Definition of heckle in US English:



[with object]
  • 1Interrupt (a public speaker) with derisive or aggressive comments or abuse.

    ‘he was booed and heckled when he tried to address the demonstrators’
    no object ‘he is merely heckling from the sidelines’
    • ‘Strangely, he simply isn't believed and has been booed and heckled.’
    • ‘Is there any parallel in musical history of an artist being turned on by his fans and being booed and heckled from the moment he walked on stage?’
    • ‘It has become an Easter bank holiday tradition to see an angry minister being jeered and heckled by teachers who seem to enjoy taking a break from being the ones at the front of the class.’
    • ‘The statement did not appease former residents who heckled the sister from the public gallery.’
    • ‘Apparently the Angel Wings dancers frequently blocked the views of season ticket holders behind the dugout; from the very start they were heckled and booed.’
    • ‘Rather than heckling and preventing the speakers from talking, they held up the signs in unison to show their agreement or disagreement.’
    • ‘At the full council meeting on October 20, a packed public gallery heckled Labour councillors and cheered opposition members throughout the two-hour debate on the future of the pool and school.’
    • ‘He was booed and heckled and despite the Union leadership's attempt to calm the atmosphere, the press made much of it.’
    • ‘The union officials changed their minds after they were booed and heckled by the strikers, who pelted them with stones and threatened to lynch them.’
    • ‘He thinks somebody will boo him or heckle him or slow hand-clap him.’
    • ‘Trying to rise from the ranks of the students, first-time lecturers had it worse; they might have to appear before listeners who had come expressly to heckle them and disrupt the lesson at the first blunder or sign of hesitation.’
    • ‘But, again, the eerie thing was that none of these people were booing or heckling - not until, that is, one lone punter finally stuck up his hand as if he was at school.’
    • ‘However, in this ‘democratic process,’ he has the right to speak his mind without being interrupted, ridiculed and heckled during his speech.’
    • ‘Some observers in the hall heckled her remarks, in a rare interruption of the festive atmosphere after a plenary session of 185 delegations offered no objections whatever to the deal.’
    • ‘I'm never one who likes seeing speakers heckled or booed at college commencement speeches, pretty much no matter who they are.’
    • ‘While the majority of the audience supported his comments, a significant minority disagreed and heckled from the sidelines.’
    • ‘The forum provided a stark contrast to the earlier leader's debate, as candidates argued with each other and the audience cheered, booed, and heckled the representatives.’
    • ‘The graduates and their guests, numbering about 60,000, were informed that anyone protesting or heckling the speakers could be subject to arrest and expulsion from the stadium.’
    • ‘A young Japanese in the audience heckled him aggressively, but Kim admonished him by telling him ‘to listen to me.’’
    • ‘Firstly, delegates at the annual Pensioners' Parliament in Blackpool jeered and heckled the Pensions Minister.’
    jeer, taunt, jibe at, shout down, shout at, boo, hiss, disrupt, interrupt, harass
    View synonyms
  • 2Dress (flax or hemp) to split and straighten the fibers for spinning.

    • ‘The first step is to heckle the fiber, combing the long fibers from the short.’
    separate, dress, card, tease, hackle, hatchel
    View synonyms


  • A heckling comment.

    ‘the meeting regularly dissolved into heckles’
    • ‘In previous gigs he's allowed audience members to write their heckles down on a pad at the front of the stage, but tonight he put up a mobile phone number and asked the crowd to text him.’
    • ‘The comment raised heckles and embarrassed the forum's organizers.’
    • ‘He could only smile sheepishly when the heckles rose.’
    • ‘You can always count on your peers, friends, and enemies for a good heckle.’
    • ‘The pro-refugee argument was taken to a residents’ meeting and was met with some heckles, but made others think.’
    • ‘You could knock Philips for not really interacting with his audience, for not having any particularly topical jokes, for the scattergun nature of his approach, or for his awkward way of dealing with a heckle.’
    • ‘He apologises for sounding croaky, and even gets a bit of a heckle when he's off on a verbal detour about birdspotting.’
    • ‘The first heckle at the premiere was heard after about 20 minutes, although there may have been others that went unheeded.’
    • ‘The sight of royal blue encouraged many snide remarks from staff and customers alike; though unfortunately this was nothing compared to the unsavoury heckles in regards to my facial decoration.’
    • ‘And here I see for the first time what makes a great heckle: passion.’
    • ‘Imagine if I'd managed to say all that in response to their heckles.’
    • ‘I will not bore you with all my heckles but suffice to say that he couldn't answer any of them, though I was not savvy enough to phrase them all as questions.’
    • ‘She confessed that she had never been to a comedy gig before and to begin with her heckles were rather sweetly supportive, ‘Go on, you're not doing so bad’ and so on.’
    • ‘He could expect no heckles and received none for beginning his speech with what he probably thought was self-evident wisdom.’
    • ‘He never needed them because the heckles never came.’
    • ‘The concession prompted loud heckles from the Opposition benches and cries of ‘you should be ashamed of yourself.’’
    • ‘I did not walk into the cafeteria to laughs and heckles, no one got in my face.’
    • ‘I enjoyed your heckles too, and I was on the stage.’
    • ‘There were then raised voices and heckles from the floor.’
    • ‘She commented on it, of course, but it was a polite heckle, and very well-meaning - as were her comments about the English weather, her high heels and the quaint English accents.’


Middle English (in heckle (sense 2 of the verb)): from heckle ‘flax comb’, a northern and eastern form of hackle. The sense ‘interrupt (a public speaker) with aggressive comments’ arose in the mid 17th century; for the development in sense, compare with tease.