Definition of hackle in English:



  • 1hacklesErectile hairs along an animal's back, which rise when it is angry or alarmed.

    ‘the dog continued to growl, its hackles raised’
    • ‘The dog stared, ears flattening, and she saw his hackles rise along his spine.’
    • ‘Her eyes practically exploded with flames and her hair rose a little, like a dog rising its hackles.’
    • ‘Sekher felt his hackles rise, claws extruded in fear.’
    • ‘Bebe puffed up her little body, her short fur trying to ridge along her back into hackles, her bared fangs at Daisy's throat.’
    • ‘Their thick hackles rose and their lips curled back into snarls as they spotted the two.’
    • ‘His hackles rising, he switched into ‘protector’ mode.’
    • ‘Next to me, I could almost feel Cale's hackles rising in defiance and uneasiness, much like a cornered dog about to make a break for it between the gaps in the ring of its attackers.’
    • ‘The dogs growled and slowed, their hackles rising.’
    • ‘Isabella's hackles rose, immediately running to my defense.’
    • ‘Bowering's hackles rise and then just as quickly fall again.’
    • ‘Lee's hackles rose, his ears flattened, and a low growl began deep in his chest.’
    • ‘The boar saw the sword and his hackles rose; the hunters feared for their lord's life.’
    • ‘It bared its teeth, hackles bristling, and snarled.’
    • ‘Black throat-feathers bristled like the hackles of an angered wolf, while its dark eyes were set off by striking ‘eyebrows’ - wattles of vivid red flesh.’
    • ‘He saw his snarling muzzle clamped tight, saw bristling hackles and a bright amber eye wide with terror - just as something struck him.’
    • ‘Its hackles raised and its teeth bared ferociously; she was scared.’
    • ‘A pack of wolves, fifty at least, were coming toward her, hackles raised, teeth bared, snarling.’
    • ‘The smell conjured up terrible, dog-like images of danger and violence, and the hackles on the tomcat's neck stood at attention.’
    • ‘With malevolent eye highlighted in red and throat feathers raised like the hackles of a dog, he was distinctly intimidating.’
  • 2A long, narrow feather on the neck or saddle of a domestic cock or other bird.

    ‘Even before they hit the ground both birds fan their hackles out, resembling nothing so much as a suddenly opened umbrella.’
    ‘Another distinct bird is the Nicobar pigeon with its metallic green hackles and sheen on its plumage.’
    1. 2.1Fishing A feather wound around a fishing fly so that its filaments are splayed out.
      • ‘I clip off all the bottom and top hackles leaving the side hackles to ensure the fly sits in the surface film.’
      • ‘Different coloured hackle fibres for tail and throat hackles can work well.’
      • ‘Take ribbing wire through the hackle again in open’
      • ‘Wind the hackle evenly down the body to the tail.’
      • ‘Wind on the hackle for three turns towards the eye.’
    2. 2.2mass noun Fly-fishing feathers collectively.
      ‘raising birds for hackle’
      • ‘I believe that the palmered body hackle causes a disturbance in the water and this is an attraction itself.’
      • ‘Twist peacock herl ends and wind on in front of hackle to form a neat head.’
      • ‘At the front I use two or three strands of three inches of round rubber hackle.’
      • ‘He casts the royal coachman - white wings and russet hackle, pheasant tippits and peacock herl - to feign the nymph and summon rainbows from a shadow world.’
      • ‘One of the eyes was seated a bit crooked and the tuft of hackle was a tad twisted, but the overall result looked pretty good, especially after several additional sips of aged rum.’
    3. 2.3A bunch of feathers in a military headdress, for example of a regiment of fusiliers or the Black Watch.
      • ‘Faced with the famous red hackles of the the organization, they dropped their bags and applauded.’
      • ‘He will attempt to claim credit for preserving individual regimental identities within the new Scottish regiment by keeping their traditional cap badges, hackles and other distinctive traditions.’
      • ‘Down the main street strides the major of the army, an icy wind pulling at the red hackle on his bonnet.’
      • ‘A soldier with 16 years' experience warned that there would be a mutiny if the symbolic red hackle was dropped as part of the regimental restructuring.’
  • 3A steel comb for dressing flax.


[with object]
  • Dress or comb (flax) with a hackle.

    ‘taking each section separately the student should lightly hackle the extreme ends’
    • ‘Then the stems were hackled (from the Old High German word that also gave us hook) to remove any remaining non-fibrous material by drawing them through a big comb consisting of a bed of nails in a wooden board.’
    • ‘In August we shall keep many people busy with retting and hackling, and by late September have much linen thread to spin.’
    • ‘Spinning wheels lined the walls and at the central tables others sorted, hackled and carded the wool.’
    separate, dress, card, tease, hackle, heckle, hatchel


    make someone's hackles rise
    • Make someone angry or indignant.

      • ‘Why, it makes my hackles rise in self-righteous horror!’
      • ‘I knew it was a grin, but the bared teeth still made my hackles rise.’
      • ‘As nondescript and unassuming as he seemed, his mere presence made my hackles rise.’
      • ‘The sound of footsteps behind him made his hackles rise.’
      • ‘The sudden picture of Bruce sitting so close to her, hands clasped, made his hackles rise.’


Late Middle English (in hackle (sense 2 of the noun)): variant of hatchel.