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See also: Buckle



A belt buckle (etymology 1, noun sense 1).
A buckle (etymology 1, noun sense 1.2) used in Canadian heraldry as the brisure of an eighth daughter.

Etymology 1[edit]

The noun is derived from Middle English bokel (spiked metal ring for fastening; ornamental clasp; boss of a shield; a shield, buckler; (figurative) means of defence) [and other forms],[1] from Old French boucle, bocle (spiked metal ring for fastening; boss of a shield; a shield) [and other forms], from Latin buccula (cheek strap of a helmet; boss of a shield)[2] (from bucca (soft part of the cheek); further etymology uncertain, possibly of Celtic origin, or from Proto-Indo-European *bew-, *bʰew- (to blow; to inflate; to swell)) + -ula (diminutive suffix).

Noun sense 2 (“great conflict or struggle”) is probably derived from verb sense 1.2.1 (“to apply (oneself) to, or prepare (oneself) for, a task or work”).[2]

The verb is derived from Middle English bokelen, bukelen (to fasten (something) with a buckle or clasp; to fasten, make fast; to wrap; to arch the body) [and other forms], from bokel (noun)[3] (see above) + -en (suffix forming the infinitive of verbs).[4]

In verb sense 1.2.1, the sense “to apply (oneself) to, or prepare (oneself) for, a task or work” was derived from the now obsolete sense “to equip (oneself) for a battle, etc.”, and originally alluded to armour being buckled on to the body.[5]


buckle (plural buckles)

  1. A metal clasp with a hinged tongue or a spike through which a belt or strap is passed and penetrated by the tongue or spike, in order to fasten the ends of the belt together or to secure the strap to something else.
    1. (by extension) Some other form of clasp used to fasten two things together.
    2. (Canada, heraldry) An image of a clasp (sense 1) used as the brisure of an eighth daughter.
  2. A great conflict or struggle.
Derived terms[edit]


buckle (third-person singular simple present buckles, present participle buckling, simple past and past participle buckled)

