bring to heel

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From the command to make a dog closely follow its master.

Alternative forms[edit]


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bring to heel (third-person singular simple present brings to heel, present participle bringing to heel, simple past and past participle brought to heel)

  1. (transitive, idiomatic) To compel someone to obey; to force someone into a submissive condition.
    • 1906, John Galsworthy, chapter 12, in The Forsyte Saga, Part I:
      They wanted a lesson, and they would get it; but it would take three months at least to bring them to heel.
    • 1988 June 10, Howell Raines, "Journal: In Tory Country, Someone to Watch Over TV," New York Times (retrieved 16 Jan 2012):
      Even some fellow Conservatives maintain that Sir William has shown a dangerously authoritarian streak since enlisting as a general in Mrs. Thatcher's single-minded campaign to bring broadcasters to heel.
    • 1996 January 28, "Hillary Clinton," C-SPAN - Keene State College in New Hampshire :
      In reference to black teenagers, "We also have to have an organized effort against gangs…. They are not just gangs of kids anymore. They are often the kinds of kids that are called superpredators. No conscience, no empathy. We can talk about why they ended up that way, but first we have to bring them to heel.
    • 2011 April 4, "Ahmad Shuja Pasha," Time:
      Now Pasha says the ISI is the only organization that can bring the wayward Taliban to heel.
  2. (transitive, idiomatic) To cause to act in a disciplined manner.