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[hak-uh l] /ˈhæk əl/
one of the long, slender feathers on the neck or saddle of certain birds, as the domestic rooster, much used in making artificial flies for anglers.
the neck plumage of a male bird, as the domestic rooster.
  1. the erectile hair on the back of an animal's neck:
    At the sound of footsteps, the dog raised her hackles.
  2. anger, especially when aroused in a challenging or challenged manner:
    with one's hackles up.
  1. the legs of an artificial fly made with feathers from the neck or saddle of a rooster or other such bird.
  2. hackle fly.
a comb for dressing flax or hemp.
verb (used with object), hackled, hackling.
Angling. to equip with a hackle.
to comb, as flax or hemp.
raise one's hackles, to arouse one's anger:
Such officiousness always raises my hackles.
Also, hatchel, heckle (for defs 5, 7).
Origin of hackle1
late Middle English
1400-50; late Middle English hakell; see heckle
Related forms
hackler, noun


[hak-uh l] /ˈhæk əl/
verb (used with object), hackled, hackling.
to cut roughly; hack; mangle.
1570-80; hack1 + -le; cognate with Middle Dutch hakkelen Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for hackle
Historical Examples
  • The longest fibres of the hackle must be of the same length as the hook.

    Old Flies in New Dresses Charles Edward Walker
  • Kills well with hackle when the water is slightly discoloured.

    The Teesdale Angler R Lakeland
  • It is also made of straw body, grey cock's hackle, and mallard wings—these two methods are very good.

  • The hackle was a board with long, sharp steel teeth set in it.

  • The shells are shredded, the feathers are caked and bitten, the hackle is frazzled and frayed out.

    The Tent Dwellers Albert Bigelow Paine
  • Be sure that the hackle is tied on edgewise with the shiny side to the front.

    How to Tie Flies E. C. Gregg
  • He thought, I'll be sworn, that I should storm and swear and ruffle it like any common cock of the hackle.

    Under the Red Robe Stanley Weyman
  • Wind the hackle spirally around the body and tie off the butt, Fig. 12.

    How to Tie Flies E. C. Gregg
  • She could not get into any trouble if she stayed on hackle Island, declared Darry.

  • Leave a vacancy to receive the hackle if rolled on at the shoulder.

British Dictionary definitions for hackle


any of the long slender feathers on the necks of poultry and other birds
  1. parts of an artificial fly made from hackle feathers, representing the legs and sometimes the wings of a real fly
  2. short for hackle fly
a feathered ornament worn in the headdress of some British regiments
a steel flax comb
verb (transitive)
to comb (flax) using a hackle
See also hackles
Derived Forms
hackler, noun
Word Origin
C15: hakell, probably from Old English; variant of heckle; see hatchel
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for hackle

Old English hacele "cloak, mantle" (cf. Old High German hachul, Gothic hakuls "cloak;" Old Norse hekla "hooded frock"). Sense of "bird plumage" is first recorded early 15c., though this might be from unrelated Middle English hackle "flax comb" (see heckle (n.)) on supposed resemblance of comb to ruffled feathers. Metaphoric extension found in raise one's hackles (as a cock does when angry) is first recorded 1881.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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