  1. (transitive)
    1. To fasten (something) using a buckle (noun sense 1); hence (obsolete), to fasten (something) in any way.
      Antonym: unbuckle
    2. (figurative)
      1. (reflexive) To apply (oneself) to, or prepare (oneself) for, a task or work; also (obsolete), to equip (oneself) for a battle, expedition, etc.
        Synonym: buckle down
        • 1574, Augustine Marlorate [i.e., Augustin Marlorat], “[Revelation 12:12]”, in Arthur Golding, transl., A Catholike Exposition vpon the Reuelation of Sainct Iohn. [], London: [] H[enry] Binneman, for L[ucas] Harison, and G[eorge] Bishop, →OCLC, folio 179, verso:
          For this cauſe whẽ the faithfull find themſelues to haue ouercome Satan in one incounter by the grace of Chriſt, let them take good heede that they imagin not their battel to be at an end: but rather let them buckle themſelues to a new charge, and valiantly aduance themſelues to handſtrokes againe.
        • 1596, Edmund Spenser, “Book VI, Canto VIII”, in The Faerie Queene. [], part II (books IV–VI), London: [] [Richard Field] for William Ponsonby, →OCLC, stanza 12, page 454:
          He left his lofty ſteede to aide him neare, / And buckling ſoone him ſelfe, gan fiercely fly / Vppon that Carle, to ſaue his friend from ieopardy.
        • 1606, Charles Steuens [i.e., Charles Estienne], John Liebault [i.e., Jean Liébault], “Of Birds of the Pray in Particular”, in Richard Surflet, transl., Maison Rustique, or The Countrey Farme: [], London: [] Arnold Hatfield for Iohn Norton and Iohn Bill, →OCLC, book VII (The Warren), page 879:
          To be breef, haukes ſeeme not to differ, ſaue that all of them doe not flie at all kinde of birds and foules alike, for in deede euery one of them buckleth himſelfe vnto the bird, to the flying vvhereof he is giuen and addicted, and not to others.
        • 1655, Thomas Fuller, “Section VI. To the Masters, Wardens, and All the Members of the Honourable Company of Mercers, of London.”, in The Church-history of Britain; [], London: [] Iohn Williams [], →OCLC, book IX, subsections 15–20 (The Rhemish Translation Comes Forth. [...]), page 69:
          Hereupon [Thomas] Cartwright buckled himself to the employment, and was very forward in the pursuance thereof.
        • a. 1678 (date written), Isaac Barrow, “Sermon LII. Of Industry in Our General Calling, as Christians.”, in The Works of Dr. Isaac Barrow. [], volume III, London: A[braham] J[ohn] Valpy, [], published 1831, →OCLC, page 321:
          It chargeth on us contentedly and patiently to undergo whatever God doth impose of burden or sufferance, so that 'patience have its perfect work;' and it is a crabbed work to bend our stiff inclinations, to quell our refractory passions, to make our sturdy humour buckle thereto.
        • 1838 December 6, James David Forbes, “Personal Life (Continued) [Letter to J. T. Harrison, Esq.]”, in John Campbell Shairp, Peter Guthrie Tait, A[nthony] Adams-Reilly, Life and Letters of James David Forbes, London: Macmillan and Co., published 1873, →OCLC, page 140:
          … At the very time you were writing I was on a visit to the North of England, by way of a little stretch, before buckling to my winter's work.
      2. (British, dialectal (especially Scotland) or humorous) To unite (people) in marriage; to marry.
  2. (intransitive, figurative)
    1. To apply oneself to or prepare for a task or work.
      • 1563, John Strype, quoting Edwin Sandys, “The Bishop of Worcester’s Vindication of Himself against Sir John Bourne, before the Privy Council. Bourne’s Imprisonment and Submission. [An Answer to a Declaration of Sir John Bourne, Kt. which He Hath Made to My Answer Uttered before Your Honours. The Said Declaration being Indeed a New and Untrue Accusation.]”, in Annals of the Reformation and Establishment of Religion, and Other Various Occurrences in the Church of England; [], volume I, London: [] John Wyat, [], published 1709, →OCLC, page 360:
        Sir John diſdainfully looking at him, ſaluted him vvith theſe VVords, Farevvel Sir Knave, (for it is to be noted that it is common vvith him to term many honeſt Men ſo). My Brother anſvvered, Sir, You are no leſs. VVhereat one of Sir John’s Men buckled to fight vvith him. But Sir John ſtayed his Man.
      • 1623 June 21 (Gregorian calendar), Robert Saunderson [i.e., Robert Sanderson], “[Ad Magistratum.] The First Sermon. At a Publicke Sessions at Grantham Linc[olnshire] 11. June. 1623.”, in Twelve Sermons, [], [new] edition, London: [] Aug[ustine] Math[ews], for Robert Dawlman, and are to be sold by Robert Allet, [], published 1632, →OCLC, §. 6, page 132:
        The firſt thing vve doe in the morning before vve either eate or drink, or buckle about any vvorldly buſineſſe, is to put our clothes about vs: vve ſay, vve are not ready, till vve haue done that.
      • 1625, Francis [Bacon], “Of Delayes. XXI.”, in The Essayes [], 3rd edition, London: [] Iohn Haviland for Hanna Barret, →OCLC, page 126:
