Definition of hackle in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈhak(ə)l/


1 (hackles) Erectile hairs along an animal’s back, which rise when it is angry or alarmed: the dog continued to growl, its hackles raised
More example sentences
  • The dog stared, ears flattening, and she saw his hackles rise along his spine.
  • Her eyes practically exploded with flames and her hair rose a little, like a dog rising its hackles.
  • Sekher felt his hackles rise, claws extruded in fear.
2A long, narrow feather on the neck or saddle of a domestic cock or other bird.
Example sentences
  • Even before they hit the ground both birds fan their hackles out, resembling nothing so much as a suddenly opened umbrella.
  • Another distinct bird is the Nicobar pigeon with its metallic green hackles and sheen on its plumage.
2.1 Fishing A feather wound around a fishing fly so that its filaments are splayed out.
Example sentences
  • I clip off all the bottom and top hackles leaving the side hackles to ensure the fly sits in the surface film.
  • Different coloured hackle fibres for tail and throat hackles can work well.
  • Take ribbing wire through the hackle again in open
2.2 [mass noun] Fly-fishing feathers collectively: raising birds for hackle
More example sentences
  • I believe that the palmered body hackle causes a disturbance in the water and this is an attraction itself.
  • Twist peacock herl ends and wind on in front of hackle to form a neat head.
  • At the front I use two or three strands of three inches of round rubber hackle.
2.3A bunch of feathers in a military headdress, for example of a regiment of fusiliers or the Black Watch.
Example sentences
  • Faced with the famous red hackles of the the organization, they dropped their bags and applauded.
  • He will attempt to claim credit for preserving individual regimental identities within the new Scottish regiment by keeping their traditional cap badges, hackles and other distinctive traditions.
  • Down the main street strides the major of the army, an icy wind pulling at the red hackle on his bonnet.
3A steel comb for dressing flax.


[with object]
Dress or comb (flax) with a hackle: taking each section separately the student should lightly hackle the extreme ends
More example sentences
  • Then the stems were hackled (from the Old High German word that also gave us hook) to remove any remaining non-fibrous material by drawing them through a big comb consisting of a bed of nails in a wooden board.
  • In August we shall keep many people busy with retting and hackling, and by late September have much linen thread to spin.
  • Spinning wheels lined the walls and at the central tables others sorted, hackled and carded the wool.


make someone's hackles rise

Make someone angry or indignant.
Example sentences
  • Why, it makes my hackles rise in self-righteous horror!
  • I knew it was a grin, but the bared teeth still made my hackles rise.
  • As nondescript and unassuming as he seemed, his mere presence made my hackles rise.


Late Middle English (in sense 2 of the noun): variant of hatchel.

  • Hackles are the long feathers on the neck of a fighting cock or the hairs on the top of a dog's neck, which stand up when the animal is aggressive or excited. So if you make someone's hackles rise you make them angry or indignant. In the Middle Ages a hackle or heckle was also an instrument with parallel steel pins used to prepare flax for spinning by splitting the fibres and pulling them straight. This vigorous action was transferred to giving speakers an equally hard time or heckling them in the early 19th century. The word goes back to an ancient root related to hook. See also tease

Words that rhyme with hackle

cackle, crackle, grackle, jackal, mackle, shackle

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: hackle

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