna Cooban, CNN, 18 July 2023

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

Word History



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

First Known Use


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


1599, in the meaning defined above

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


Dictionary Entries Near hackle

Cite this Entry

“Hackle.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hackle. Accessed 24 May. 2024.

Kids Definition


: a comb for smoothing fibers (as flax or hemp)
: one of the long narrow feathers on the neck or lower back of a bird
: hairs along the neck and back especially of a dog that can be made to stand up

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