        [For a man] to be deceiued, vvith too long Shadovves, [] And ſo to ſhoot off before the time; Or to teach dangers to come on, by ouer early Buckling tovvards them, is another Extreme.
      • 1694, [John Locke], “Of Power”, in An Essay Concerning Humane Understanding. [], 2nd edition, London: [] Thomas Dring, []; and Samuel Manship, [], →OCLC, book II, § 43, page 139:
        [T]he Epicure buckles to ſtudy, vvhen ſhame, or the deſire to recommend himſelf to his Miſtreſs, ſhall make him uneaſie in the vvant of any ſort of knovvledge.
      • 1712, Humphry Polesworth [pseudonym; John Arbuthnot], “The Rest of Nic’s Fetches to Keep John out of Ecclesdoun-Castle”, in Lewis Baboon Turned Honest, and John Bull Politician. Being the Fourth Part of Law is a Bottomless-Pit. [], London: [] John Morphew, [], →OCLC, page 32:
        At laſt Eſquire South buckl'd to, to aſſiſt his Friend Nic.
      • 1870 March, Bret Harte, “[In Dialect.] Chiquita.”, in Poems, Boston, Mass.: Fields, Osgood, & Co., published 1871, →OCLC, page 55:
        Lickity, lickity, switch, we came to the ford, and Chiquita / Buckled right down to her work, []
      • 1929, D[onald] J[ohn] Munro, “Nemesis”, in The Roaring Forties and After, London: Sampson Low, Marston & Co., →OCLC, page 38:
        Then the sergeant let us out, and introducing us to a pile of wood and saws and axes, informed us that when this had been cut up into firewood we should get our breakfast. He sat at the door of his kitchen watching, and seeing there was nothing else for it we buckled to and soon had the job done; when we were admitted to the kitchen and given a really good meal.
      • 1934 October 5, P[elham] G[renville] Wodehouse, chapter XXII, in Right Ho, Jeeves, London: Herbert Jenkins [], →OCLC, page 280:
        I confess that the recollection of what this bell could do when it buckled down to it gave me pause as I stood that night at 12.30 p.m. prompt beside the outhouse where it was located.
    2. (British, dialectal (especially Scotland) or humorous) To unite with someone in marriage; to marry.
    3. (obsolete except British, dialectal) To participate in some contest or labour; to join in close fight; to contend.
      • 1535 October 14 (Gregorian calendar), Myles Coverdale, transl., Biblia: The Byble, [] (Coverdale Bible), [Cologne or Marburg: Eucharius Cervicornus and J. Soter?], →OCLC, 1 Macchabees iiij:[14–15], folio lxij, verso, column 1:
        So they buckled together, and the Heithen were diſcomfited, and fled ouer the playne felde: but the hynmoſt of them were ſlayne.
      • 1549 March 25 (Gregorian calendar), Hugh Latimer, “Sermon VI. Being the Second Sermon Preached before King Edward VI. March the Fifteenth.”, in The Sermons of the Right Reverend Father in God, Master Hugh Latimer, Bishop of Worcester. [], volume I, London: [] J. Scott, [], published 1758, →OCLC, page 90:
        VVell, it chanced that the Lord Protector [Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester] and he [Henry Beaufort, Bishop of Winchester] fell out, and the Biſhop vvould bear nothing at all vvith him, but played me the Satrapa; ſo the Regent of France vvas fain to be ſent for from beyond the ſeas, to ſet them at one, and go betvveen them: For the Biſhop vvas as able and ready to buckle vvith the Lord Protector as he vvas vvith him.
        The spelling has been modernized.
      • c. 1597 (date written), William Shakespeare, “The First Part of Henry the Fourth, []”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies [] (First Folio), London: [] Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, →OCLC, [Act I, scene ii], page 98, column 2:
        In ſingle Combat thou ſhalt buckle vvith me; / And if thou vanquiſheſt, thy vvords are true, / Othervviſe I renounce all confidence.
      • 1599, Lewis Thomas, “Christ Combating with Satan”, in Seauen Sermons, or, The Exercises of Seuen Sabbaoths. [], [London]: [] Valentine Simmes, →OCLC, folio 50, verso:
        [B]eing armed vvith patience vvhen thou buckleſt vvith affliction or pouertie, hunger, or any croſſe ſoeuer thou canſt ſay, it is nothing to ouercome them.
      • 1749 (date written), David Hume, “Discourse X. Of the Populousness of Antient Nations.”, in Political Discourses, Edinburgh: [] R. Fleming, for A[lexander] Kincaid and A[lexander] Donaldson, published 1752, →OCLC, page 189:
        And as the vvhole armies vvere thus engag'd, and each man cloſely buckl'd to his antagoniſt, the battles vvere commonly very bloody, and great ſlaughter made on both ſides, but eſpecially on the vanquiſh'd.
      • 1851 November 14, Herman Melville, “Cetology”, in Moby-Dick; or, The Whale, 1st American edition, New York, N.Y.: Harper & Brothers; London: Richard Bentley, →OCLC, page 158:
        Algerine Porpoise [] Provoke him, and he will buckle to a shark.
Derived terms[edit]

