head·​long | \ ˈhed-ˈlȯŋ How to pronounce headlong (audio) \

Definition of headlong

 (Entry 1 of 2)

2 : without deliberation : recklessly rushes headlong into danger
3 : without pause or delay


head·​long | \ ˈhed-ˌlȯŋ How to pronounce headlong (audio) \

Definition of headlong (Entry 2 of 2)

1 archaic : steep, precipitous
2 : lacking in calmness or restraint : precipitate a headlong torrent of emotion
3 : plunging headfirst

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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

Did You Know?


Headlong appeared in Middle English as "hedlong," an alteration of the older "hedling" or "hedlynge." "Hedling" is a combination of the Middle English "hed" ("head") and "-ling," an adverb suffix which means "in such a direction or manner." Thus, "hedling" originally meant "with the head foremost" or, if you will, "in the direction of the head." By the late 1400s, influenced by its use in the compound word endlong, the adjective "long" began to be regarded as a suffix and a variant of "-ling." It was this substitution of "-ling" with "-long" that led to the replacement of words like "sideling" and "headling" with the now more familiar "sidelong" and "headlong."

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
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Recent Examples on the Web: Adverb Calls for police reform have created a growing dilemma in progressive political circles when efforts to overhaul policing run headlong into support for unions and workers’ rights. Joshua Fechter, San Antonio Express-News, "Ballot initiative to gut San Antonio police union draws opposition from AFL-CIO," 7 Feb. 2021 Quetta was taken off on a stretcher to a hospital after going headlong into the boards. Laura Crimaldi, BostonGlobe.com, "Families of truck crash victims make plea to Biden, cite his past family tragedy in calling for reforms," 28 Jan. 2021 And Caitlin ran headlong into the relationship with Charles Bryant that summer of 2016. Jim Axelrod, CBS News, ""He wanted me dead." Stalking victim speaks out about her former relationship with killer," 16 Jan. 2021 His guard thus dropped, Mr. Cohen charged headlong into the matter of his dating status (his last public relationship was with John Hill, a musical theater actor). New York Times, "Andy Cohen Had a Year," 30 Dec. 2020 Months of supply cuts and underinvestment are about to smack headlong into resurgent demand as the arrival of a vaccine buoys hopes for a rapid return to normalcy. Dan K. Eberhart For Cnn Business Perspectives, CNN, "Pretty soon, we may need more oil than we can produce," 21 Dec. 2020 But by most estimates by Western diplomats and aid workers, thousands of civilians and fighters have been killed, stoking fears that Africa’s second-most populous country is plunging headlong into a ruinous civil war. New York Times, "From Shelled Ethiopian City, Doctors Tally Deaths and Plead for Help," 3 Dec. 2020 Levee sets out to refute that cruel fate, only to rush headlong into another. Tribune News Service, cleveland, "In ‘Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,’ Chadwick Boseman gives his final and finest performance (review)," 25 Nov. 2020 That diversity of culture and religion has at times run headlong into the country’s laws, which are based on Islamic law, or Shariah. Ben Hubbard, New York Times, "U.A.E. Changes Laws to Attract Foreign Tourists and Investment," 10 Nov. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective Still, there's a tactile thrill to his visual set pieces (the custom gowns by Prada are deliriously gorgeous) and a headlong propulsion to the story that only begins to slacken in the film's rickety final third. Leah Greenblatt, EW.com, "United States vs. Billie Holiday," 19 Feb. 2021 After decades of headlong frontal assaults while wildly shooting from the hip, stormtroopers have at last stumbled upon basic tactics. Angry Staff Officer, Wired, "Hold Everything: Stormtroopers Have Discovered Tactics," 9 Dec. 2020 Even his headlong chapter on history focuses chiefly on the wind’s astonishments. Colin Thubron, The New York Review of Books, "Cartographers of Stone and Air," 17 Nov. 2020 The fissure fractures the paintings’ reflections into jarringly radical angles, throwing the country’s past into a headlong collision with its present and future. Nancy Hass, New York Times, "A Cape Town Apartment That Speaks to the Past," 13 Nov. 2020 This brilliant piece by Financial Times correspondent Kathrin Hille suggests that's exactly the outcome of China's headlong rush to catch up with the U.S., Taiwan, and South Korea in the semi-conductor industry. Grady Mcgregor, Fortune, "Xi Jinping’s new economic strategy for China: ‘Dual circulation’ or doublespeak?," 15 Oct. 2020 If the reputation of D. H. Lawrence were to be measured like a heartbeat on an EKG, the graph would show a sharp rise after his death, in 1930, followed by a headlong fall, in 1970, and then fifty years of flatlining. Frances Wilson, The New Yorker, "The D. H. Lawrence We Forgot," 8 Oct. 2020 Senior people in the industry have also voiced reservations over 5G, wary of a headlong rush to deploy it given the uncertain outlook for investment returns. Helene Fouquet, Bloomberg.com, "Dissent at Heart of Telecom Industry Undermines France’s 5G Push," 18 Sep. 2020 The ills of terrestrial mining do not justify a headlong rush to dig up the ocean floor, says Diva Amon, a marine biologist at the Natural History Museum in London. Daniel Ackerman, Scientific American, "Deep-Sea Mining: How to Balance Need for Metals with Ecological Impacts," 31 Aug. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'headlong.' 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 headlong


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


circa 1533, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for headlong


Middle English hedlong, alteration of hedling, from hed head

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Time Traveler for headlong

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

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Last Updated

24 Feb 2021

Cite this Entry

“Headlong.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/headlong. Accessed 2 Mar. 2021.

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More Definitions for headlong



English Language Learners Definition of headlong

: with the head leading
: without taking time to think about your actions


head·​long | \ ˈhed-ˈlȯŋ How to pronounce headlong (audio) \

Kids Definition of headlong

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : headfirst The boys dove headlong into a pile of leaves.
2 : without waiting to think things through Don't rush headlong into marriage.


\ ˈhed-ˌlȯŋ How to pronounce headlong (audio) \

Kids Definition of headlong (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : rash entry 1, impulsive “I don't rush into things in your headlong way, Anne.”— Lucy Maud Montgomery, Anne of Avonlea
2 : plunging headfirst He made a headlong run for the exit.

More from Merriam-Webster on headlong

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for headlong

Nglish: Translation of headlong for Spanish Speakers

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