"You canker blossom!" 3 Shakespearean Insults


[hek-uh l] /ˈhɛk əl/
verb (used with object), heckled, heckling.
to harass (a public speaker, performer, etc.) with impertinent questions, gibes, or the like; badger.
hackle1 (def 7).
hackle1 (def 5).
Origin of heckle
1275-1325; Middle English hekelen, variant of hechelen to comb flax; akin to hackle1, hatchel
Related forms
heckler, noun
1. bait, provoke, needle, hector, hound. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for heckler
  • It is easy to mistake the heckler as an adult, one of many mothers in the crowd infuriated by desegregation.
  • We don't need a new high-tech heckler-proof theater.
  • But when the heckler is your boss it takes on a whole new flavor.
  • It was a heckler in full pads, playfully yelling at a teammate across the field.
  • The actor's set was interrupted when he jumped into the crowd to confront a heckler.
  • heckler removed an electric welding machine, a hand-held grinder and other hand tools to work on the truck.
British Dictionary definitions for heckler


to interrupt (a public speaker, performer, etc) by comments, questions, or taunts
(transitive) Also hackle, hatchel. to comb (hemp or flax)
an instrument for combing flax or hemp
Derived Forms
heckler, noun
Word Origin
C15: Northern and East Anglian form of hackle
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 heckler

agent noun from heckle (v.); mid-15c., from late 13c., as a surname (Will. le Hekelere). Modern sense of "one from the audience who taunts a public speaker" is from 1885. Fem. form hekelstere is attested from c.1500.



early 14c., "to comb (flax or hemp) with a heckle;" from heckle (n.) or from related Middle Dutch hekelen. Figurative meaning "to question severely in a bid to uncover weakness" is from late 18c. "Long applied in Scotland to the public questioning of parliamentary candidates" [OED]. Related: Heckled; heckling.


"flax comb," c.1300, hechel, perhaps from an unrecorded Old English *hecel or a cognate Germanic word (cf. Middle High German hechel, Middle Dutch hekel), from Proto-Germanic *hakila-, from PIE *keg- "hook, tooth" (see hook).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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