heel

1 of 4

noun (1)

1
a
: the back of the human foot below the ankle and behind the arch
b
: the part of the hind limb of other vertebrates that is similar in structure to the human heel
nipping at the cow's heels
2
: an anatomical structure suggestive of the human heel
especially : the part of the palm of the hand nearest the wrist
rubbed his eyes with the heels of his hands Warren Eyster
3
: one of the crusty ends of a loaf of bread
4
a
: the part (as of a shoe) that covers the human heel
b
: a solid attachment of a shoe or boot forming the back of the sole under the heel of the foot
squashed the bug with his boot heel
5
: a rear, low, or bottom part: such as
a
: the after end of a ship's keel or the lower end of a mast
b
: the base of a tuber or cutting of a plant used for propagation of the plant
c
: the base of a ladder
6
a
: a contemptible person : a person who is self-centered or untrustworthy
felt like a heel
a few heels who appear to get away with it Frank Case
b
professional wrestling : a wrestler who performs the role of the unsympathetic antagonist or adversary in a staged wrestling match
In the traditional morality plays of professional wrestling, grapplers divided into good guys, or "baby faces," and black-hatted "heels." John Leland
compare baby face sense 2
heelless adjective

heel

2 of 4

verb (1)

heeled; heeling; heels

transitive verb

1
a
: to furnish (a boot, a shoe, etc.) with a solid attachment forming the part of the sole that is under the back of the foot : to attach a heel (see heel entry 1 sense 4b) to
b
: to supply especially with money or information
better heeled but still not flush
I want to be heeled when they book him R. P. Warren
2
a
: to exert pressure on, propel, or strike (someone or something) with the back part of the foot
heeled her horse
b
: to urge (a lagging animal) by following closely or by nipping at the heels
dogs heeling cattle

intransitive verb

: to move along near the back of someone's feet : to stay at someone's heels
taught the dog to heel

heel

3 of 4

verb (2)

heeled; heeling; heels

intransitive verb

: to lean to one side : tip
especially, of a boat or ship : to lean temporarily (as from the action of wind or waves)
kept heeling to the left
compare list entry 3

transitive verb

: to cause (a boat) to lean to one side
heeling the sloop well over and skimming her along to windward K. M. Dodson

heel

4 of 4

noun (2)

: a tilt (as of a boat) to one side
also : the extent of such a tilt
a heel of six degrees to starboard
Phrases
by the heels
: in a tight grip
had the enemy by the heels
down at heel or down at the heel
: in or into a run-down or shabby condition
His slippers were down at the heel.
on the heels of
: immediately following
came close on the heels of the announcement
to heel
1
: close behind
called the dog to heel
2
: into agreement or line
reluctantly came to heel
help to bring inflation to heel
under heel
: under control or subjection
They kept us under heel.

Word History

Etymology

Noun (1) and Verb (1)

Middle English, from Old English hēla; akin to Old Norse hæll heel, Old English hōh — more at hock

Verb (2) and Noun (2)

alteration of Middle English heelden, from Old English hieldan; akin to Old High German hald inclined, Lithuanian šalis side, region

First Known Use

Noun (1)

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Verb (1)

1598, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1a

Verb (2)

circa 1575, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense

Noun (2)

1622, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of heel was before the 12th century

Dictionary Entries Near heel

Cite this Entry

“Heel.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/heel. Accessed 5 Dec. 2022.

Kids Definition

heel 1 of 4

noun

1
a
: the back part of the human foot behind the arch and below the ankle
also : the corresponding part of a lower vertebrate
b
: the part of the palm of the hand nearest the wrist
2
: a part (as of a shoe) that covers or supports the human heel
3
: a lower, back, or end part
especially : one of the crusty ends of a loaf of bread
4
: a despicable person
on the heels of
: close behind
heelless adjective

heel

2 of 4

verb

: to provide with a heel
heeler
ˈhē-lər
noun

heel

3 of 4

verb

: to tilt to one side : tip

heel

4 of 4

noun

: a tilt to one side

Medical Definition

1
a
: the back of the human foot below the ankle and behind the arch
b
: the back of the hind limb of other vertebrates homologous with the human heel
2
: an anatomical structure suggestive of the human heel: as
a
: the hind part of a hoof
b
: either of the projections of a coffin bone
c
: the part of the palm of the hand nearest the wrist

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