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Transferred usage of Middle English hekelen (to comb flax or hemp with a heckle), from hekele (a comb for flax or hemp), from Middle Dutch hekelen (to prickle, irritate), from Proto-Germanic *hakilōną, related to *hakô (hook). Related to hackle.


  • IPA(key): /ˈhɛkəl/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -ɛkəl


heckle (third-person singular simple present heckles, present participle heckling, simple past and past participle heckled)

  1. (transitive) To question harshly in an attempt to find or reveal weaknesses. [from later 18th c.]
  2. (transitive) To insult, tease, make fun of or badger, especially during a comedy performance.
    Promise that you won't heckle me after my performance.
  3. (textiles) To prepare flax for spinning using special combs called hackles


(prepare flax for spinning): hackle

Related terms[edit]


The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout § Translations.


heckle (plural heckles)

  1. Alternative form of hackle (tool for separating flax)
  2. The long shining feathers on a cock's neck.
  3. A feather ornament in the full-dress bonnets of Highland regiments.
  4. An interruption during a show, especially a comedy performance
    The stand-up dealt well with the heckles from the crowd, replying with raucous banter to raie plenty of laughs.