from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun Food, especially coarse or inferior foodstuffs.
  • noun A short, light nail with a sharp point and a flat head.
  • noun A rope for holding down the weather clew of a course.
  • noun A rope for hauling the outer lower corner of a studdingsail to the boom.
  • noun The part of a sail, such as the weather clew of a course, to which this rope is fastened.
  • noun The lower forward corner of a fore-and-aft sail.
  • noun The position of a vessel relative to the trim of its sails.
  • noun The act of changing from one position or direction to another.
  • noun The distance or leg sailed between changes of position or direction.
  • noun An approach to accomplishing a goal or a method of dealing with a problem.
  • noun A large, loose stitch made as a temporary binding or as a marker.
  • noun Stickiness, as that of a newly painted surface.
  • intransitive verb To fasten or attach with a tack or tacks.
  • intransitive verb To fasten or mark (cloth or a seam, for example) with a loose basting stitch.
  • intransitive verb To put together loosely and arbitrarily.
  • intransitive verb To add as an extra item; append.
  • intransitive verb Nautical To bring (a vessel) into the wind in order to change course or direction.
  • intransitive verb To change the direction of a sailing vessel, especially by turning the bow into and past the direction of the wind.
  • intransitive verb To sail a zigzag course upwind by repeatedly executing such a maneuver.
  • intransitive verb To change tack.
  • intransitive verb To change one's course of action.
  • noun The harness for a horse, including the bridle and saddle.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun A distinctive taste or flavor; a continuing or abiding smack.
  • noun A variety of pistol used by the Highlanders of Scotland. See dag, 2.
  • To fasten by tacks; join, attach, or secure by some slight or temporary fastening: as, to tack down a carpet; to tack up a curtain; to tack a shoe to the last; to tack parts of a garment together with pins or by basting preparatory to sewing.
  • To attach by some binding force; make a junction or union of; connect; combine: as, to tack a rider to a legislative bill; to tack two leases together.
  • In metal-working, to join (pieces) by small patches of solder placed at intervals to hold them in position until the final soldering can be completed.
  • To change the course of a ship when sailing by the wind, by turning her head toward the wind and bracing the yards round so that she will sail at the same angle with the wind on the other tack.
  • Hence To change one's course; take a new line or direction; shift; veer.
  • noun A spot; a stain; a blemish.
  • noun Substance; solidity: spoken of the food of cattle and other stock.
  • noun Bad food.
  • noun Bad malt liquor.
  • noun Food in general; fare: as, hard tack, coarse fare; soft tack, good fare.
  • noun Specifically, among sailors, soldiers, etc., bread, or anything of the bread kind, distinguished as hard tack (or hardtack) and soft tack. See hardtack.
  • noun A short, sharp-pointed nail or pin, used as a fastener by being driven or thrust-through the material to be fastened into the substance to which it is to be fixed.
  • noun In needlework, a long stitch, usually one of a number intended to hold two pieces of stuff together, preparatory to more thorough sewing. Compare basting.
  • noun Nautical: A heavy rope used to confine the foremost lower corner of the courses; also, a rope by which the outer lower corner of a studdingsail is pulled out to the end of the boom.
  • noun The part of a sail to which the tack is fastened, the foremost lower corner of a course, jib, or staysail, or the outer lower corner of a studdingsail.
  • noun Hence— The course of a ship in relation to the position of her sails: as, the starboard tack, or port tack (the former when she is close-hauled with the wind on her starboard, the latter when close-hauled with the wind on her port side).
  • noun A temporary change of a few points in the direction of sailing, as to take advantage of a side wind; one of a series of movements of a vessel to starboard and port alternately out of the general line of her course.
  • noun Hence A determinate course or change of course in general; a tactical line or turn of procedure; a mode of action or conduct adopted or pursued for some specific reason.
  • noun In plumbing, the fastening of a pipe to a wall or the like, consisting of a strip of lead soldered to the pipe, nailed to the support, and turned back over the nails.
  • noun Something that is attached or fixed in place, or that holds, adheres, or sticks.
  • noun The condition of being tacked or fastened; stability; fixedness; firm grasp; reliance. See to hold tack, below.
  • noun In the arts, an adhesive or sticky condition, as of a partially dried, varnished, painted, or oiled surface; stickiness.
  • noun In Scots law, a contract by which the use of a thing is let for hire; a lease: as, a tack of land.


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[Origin unknown.]

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[Middle English tak, fastener, from Old North French taque, probably of Germanic origin.]

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[Short for tackle.]


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  • directly as in tack (down) v. indirectly as tack into the wind.

    April 26, 2008

  • Public School Slang: A study feast.

    April 14, 2009

  • The Oxford Dictionary of Word Histories tells me "The tack associated with horse-riding was originally dialect in the general sense 'apparatus, equipment' and is a contraction of tackle. The current sense (as in tack room) dates from the 1920s."

    January 26, 2016

  • What if one loses track of tack? Would that be a tacky situation? Would it be a task hard to tackle? (Did you grasp tack?)

    What type of tack would you use on a tackey horse? If the tack wasn't to the tackey's liking would the horse become techy?

    January 27, 2016