Etymology 2[edit]

A portrait of the British singer Margaretta Graddon with her hair in buckles (etymology 2, noun sense 3). She is also wearing a belt with a buckle (etymology 1, noun sense 1) around her waist.

Origin uncertain. Probably from Middle English bokelen (to arch the body), from Middle French boucler (to bulge, literally to take the shape of a shield boss), from the same ultimate origin as Etymology 1 above. In some senses, possibly from buck (to bend, yield, buckle) +‎ -le (frequentative suffix).


buckle (third-person singular simple present buckles, present participle buckling, simple past and past participle buckled)

  1. (transitive)
    1. To cause (something) to bend, or to become distorted.
    2. (obsolete) To curl (hair).
  2. (intransitive)
    1. Of a thing (especially a slender structure under compression): to collapse or distort under physical pressure.
      Synonyms: cave, cave in, crumple, fold
      • c. 1596–1599 (date written), William Shakespeare, The Second Part of Henrie the Fourth, [], quarto edition, London: [] V[alentine] S[immes] for Andrew Wise, and William Aspley, published 1600, →OCLC, [Act I, scene i], signature [A4], verso:
        And as the vvretch vvhoſe feuer-vveakned ioynts, / Like ſtrengthleſſe hinges buckle vnder life, / [] euen ſo my limbes, / VVeakened vvith griefe, being novv enragde vvith griefe, / Are thrice themſelues: []
      • 1680, Joseph Moxon, “Numb[er] XIII. Applied to the Art of Turning.”, in Mechanick Exercises, or The Doctrine of Handy-Works, [], volume I, London: [] Joseph Moxon, published 1678, →OCLC, § XVI (Of Turning Long and Slender Work of Ivory), page 222:
        And thus by placing Collers vvhere ever they find the VVork buckle, they (as aforeſaid) vvith Sharp Tools, tender touches, ſomevvhat a looſe and fine String, vveak Bovv, and great care and diligence vvork the vvhole Cilinder dovvn as ſmall as they liſt, either vvith Moldings or other VVork upon it, as beſt likes them.
      • 1851 November 14, Herman Melville, “Wheelbarrow”, in Moby-Dick; or, The Whale, 1st American edition, New York, N.Y.: Harper & Brothers; London: Richard Bentley, →OCLC, page 66:
        Sideways leaning, we sideways darted; every ropeyarn tingling like a wire; the two tall masts buckling like Indian canes in land tornadoes.
      • 2012 October 31, David M. Halbfinger, “New Jersey reels from storm’s thrashing”, in The New York Times[1], New York, N.Y.: The New York Times Company, →ISSN, →OCLC, archived from the original on 2023-04-04:
        Perhaps as startling as the sheer toll was the devastation to some of the state's well-known locales. Boardwalks along the beach in Seaside Heights, Belmar and other towns on the Jersey Shore were blown away. Amusement parks, arcades and restaurants all but vanished. Bridges to barrier islands buckled, preventing residents from even inspecting the damage to their property.
        Appeared in print on November 1, 2012, on page A1.
    2. (figurative) Of a person: to (suddenly) cease resisting pressure or stress; to give in or give way, to yield.
      Synonyms: break, buck, cave, crumple, fold, surrender
      It is amazing that he has never buckled after so many years of doing such urgent work.
      • 1664 December 27 (date written; Gregorian calendar), Samuel Pepys, Mynors Bright, transcriber, “December 17th, 1664”, in Henry B[enjamin] Wheatley, editor, The Diary of Samuel Pepys [], volume IV, London: George Bell & Sons []; Cambridge: Deighton Bell & Co., published 1894, →OCLC, page 309:
        Mr. Gray did tell me to-night, for certain, that the Dutch, as high as they seem, do begin to buckle; and that one man in this Kingdom did tell the King that he is offered £40,000 to make a peace, and others have been offered money also.
Derived terms[edit]


buckle (countable and uncountable, plural buckles)

