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 hackling (audio) \

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 How to pronounce hackler (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 Taupin’s work, the flag is often tattered, torn or otherwise maligned, raising the hackles of detractors. Jordan Riefe, The Hollywood Reporter, "Elton John Lyricist Bernie Taupin Opens Art Exhibit in Beverly Hills," 7 June 2019 In the fundraising rat race of New York City nonprofits, a $550 million inaugural campaign has the potential to raise people’s hackles. Chloe Malle, Town & Country, "Is the Shed the Defining Arts Institution of a New New York City?," 14 Mar. 2019 Buy Photo Last week’s Franklin and Marshall College Poll raised some eyebrows (and some hackles) and is worth a closer look. John Baer, Philly.com, "A deeper dive into Pennsylvania's latest political poll," 17 June 2018 Vote for your Favorite Christmas Movie Bruce Willis in ‘Die Hard’ (1988) Everett Collection How, then, to work Christmas into their movies without raising hackles? Terry Teachout, WSJ, "How the Movies Invented Christmas," 20 Dec. 2018 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

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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Last Updated

22 Jun 2019

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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

Comments on hackle

What made you want to look up hackle? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


an act or instance of editing or removing

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