1 a : one of the long narrow feathers on the neck or back 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 a : (plural) hairs (as on a dog's neck and back) that can be erected
The rooster's colorful hackle quivered as it stretched out its neck and began to crow.
"So before you get your hackles up in response to local sales and gas proposals floated up in Helena, consider the significant benefits they could bring to our local cost of living." — The Bozeman (Montana) Daily Chronicle, 14 Feb. 2017
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.
Test Your Vocabulary with M-W Quizzes
Test Your Vocabulary
Unscramble the letters to create a word that refers to the hairy covering of a mammal: LGEEPA.VIEW THE ANSWER
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