from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • intransitive & transitive verb To tilt or cause to tilt to one side.
  • noun A tilt, as of a boat, to one side.
  • noun The rounded posterior portion of the human foot under and behind the ankle.
  • noun The corresponding part of the hind foot of other vertebrates.
  • noun A similar anatomical part, such as the fleshy rounded base of the human palm or the hind toe of a bird.
  • noun The part, as of a sock, shoe, or stocking, that covers the heel.
  • noun The built-up portion of a shoe or boot, supporting the heel.
  • noun One of the crusty ends of a loaf of bread.
  • noun The lower or rearward part, as.
  • noun The part of the head of a golf club where it joins the shaft.
  • noun The end of a violin bow where the handle is located.
  • noun The lower end of a mast.
  • noun The after end of a ship's keel.
  • noun Botany The basal end of a plant cutting or tuber used in propagation.
  • noun Oppression; tyranny.
  • noun Informal A dishonorable or unscrupulous person.
  • intransitive verb To furnish with a heel or heels.
  • intransitive verb To repair or replace the heels, as for shoes.
  • intransitive verb Slang To furnish, especially with money.
  • intransitive verb To arm (a gamecock) with gaffs.
  • intransitive verb To press or strike with the heel.
  • intransitive verb To follow at one's heels.
  • idiom (down at the heel/heels) With the heel worn down. Used of shoes.
  • idiom (down at the heel/heels) Shabby or poor in appearance.
  • idiom (lay by the heels) To put in fetters or shackles; imprison.
  • idiom (on/upon) Directly behind.
  • idiom (on/upon) Immediately following.
  • idiom (heel/heels) Having holes in one's socks or shoes.
  • idiom (heel/heels) Rundown; shabby; seedy.
  • idiom (take to (one's) heels) To run away; flee.
  • idiom (to heel) Close behind.
  • idiom (to heel) Under discipline or control.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun The act of inclining or canting from a vertical position; a cant: as, the ship gave a heel to port. Also heeling.
  • To tilt, incline, or cant over from a vertical position, as a ship.
  • To pour out.
  • To turn partly over; come to a tilted position; cant: as, the ship heeled over.
  • To perform by the use of the heels or feet, as a dance.
  • To furnish with a heel or heel-piece, as any foot-covering; put a heel to, as a shoe or stocking.
  • To catch by the heels.
  • To arm with a gaff or spur, as a cock.
  • To equip or arm. See heeled, 2.
  • In sporting, to come or walk behind one's heels: used of a dog, and chiefly in command.
  • Same as heal, 3.
  • noun An obsolete spelling of heal.
  • In golf, to strike (a ball) on the heel of the club.


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[Alteration of Middle English helden, from Old English hieldan.]

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[Middle English, from Old English hēla.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

Alteration of earlier heeld, from Middle English heelden, from Old English hyldan, hieldan ("to incline"), cognate with Old Norse hella ("to pour out") ( > Danish hælde ("lean, pour")). More at hield.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

Middle English hele, heel, from Old English hēla, from Proto-Germanic *hanhilaz (cf. Dutch hiel, Swedish häl), diminutive of Proto-Germanic *hanhaz (“hock”). More at hock.


Help support Wordnik (and make this page ad-free) by adopting the word heel.


  • The only way to bring them to heel is to deal them enough defeats that they begin to question whether they properly understood what their god wants.

    Sound Politics: "Cantwell Doesn't Care" 2006

  • He revealed that when the heel is constantly elevated, the calf muscle and Achilles tendon can contract and shorten.

    High Heels can Ruin a Woman’s Health | Impact Lab 2010

  • But, thankfully, the verruca cluster on her right heel is history now.

    package 2009

  • Mr. CALDWELL: The heel is the villain who is trying to bring down the good guy, to bring down Hulk Hogan.

    Former Wrestling Exec Fights In Conn. Senate Race 2010

  • But, thankfully, the verruca cluster on her right heel is history now.

    fickle 2009

  • But many women who wear high heels too often suffer a shortening of the tendon because once the heel is pointed upwards, it tightens up.

    High Heels can Ruin a Woman’s Health | Impact Lab 2010

  • The toenails are also at risk as the incidence of in-growing toenails and nail infections is higher in heel wearers.

    High Heels can Ruin a Woman’s Health | Impact Lab 2010

  • For those of us who are less enamored of heels and (indulge me in a mini rant here), like me, are tired of the masochistic, indulgent approach of shoe designers for whom no heel is too high, nor artifice too excessive, then a deliciously stylish flat shoe not only makes sense, it is, in its own small way, a fashion anti-statement.

    Does the Shoe Fit? Finding the Perfect Flat Tina Gaudoin 2010

  • Italian research suggests women who wear up to a 2in heel may enjoy a better sex life.

    High Heels can Ruin a Woman’s Health | Impact Lab 2010

  • Nokia's Achilles 'heel is its sales of smartphones, whose share of global cellphone sales is rising fast.

    Nokia Optimism? Tough Call Hester Plumridge 2010

  • Starting at the heel of the knife (the side closest to the handle), pull it gently along the stone, maintaining that 15- to 20-degree angle the whole way through the pull.

    Improve Your Life With These Tiny Chores By 2022

  • In a self-published book she and Jared later released about Debbie’s murder, the two investigators outline a number of “social media tactics” they use to get others invested and actively participating in their Facebook groups, including, in a previous case, planting a “heel” — a wrestling term for someone who plays the villain — within the group.

    Podcasters Took Up Her Sister’s Murder Investigation. Then They Turned on Her. By 2023

  • HOKA soles also have a lower heel-to-toe drop than New Balance running shoes, and they have a meta rocker or hubble heel, which is designed to help guide the transition from heel to toe (impact to push off) when you run.

    Hoka Vs New Balance: Running Shoe Comparison Amber Sayer, MS, CPT, CNC 2023


Log in or sign up to get involved in the conversation. It's quick and easy.

  • On stringed musical instruments, the attachment point between the neck and the body.

    November 15, 2007

  • In professional wrestling, a heel is a wrestler who is villainous or a "bad guy", who is booked (scripted) by the promotion to be in the position of being an antagonist. They are typically opposed by their polar opposites called faces (the heroic protagonist or "good guy" characters). In American wrestling, it was common for the faces to be American and the heels to be portrayed as foreign.

    In order to gain heat (with boos and jeers from the audience), heels are often portrayed as behaving in an immoral manner by breaking rules or otherwise taking advantage of their opponents outside the bounds of the standards of the match. Others do not (or rarely) break rules, but instead exhibit unlikeable, appalling and deliberately offensive and demoralizing personality traits such as arrogance, cowardice or contempt for the audience. Many heels do both, cheating as well as behaving nastily. No matter the type of heel, the most important job is that of the antagonist role, as heels exist to provide a foil to the face wrestlers. If a given heel is cheered over the face, a promoter may opt to turn that heel to face or the other way around or to make the wrestler do something even more despicable to encourage heel heat.

    August 31, 2017

  • I recently realized that the heel that they mention in "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch" is the same as the wrestling heel.

    August 31, 2017