  1. (countable) A distortion; a bend, bulge, or kink.
    We can’t use that saw any more. It‘s got a buckle in its blade.
    1. (roofing) An upward, elongated displacement of a roof membrane, frequently occurring over deck joints or insulation, which may indicate movement of the roof assembly.
  2. (countable, Canada, US, baking) Usually preceded by a descriptive word: a cake baked with fresh fruit (often blueberries) and a streusel topping.
  3. (countable, obsolete) A curl of hair, especially a kind of crisp curl formerly worn; also (countable, uncountable), the state of hair being curled in this manner.
    • 1711 August 8 (Gregorian calendar), [Joseph Addison], “SATURDAY, July 28, 1711”, in The Spectator, number 129; republished in Alexander Chalmers, editor, The Spectator; a New Edition, [], volume II, New York, N.Y.: D[aniel] Appleton & Company, 1853, →OCLC, page 184:
      The greatest beau at our next county sessions was dressed in a most monstrous flaxen periwig, that was made in king William's reign. The wearer of it goes, it seems, in his own hair when he is at home, and lets his wig lie in buckle for a whole half year, that he may put it on upon occasion to meet the judges in it.
      The spelling has been modernized.
    • 1730 May 5 (first performance; Gregorian calendar), Henry Fielding, Tom Thumb. A Tragedy. [], London: [] J. Roberts [], published 1730, →OCLC, Act I, scene iv, pages 6–7:
      For vvhat's a VVoman, vvhen her Virtue's gone? / A Coat vvithout its Lace; VVig out of Buckle; / A Stocking vvith a Hole in't.
    • 1731, Alexander Pope, “[Ethic Epistles, the Second Book. To Several Persons.] Epistle III. To Allen Lord Bathurst.”, in The Works of Mr. Alexander Pope, volume II, London: [] J. Wright, for Lawton Gilliver [], published 1735, →OCLC, page 22:
      That live-long VVig vvhich Gorgon's ſelf might ovvn, / Eternal buckle takes in Parian ſtone.
    • 1733, George Cheyne, “Of the Signs and Symptoms of a Too Relaxed, Loose and Tender State of Nerves”, in The English Malady: Or, A Treatise of Nervous Diseases of All Kinds, [], London: [] G[eorge] Strahan []; Bath, Somerset: J. Leake, →OCLC, part I (Of the Nature and Cause of Nervous Distempers), § II, page 100:
      Those that have by Nature ſoft, thin, and ſhort Hair, vvhich, vvith great Difficulty, receives or retains a Buckle, and thoſe vvho readily run into Baldneſs or ſhedding of the Hair tovvards the Spring, are certainly of a looſe, flabby, and relaxed State of Nerves: []
    • 1762, [Charles Churchill], “Book III”, in The Ghost, London: [] William Flexney, [], →OCLC, page 92:
      Obſerve his ſtiff affected mein, / 'Gainſt Nature arm'd by Gravity, / His features too in buckle ſee, []
    • 1824, Geoffrey Crayon [pseudonym; Washington Irving], “The Adventure of My Uncle”, in Tales of a Traveller, part 1 (Strange Stories. []), Philadelphia, Pa.: H[enry] C[harles] Carey & I[saac] Lea, [], →OCLC, page 32:
      He turned round and beheld the old French servant, with his ear locks in tight buckles on each side of a long, lanthorn face, on which habit had deeply wrinkled an everlasting smile.
  • sun kink (a buckle in a railway track)


  1. ^ bokel, bǒkel, n.”, in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007.
  2. 2.0 2.1 buckle, n.”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, September 2023; buckle, n.”, in Lexico, Dictionary.com; Oxford University Press, 2019–2022.
  3. ^ bokelen, bǒkelen, v.”, in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007
  4. ^ -en, suf.(3)”, in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007.
  5. ^ buckle, v.”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, September 2023; buckle, v.”, in Lexico, Dictionary.com; Oxford University Press, 2019–2022.

Further reading[edit]