Raise One’s Hackles or Get One’s Hackles Up

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Candace Osmond

Candace Osmond studied Advanced Writing & Editing Essentials at MHC. She’s been an International and USA TODAY Bestselling Author for over a decade. And she’s worked as an Editor for several mid-sized publications. Candace has a keen eye for content editing and a high degree of expertise in Fiction.

Do you “get your hackles up” or “raise your hackles up”? Or does it even matter? I’ll break down this broad phrase’s origins and proper uses so you can confidently use it in speaking and writing. Stick with me as I explain all the details.

Meaning of Get Your Hackles Up

Raise Ones Hackles or Get Ones Hackles Up

When you hear someone say, “get your hackles up,” they’re trying to tell you to get angry or defensive about something. The strange phrase comes from how animals, like cats and dogs, raise the hair on their backs when they feel threatened or aggressive. Sometimes you’ll even see their spines arch and toes flex.

Is It Get Your Hackles Up or Raise Your Hackles Up?

Believe it or not, it’s perfectly fine to use both phrases, and they’re interchangeable. So, whether you “get your hackles up” or “raise your hackles up,” you’re expressing the same idea of just being pissed off and showing it.

Origin of the Phrase Get Your Hackles Up

Get Your Hackles Up Ngram
Get your hackles up usage trend.

The word “hackles” itself goes back to the 1400s to describe the feathers and sometimes fur on the back of the neck of birds, cats, and dogs. People would say it as a warning not to mess with certain animals or pets. Somewhere in the 19th century, the phrase “get one’s hackles up” came around to refer to someone getting riled up and angry.

Nowadays, “hackle” is also a tool used to make flies for fly fishing. They look similar to pliers and are used to wrap the wire and features around the hook.

Raise One’s Hackles Synonyms

Synonyms are great for mixing up repeat words in your wiring and can help broaden your vocabulary. Here are some for “get your hackles up.”

  • Ruffle feathers
  • Aggravate
  • Irritate
  • Annoy
  • Disturb
  • Get your dander up
  • Seeing red
  • Antagonize
  • Provoke
  • Infuriate

Using Raised One’s Hackles or Get One’s Hackles Up in a Sentence

  • That rude comment he made about my weight really raised my hackles up.
  • Whenever I hear someone talking about how vaccines probably cause autism, it totally raises my hackles.
  • My son’s teacher’s condescending tone raised my hackles, and I had to hold myself back from snapping at him in the office.
  • That customer’s unreasonable demands had the entire staff’s hackles up, and no one wanted to serve her.
  • Watch out! That dog’s hackle is up, so they don’t want you to pet it.
  • Oh, don’t worry about the cat. She’s always got her hackles up.
  • Don’t get your hackles up now. I was just joking.

He’s proud of his resistance to getting his hackles up when provoked, a skill he learned in part from the teachings of the Nation of Islam, to which he’s been an adherent, although an imperfect one, for a half-century. (The Independent Weekly)

Raise Your Hackles

The next time someone gets under your skin, and you get that weird feeling, that rush of seething anger, you’ll know it means you’re getting your hackles up. Play around with this phrase in your everyday conversation and your writing. And be sure to check out our other guides on similar phrases like this.