1 of 2


head·​long ˈhed-ˈlȯŋ How to pronounce headlong (audio)
: without deliberation : recklessly
rushes headlong into danger
: without pause or delay


2 of 2


head·​long ˈhed-ˌlȯŋ How to pronounce headlong (audio)
archaic : steep, precipitous
: lacking in calmness or restraint : precipitate
a headlong torrent of emotion
: plunging headfirst

Did you know?

Headlong was born out of the Middle English word hedling, a combination of hed ("head") and -ling, an adverb suffix meaning "in such a direction or manner." Thus, hedling meant "with the head first”; it was originally applied to descriptions of falling, or to downward movement. Likely due to the influence of the words along and long, -ling came to be understood as a variant of the adverb suffix -long, a development that carried headlong, as well as sidelong, along with it.

Choose the Right Synonym for headlong

precipitate, headlong, abrupt, impetuous, sudden mean showing undue haste or unexpectedness.

precipitate stresses lack of due deliberation and implies prematureness of action.

the army's precipitate withdrawal

headlong stresses rashness and lack of forethought.

a headlong flight from arrest

abrupt stresses curtness and a lack of warning or ceremony.

an abrupt refusal

impetuous stresses extreme impatience or impulsiveness.

an impetuous lover proposing marriage

sudden stresses unexpectedness and sharpness or violence of action.

flew into a sudden rage

Examples of headlong in a Sentence

Adverb I dove headlong to the floor. plunged headlong into the crowd in pursuit of the purse snatcher Adjective terrified forest creatures in a headlong retreat from the rapidly spreading fire
Recent Examples on the Web
This is western Loudoun County, Va., where the superheated suburban development of the D.C. area runs headlong into a picturesque rural enclave that’s been defined by farms and horses for 300 years. Jayne Orenstein, Washington Post, 7 Feb. 2024 The film, featuring Steve Coogan and James Gandolfini, winningly depicts a bumbling U.S. government running headlong into a Middle East war. Debby Wolfinsohn, EW.com, 4 Feb. 2024 Amid this kind of escalation, analysts note, the desire to avoid war often runs headlong into the satisfying rallying cry for a hard-hitting military response. Anna Mulrine Grobe, The Christian Science Monitor, 29 Jan. 2024 Like Thomas Hardy in late 19th-century England — and, closer to home, the novelist Thomas Wolfe, who was born in Asheville, N.C. — Mr. Chappell explored a rural, traditional world colliding headlong with the cosmopolitan present. Clay Risen, New York Times, 25 Jan. 2024 So why does Marvel Studios have to race headlong into the same narrative cul-du-sac that the comics did? Adam B. Vary, Variety, 13 Nov. 2023 And yet, despite the warning signs, Maui has hurtled headlong into a housing emergency. Reis Thebault, Washington Post, 23 Dec. 2023 That ran headlong into board member concerns over the safety of artificial intelligence tools capable of generating text, images and even computer code with minimal prompting. Emily Chang, Fortune, 19 Nov. 2023 Now, the need for treatments has crashed headlong into a lack of funding and years of limited research that’s produced less-than-inspiring results, experts say. Berkeley Lovelace Jr., NBC News, 7 Nov. 2023
Cruyff’s signing was also an early sign as well of Catalonia’s headlong dash for modernity, after obliteration under arch conservative Francisco Franco’s dictatorship. John Hopewell, Variety, 24 Jan. 2024 Then, in one final headlong downward dash, the stream became a waterfall. Mary Carole McCauley, Baltimore Sun, 2 Jan. 2024 Across today’s internet, the stores that deliver all the apps on our phones are cracking open, the walls between social media platforms are coming down as the old networks fail, the headlong rush towards AI is making our search engines and work apps weirder (and often worse!). Anil Dash, Rolling Stone, 30 Dec. 2023 But Money got under my skin—a profane, madcap, headlong plunge into a filthy amoral world of hyper-capitalism. Vogue, 30 Dec. 2023 My voice became more refined and reliable, but the sheer headlong exuberance of the baby blues was missing. Murr Brewster, The Christian Science Monitor, 15 Dec. 2023 To an untutored lurker, the whole thing seemed like … a frickin’ ballet, or some less dainty choreography, a headlong dance of astounding precision. Jody Rosen, New York Times, 2 Dec. 2023 People schemed, finagled, wheedled, and conspired, caught up in the mad, headlong rush of the city. Adam Kirsch, The New Yorker, 27 Nov. 2023 The about-face in New Jersey has reignited a political battle over the headlong rush to induce companies to build wind farms in the ocean. Patrick McGeehan, New York Times, 2 Nov. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'headlong.' 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 hedlong, alteration of hedling, from hed head

First Known Use


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


circa 1533, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of headlong was in the 14th century


Dictionary Entries Near headlong

Cite this Entry

“Headlong.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/headlong. Accessed 27 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition


1 of 2 adverb
head·​long ˈhed-ˈlȯŋ How to pronounce headlong (audio)
: without careful thought : recklessly


2 of 2 adjective
: lacking in calmness or restraint : rash
headlong flight
: plunging headfirst
a headlong dive

More from Merriam-Webster on headlong

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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