I've come across Elia's Peattie, The Shape of Fear but I can't figure out the meaning of the following sentence. Is it an idiom or phrase?

"Purity seemed to dog his heels, no matter how violently he attempted to escape from her. "

  • 3
    Imagine a dog following closely at your heels mo matter where you go and which way you turn.
    – Jim
    Commented Sep 14, 2014 at 17:35
  • In other words to "follow". Many thanks. Commented Sep 14, 2014 at 18:11
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    To anybody who thinks this should be answered by a dictionary: have you tried?
    – DCShannon
    Commented Jun 8, 2015 at 0:12
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    @DCShannon: Well, looking up the verb form of "dog" mostly answers this, yes. Still, it's not the most obvious and a trivial search doesn't really do a good job. Commented Jun 8, 2015 at 0:36
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    @pyobum It never even occurred to me to look up 'dog' by itself. I couldn't find anything on "dog his heels". Still, even if you looked up dog and found that definition, it's worth asking "is it an idiom or a phrase"? Furthermore, how does purity follow someone? I think this deserves an explanation. as it's a bit idiomatic.
    – DCShannon
    Commented Jun 8, 2015 at 1:51

2 Answers 2


Some dogs (sheep herders) nip at the heels of the sheep, to direct them.

For example: http://pets.thenest.com/keep-shelties-nipping-backs-legs-6151.html

So the implication is not merely of following, but of changing the behavior of the one followed.


Yeah it does not mean just to follow, but to follow so closely as to be a nuisance, since the one doing the dogging is following you so closely and constantly and as if to bite you on the heels that you want to kick the SOB.

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