On one's heels
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British pronunciation/ˌɒn wˈɒnz hˈiːlz/
American pronunciation/ˌɑːn wˈʌnz hˈiːlz/
01

closely following or pursuing someone or something, often in a persistent or bothersome manner

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on {one's} [heels] definition and meaning

What is the origin of the idiom "on one's heels" and when to use it?

The origin of the idiom "on one's heels" can be traced back to the literal interpretation of the word "heels" as the back part of the foot. Historically, it referred to the act of someone following closely behind another person, much like a person following in the footsteps of the one in front. This phrase is used in various contexts or occasions to describe a situation where someone feels constantly pursued, monitored, or bothered by another person or entity. It can refer to both physical and metaphorical instances of being closely followed or hounded.

02

near the point of surpassing a fellow competitor

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on {one's} [heels] definition and meaning

What is the origin of the idiom "on one's heels" and when to use it?

The origin of the idiom "on one's heels" is derived from the literal image of a person or competitor closely following another person or competitor. When one person is directly behind another, they are figuratively said to be "on their heels," emphasizing their proximity and the competitive nature of the situation. While the specific historical origin is not documented, it is a figurative expression that has evolved naturally to describe the dynamics of closely contested races and competitions, where competitors are often equally matched and close to achieving victory.

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