Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Wikipedia.
A weakness or vulnerability that can lead to permanent destruction or downfall. In Greek mythology, the hero Achilles was killed after being struck in the heel—the only weak spot on his body. Improper security measures were the failed company's Achilles' heel. I'm a good student, but I know I won't score high enough on the scholarship test because math is my Achilles' heel.
Fig. a weak point or fault in someone or something otherwise perfect or excellent. (From the legend of Greek hero Achilles, who had only one vulnerable part of his body, his heel; as an infant his mother had held him by one heel to dip him in the River Styx to make him invulnerable.) He was very brave, but fear of spiders was his Achilles' heel.
A fatal weakness, a vulnerable area, as in This division, which is rarely profitable, is the company's Achilles' heel. The term alludes to the Greek legend about the heroic warrior Achilles whose mother tried to make him immortal by holding the infant by his heel and dipping him into the River Styx. Eventually he was killed by an arrow shot into his undipped heel. [c. 1800]
an Achilles heel
Someone's Achilles heel is the thing that causes problems for them, especially because it gives other people a chance to attack or criticize them. Horton's Achilles heel was that he could not delegate. The economy was from the start the Achilles heel of his regime. Note: This expression comes from the Greek myth in which the baby Achilles is dipped in the river Styx to protect him from being killed by an arrow. Because his mother held his heel to do this, his heel was not protected and he was killed by a poisonous arrow in it.
an Achilles heela person's only vulnerable spot; a serious or fatal weakness.
In Greek mythology, the nymph Thetis dipped her infant son Achilles in the water of the River Styx to make him immortal, but the heel by which she held him was not touched by the water; he was ultimately killed in battle by an arrow wound in this one vulnerable spot.
1998 Times The inclination to outlaw that of which it disapproves…is, if not the cloven hoof beneath the hem of Tony Blair's Government, certainly its Achilles heel.
an/somebody’s Achilles’ ˈheela hidden weakness or fault in somebody which may be used to harm them: His pride proved to be his Achilles’ heel.This expression is named after the Greek hero Achilles. When he was a small child, his mother dipped him into the river Styx, which meant that he could not be injured. She held him by his heel, which therefore was not touched by the water. Achilles died after being wounded by an arrow in the heel.
A vulnerable or weak spot. The term is derived from the Greek myth of the hero Achilles, whose mother held him by the heel while dipping him into the River Styx to make him immortal. He eventually was killed by an arrow shot into his heel. The term became a literary metaphor about two centuries ago and remains current as a cliché.
A vulnerable spot that leads to a downfall. According to Greek mythology, anyone who was immersed in the River Styx, which marked the boundary of the underworld, became invulnerable. Thetis dipped her young son Achilles in the river, but she held him by his heel. Because her hand covered that part of his body, the water did not touch it and it became his one vulnerable spot. Achilles, who grew to become a great warrior, died during the Trojan War when an arrow struck his heel. Even though it's located in the same part of the body, don't confuse “Achilles' heel” with “Achilles tendon,” which connects muscles in your lower leg to your heel bone.