heels of, at/on the

at the heels of (someone or something)

Following close behind someone or something. We fled the bank with the cops at our heels. I managed to grab the puppy's leash before he could take off at the heels of our terrified neighbor.
See also: heel, of

hot on the heels of (someone or something)

1. Following closely behind someone or something. Look, the cops are hot on the heels of the bank robbers!
2. Close to defeating or overtaking a competitor. The young politician is hot on the heels of the leading candidate. The underdogs have been hard on the heels of the returning champions for the entire second half.
3. Happening very soon after something else. The new revelation comes hot on the heels of the previous scandal.
See also: heel, hot, of, on
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2022 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.

heels of, at/on the

Close behind; closely following. Although these two clichés are very similar, they are not wholly interchangeable. To be at someone’s heels is to be immediately behind, with the implication of chasing or otherwise harrying the person. To be on the heels of someone (or something) means to be following in quick succession (but not necessarily catching or overtaking). Both terms conjure up the idea of a dog being at one’s heels, and both are quite old. John Gower wrote in 1390, “There bene also somme as men sale that folwen Simon ate heles.” And Shakespeare wrote, “One woe doth tread upon another’s heel, so fast they follow” (Hamlet, 4.7).
See also: heel, on
The Dictionary of Clichés by Christine Ammer Copyright © 2013 by Christine Ammer
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