heel

Definitions

General English

Cars & Driving

Construction

  • The lower end of a door's hanging stile or of a vertically placed timber, especially if it rests on a support.
  • A socket, floor brace, or similar device for wall-bracing timbers.
  • The bottom inside edge of a footing or a retaining wall.
  • The back end of a carpenter's plane.

Slang

  • noun someone who behaves in an unworthy or base way. This use of the word appeared at the turn of the 20th century.

Origin & History of “heel”

English has two separate words heel. The one that names the rear part of the foot (OE) comes ultimately from Germanic *khangkh-, which also produced English hock ‘quadruped’s joint corresponding to the human ankle’. From it was derived *khākhil-, source of Dutch hiel, Swedish häl, Danish hæl, and English heel. Heel ‘tilt, list’ (16th c.) is probably descended from the Old English verb hieldan ‘incline’ (which survived dialectally into the 19th century), its -d mistaken as a past tense or past participle ending and removed to form a new infinitive. Hieldan itself came ultimately from the prehistoric Germanic adjective *khalthaz ‘inclined’.
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