at (one's) heels
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at (one's) heels
1. Following close behind someone, often in an annoying way. I'm a preschool teacher, so I've had toddlers at my heels all day. The interior designer can't get any work done with your puppy at her heels!
2. Close to overtaking a fellow competitor. The leading candidate should be concerned about the underdog at his heels. If she does poorly on this exam, she may lose the title of valedictorian to one of the students at her heels.
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.
at someone's heels
Also, on someone's heels. Immediately behind, in close pursuit. This idiom is used both literally, as in Jean's dog was always at her heels, and figuratively, as in Although his company dominated the technology, he always felt that his competitors were on his heels . This idiom appeared in the 14th-century romance Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. The expression is sometimes intensified as hard on someone's heels or hot on someone's heels . Also see on the heels of.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer. Copyright © 2003, 1997 by The Christine Ammer 1992 Trust. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
at your heels
1. If a person or animal is at your heels, they are following close behind you, for example because they are chasing you. She strode through the restaurant with Cavendish following close at her heels. Children ran along the narrow path towards them, a small dog yapping at their heels.
2. If a person or organization is at your heels in a competitive situation, they are threatening you because they are almost as good as you. With the world's finest golfers at his heels, Norman produced an almost flawless 64. Note: People often say that a person or organization is snapping at someone's heels. They may dominate the market for microprocessors but scores of firms are snapping at their heels.
Collins COBUILD Idioms Dictionary, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2012
at (or to) heel(of a dog) close to and slightly behind its owner.
Bring someone to heel , meaning ‘get someone under control and make them act subserviently’, is taken from this expression.
Farlex Partner Idioms Dictionary © Farlex 2017