On The Heels Of: Definition, Meaning, and Origin

Last Updated on
July 24, 2023

The phrase "on the heels of" indicates a close sequence of events or actions, suggesting that one event follows closely after another, almost as if it's chasing or treading on its heels. The phrase evokes the image of a fast-paced pursuit or a rapid succession of happenings, underscoring the interconnectedness and immediacy of the events in question.

In short:

  • "On the heels of" signifies that one event follows closely after another.

What Does "On the Heels Of" Mean?

The idiom “on the heels of” generally refers to a situation where one thing happens soon after another. The phrase conveys a sense of immediacy or closeness, akin to one person following directly behind another, stepping on their heels.

Let's break it down a bit further:

  • "On the heels of" describes the chronological proximity of events, indicating that one action or event closely follows another.
  • This idiom is commonly used in discussions of events or situations where the timing is significant, and one event directly or indirectly impacts the subsequent one.
  • It helps to communicate the connection between different occurrences in a clear, succinct manner.
    • For example, a company might release a new product "on the heels of" a successful quarter, implying a swift follow-up to capitalize on the momentum.
  • Similar phrases to "on the heels of" include "following closely," "right after," "in the wake of," and "close on the heels of."

Where Does "On the Heels Of" Come From?

The exact origin of the phrase is unclear, but it can be traced back to various historical texts and works of literature. It appears in Frederick Douglass's 1855 work "My Bondage and My Freedom," where he writes about the self-executing laws of eternal justice that closely follow evildoers. In this example, the phrase "on the heels of" is used to convey the idea of something happening closely after or in quick succession to another event.

Historical Examples

"The self-executing laws of eternal justice follow close on the heels of the evil-doer here, as well as elsewhere."

- Frederick Douglass, My Bondage and My Freedom, 1855

"During the war period, by some heroic efforts we established competent forces in the field to enable us to keep right on the heels of the war spending."

- Hearings Before the Subcommittee on Public Buildings and Grounds of the Committee on Public Works, 1947

10 Examples of "On The Heels Of" in Sentences

To help you better understand the usage of this idiom, let's examine some examples in various contexts:

  • As per my last email, the project's completion came on the heels of our final meeting about the designs.
  • Don't expect him to change his stubborn ways anytime soon, especially on the heels of his recent promotion.
  • She accepted a job offer on the heels of her graduation, a remarkable stroke of luck.
  • Chalk it up to bad luck or coincidence, but her flat tire came on the heels of a warning light in her car.
  • On the heels of the scandal, the CEO resigned, and the company had to do some serious damage control.
  • They introduced new safety measures on the heels of the unfortunate accident.
  • I got an unexpected job offer, but what's the catch? It came on the heels of a difficult performance review.
  • She launched her new book on the heels of the successful podcast series.
  • "The tables have turned," she mused as the announcement of her promotion came on the heels of rumors about office reshuffling.
  • His grand gesture came on the heels of a heartfelt conversation they had.

Examples of "On The Heels Of" in Pop Culture

The idiom "on the heels of" often makes appearances in pop culture, typically to underscore the sequence and immediacy of events.

Let's delve into some examples:

  • "Hot on the Heels of Love" is a song by Throbbing Gristle. The lyrics include: "Hot on the heels of love. Hot on the heels of love. Waiting for help from above. I'm waiting for help from above."
    The TV series "Kings" includes the line: "And rebirth - beginnings on the heels of ending."
  • The song "On the Heels of a Heartache" by Doc Walker includes the line: "She don't call me 'baby' no more. No more kisses at the door. She's got such a beautiful smile."
  • A line from the movie "The Ten Commandments" goes: "On the heels of every hope walks Dathan."

Other/Different Ways to Say "On The Heels Of"

There are several other expressions that share a similar meaning with "on the heels of."

Here are a few examples:

  • Following closely behind
  • Immediately after
  • In the wake of
  • Directly after
  • Soon after
  • Right on the tail of
  • Just after
  • Shortly after
  • Close on the heels of
  • In the aftermath of

10 Frequently Asked Questions About "On The Heels Of":

  • What does "on the heels of" mean?

"On the heels of" is an idiom that means closely following or occurring immediately after an event or situation.

  • How can I use "on the heels of" in a sentence?

You can use "on the heels of" to signify an event that occurs directly after another. For example, "After much hard work and diligence, she started to reap the benefits of her commitment on the heels of her most challenging project."

  • Where does the idiom "on the heels of" come from?

The phrase "on the heels of" originated from the idea of following closely behind someone or something, as if treading on their heels.

  • Can you use "on the heels of" in personal contexts?

Yes, "on the heels of" can be used in a variety of contexts, including personal ones. For example, "She decided to go back to school on the heels of her divorce."

  • Does "on the heels of" mean immediate succession?

"On the heels of" generally suggests a close succession, but it does not necessarily mean the following event happens instantly. The gap can vary depending on the context.

  • Is "on the heels of" a common phrase?

Yes, it is quite common, particularly in written English and formal communication. It is often used in journalism and literature.

  • What is the significance of "on the heels of" in news reporting?

In news reporting, "on the heels of" is used to denote the sequence of events and highlight the connection between them, especially when one event has an impact on or leads to another.

  • Can "on the heels of" denote causality?

While "on the heels of" signifies sequence, it does not necessarily imply causality. However, in many contexts, it might suggest that one event was a response or reaction to the event that it followed.

  • What are some synonyms for "on the heels of"?

Some synonyms include "following closely behind," "in the wake of," "directly after," "soon after," "just after," "shortly after," and "close on the heels of."

  • Is "on the heels of" used in other languages?

While the phrase "on the heels of" is an English idiom, similar phrases or idioms exist in other languages that convey the same idea of following closely after an event.

Final Thoughts About "On The Heels Of"

"On the heels of" is a frequently used idiom that indicates one event occurring directly or closely after another. It's a helpful phrase to denote sequence, connection, or impact between events, whether in personal stories or news reporting. The phrase adds a sense of immediacy and highlights the relationship between two occurrences.

Here's a quick recap:

  • The phrase "on the heels of" is used to illustrate the sequence of events or actions, especially in news reporting or storytelling.
  • It helps in showing the close succession of events or indicating that one event happened soon after another.
  • The idiom does not necessarily suggest a cause-and-effect relationship but can hint at a connection or impact between events.

In any form of communication, the usage of idiomatic expressions like "on the heels of" can enrich the language and make the conversation or text more engaging and contextually nuanced.

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