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

Keep scrolling for more

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
See More
Recent Examples on the Web: Adverb Ready to jump headlong into the seasonal frenzy and add a few hundred feet of twinkling lights to your already sparkling X-mas factor? Amy Drew Thompson, orlandosentinel.com, "Gingerbread crawl, y’all! Pastry chefs spin up holiday wonders for all to enjoy," 11 Dec. 2019 The Laundromat’ plunges headlong into the intricate workings of offshore bank accounts, shell companies and other means by which the global financial elite hide their wealth and avoid taxes. Mark Olsenstaff Writer, Los Angeles Times, "Indie Focus: Greed is goofy in ‘The Laundromat’," 27 Sep. 2019 When Guaidó declared himself interim president with the backing of the U.S. in January, the two entered headlong into a compartmentalized conspiracy with members of the opposition. Washington Post, "AP Exclusive: Troops that defied Maduro have fled Venezuela," 9 Dec. 2019 But a fourth witness, Jonathan Turley, a law professor at George Washington University, cautioned that House Democrats were rushing headlong into an impeachment based on an incomplete set of facts and overly broad standards. BostonGlobe.com, "“The essential definition of high crimes and misdemeanors is the abuse of office,” he said. “The framers considered the office of the presidency to be a public trust.”," 5 Dec. 2019 The two presidents in the dock are radically different as well, both defiant, angry and aggrieved, yet one strived to hide it and be seen as above the partisan mudslinging, while the other dives headlong into the mud, energetically slinging away. Peter Baker, New York Times, "Two Impeachments, but Two Radically Different Accusations," 12 Nov. 2019 Jeb Bush did become governor of Florida, but his presidential ambitions ran headlong into the ascendant Trump phenomenon in 2016. Ashraf Khalil, San Diego Union-Tribune, "Problematic relatives: A true American political tradition," 6 Oct. 2019 The cast dives headlong into this choreography’s extremes, which include precariously deep arches and hunched, carapace-like backs. Janine Parker, BostonGlobe.com, "Two works by Martha Graham make the company’s EVE Project at Jacob’s Pillow transcendant," 16 Aug. 2019 Elio’s headlong cross-generation romance mirrors his father’s. The Economist, "“Find Me” is a lacklustre sequel to “Call Me By Your Name”," 31 Oct. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective Kern is a pianist of muscle and blazing, headlong speed: the densest passagework cruised, even occasionally hurtling past Slatkin’s warm, firmly outlined accompaniment. Matthew Guerrieri, Washington Post, "Leonard Slatkin gives himself a 75th birthday present: a reunion with the NSO," 6 Dec. 2019 Combined with this whipping up of virulent nativist sentiment has been a headlong plunge into free markets, as Burma lurched from being one of the poorest and most isolated countries in Asia to another aspirant on the capitalist world stage. Jennifer Szalai, New York Times, "‘The Hidden History of Burma’ Traces the Vanishing of Hope," 19 Nov. 2019 To understand just how far the Ravens defense has fallen this season, to grasp the depths of its headlong plummet into the NFL’s basement, start where the Ravens did. Jonas Shaffer, baltimoresun.com, "Could the Ravens’ struggling defense really be as bad as — or worse than — the tanking Dolphins’?," 4 Oct. 2019 China stands out from other technologically advanced countries because of its headlong embrace of new biological and medical developments that raise weighty ethical and human-rights issues. The Editors, Scientific American, "China Needs Stronger Ethical Safeguards in Biomedicine," 1 Oct. 2019 Agricultural productivity has confounded Malthus’s predictions by keeping the world’s population well fed despite its headlong growth in the past century. David Fickling | Bloomberg, Washington Post, "Global Population Could Peak Sooner Than We Think," 24 June 2019 Its data shows that GAAP earnings are still growing, though at a crawl compared with the headlong sprint over the last few years. Shawn Tully, Fortune, "Corporate Earnings are Flatlining—and That’s Terrible News for the Stock Market," 31 Aug. 2019 Noseda has a particular way with Beethoven: fresh and helium-light and so fleet that the strings almost floated offstage in the headlong blink-and-you’ll-miss-it passagework of the trio section of the third-movement scherzo. Anne Midgette, Washington Post, "How the NSO and Noseda brought fresh air to the summer heat at Wolf Trap," 28 July 2019 As a depiction of ordinary people who fall into an unavoidable commotion, this film is: a comedy without clowns, a tragedy without villains, all leading to a violent tangle and a headlong plunge down the stairs. Nick Romano, EW.com, "New Parasite trailer previews Bong Joon-ho's Cannes winner," 14 Aug. 2019

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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about headlong

Time Traveler for headlong

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Listen to Our Podcast about headlong

Statistics for headlong

Last Updated

11 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Headlong.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/headlong. Accessed 20 January 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for headlong


How to pronounce headlong (audio)

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.

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on headlong

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for headlong

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with headlong

Spanish Central: Translation of headlong

Nglish: Translation of headlong for Spanish Speakers

Comments on headlong

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


not to be intimidated or subdued

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

The Eponym Quiz

  • rubens painting
  • Which is the best synonym of bowdlerize?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!