August lashed out with the hand that held the flashlight, hitting him on the chin and sending him to the floor in a tangled heap. Timing, everything was timing.

What does "in a tangled heap" mean?

The definitions of heap found in the dictionary don't seem to apply to things like people. From Collins:

heap (noun)
1. a collection of articles or mass of material gathered together in one place
2. (often plural) usually foll by of (informal) a large number or quantity
3. (informal) a place or thing that is very old, untidy, unreliable, etc ⇒ the car was a heap

  • BTW, please give a question at least 24 hours for responses before accepting an answer, even if you get a good one right away. More info is here.
    – Ben Kovitz
    Commented Feb 2, 2015 at 4:42

1 Answer 1


Think of a pile of rope that was thrown into a corner, FLOP. It's not coiled nicely. It's tangled. It's in a heap, lying upon itself.

If a person is in a tangled heap, they have fallen awkwardly and their limbs are under each other or even twisted under their body.

  • True, although any clumsy landing on the butt might be classified as "landing in a tangled heap." The language is more figurative than literal.
    – J.R.
    Commented Feb 1, 2015 at 17:41
  • That's true -- the idiom mostly indicates a clumsy landing, where getting up again will be awkward.
    – A.Beth
    Commented Feb 1, 2015 at 17:45
  • 1
    I'd be inclined towards simply slipping on ice & landing seated rather painfully wouldn't qualify as a 'tangled heap' - but going completely base over apex down a hill would. Commented Feb 1, 2015 at 19:08
  • 1
    Any answer that can legitimately include onomatopoeia is a good answer.
    – Damien H
    Commented Feb 2, 2015 at 1:17

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