hack

1 of 7

verb (1)

hacked; hacking; hacks

transitive verb

1
a
: to cut or sever with repeated irregular or unskillful blows
b
: to cut or shape by or as if by crude or ruthless strokes
hacking out new election districts
c
: annoy, vex
often used with off
He gets really hacked off when people cheat.
2
: to clear or make by or as if by cutting away vegetation
hacked his way through the brush
3
a
informal : to manage successfully
just couldn't hack the new job
b
informal : tolerate
I can't hack all this noise
4
: to gain illegal access to (a computer network, system, etc.)
In the last decade they have hacked computer networks in Estonia, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, France, and Bulgaria—often stealing data.The New York Times
… perhaps I would have become one of those lost souls wandering the basement of MIT playing with computers and hacking the telephone network.Lee Smolin

intransitive verb

1
a
: to make chopping strokes or blows
hacked at the weeds
also : to make cuts as if by chopping
hacking away at the work force
b
: to play inexpert golf
2
: to cough in a short dry manner
3
: loaf
usually used with around
hacking around at the corner drugstoreRuth McKenney
4
a
: to write computer programs for enjoyment
b
: to gain access to a computer illegally
trying to hack into the network

hack

2 of 7

noun (1)

1
: a tool for rough cutting or chopping : an implement for hacking
2
: nick, notch
3
: a short dry cough
4
: a rough or irregular cutting stroke : a hacking blow
5
: restriction to quarters as punishment for naval officers
usually used in the phrase under hack
6
a
: a usually creatively improvised solution to a computer hardware or programming problem or limitation
… the 33 MHz processor that powers these PDAs is too weak to drive MP3 music files. Sony created a neat hack: it added a digital-signal processing chip that bypasses the operating system.Josh Quittner
b
: an act or instance of gaining or attempting to gain illegal access to a computer or computer system
Methods for protecting what needs to be protected are available in the marketplace and work very well. Most security breaches are insider jobs, not hacks.Samuel L. Earp
The center is divided into seven directorates. Among these is the Air Force Computer Emergency Response Team, whose nonclassified function is to report vulnerabilities and security violations such as hacks and virus incidents.Jim Wilson
Almost 100 million cars … are vulnerable to numerous hacks that could let thieves unlock them remotely through a wireless signal …Cara McGoogan
c
: a clever tip or technique for doing or improving something
We asked entrepreneurs across industries to share their favorite productivity hacks, from useful organization apps to clever tricks for cutting down meeting times.Richard Feloni
see also life hack

hack

3 of 7

noun (2)

1
b(1)
(2)
2
a(1)
: a horse let out for common hire
(2)
: a horse used in all kinds of work
b
: a horse worn out in service : jade
c
: a light easy saddle horse
especially : a three-gaited saddle horse
d
: a ride on a horse
3
a
: a person who works solely for mercenary reasons : hireling
party hacks
b
: a writer who works on order
also : a writer who aims solely for commercial success
c
: hacker sense 2
a tennis hack

hack

4 of 7

adjective

1
: working for hire especially with mediocre professional standards
a hack journalist
2
: performed by or suited to a person who works or writes purely for the purpose of earning money : characteristic of a hack : mediocre
hack writing
3
: hackneyed, trite
hack dramatic scenes

hack

5 of 7

verb (2)

hacked; hacking; hacks

intransitive verb

1
: to ride or drive at an ordinary pace or over the roads especially as distinguished from racing or hunting
2
: to operate a taxicab

transitive verb

: to ride (a horse) at an ordinary pace

hack

6 of 7

verb (3)

hacked; hacking; hacks

transitive verb

: to rear (a young hawk) in a state of partial liberty especially prior to the acquisition of flight and hunting capabilities

hack

7 of 7

noun (3)

slang
: a guard especially at a prison
Phrases
hack it
1
: cope entry 1 sense 1a
I can't hack it any longer.
2
: to be successful
couldn't hack it in the world of professional sports

Examples of hack in a Sentence

Adjective the abrupt revelation of an enemy masquerading as a friend is such a hack plot twist
Recent Examples on the Web
Verb
Timely patching is crucial; after Citrix flagged the vulnerability, hacking groups with names like Lockbit, Medusa and Alphv began piling on. Jeff Kauflin, Forbes, 12 Feb. 2024 The move follows growing concern about how such undemocratic regimes as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates’ governments have employed tools like NSO’s Pegasus to hack into the smartphones of journalists and human-rights activists and even government officials of such US allies as the UK. Rob Pegoraro, PCMAG, 6 Feb. 2024 This week, officials in Fulton County said court and other systems in Georgia's most populous county were hacked over the weekend, interrupting routine operations. Leah Sarnoff, ABC News, 1 Feb. 2024 China hacked Japan’s sensitive defense networks, officials say Previously, China’s Foreign Ministry has denied any link between Beijing and Volt Typhoon. Joseph Menn, Washington Post, 31 Jan. 2024 Portions that weren’t censored, however, indicated the technique involved a loop-back mechanism that prevented the devices from communicating with anyone trying to hack them. Samuel Axon, Ars Technica, 31 Jan. 2024 One year, the FAFSA became even more challenging to complete when a data import tool from the IRS was hacked and taken offline. Jason Anderson, Kansas City Star, 31 Jan. 2024 Citi does not maintain strong protections to stop unauthorized account takeovers, misleads customers about their rights after their accounts are hacked and money stolen, and illegally denies reimbursements to those defrauded, according to the lawsuit filed on Tuesday. Kate Gibson, CBS News, 30 Jan. 2024 The corporate account of one of its engineers had been hacked. Beth Mole, Ars Technica, 19 Jan. 2024
Noun
Plus, hear hacks from professional organizers on maximizing counter space, Maintaining your home: Necessary home maintenance can save your thousands in the long run. Rachel Kurzius, Washington Post, 13 Feb. 2024 Chainalysis The blockchain forensics firm uses on-chain data to trace crypto transactions, identifying scams, hacks, fraud and illicit activity involving digital assets. Javier Paz, Forbes, 13 Feb. 2024 Now, even as inflation rates have ebbed, the hack of keeping a price unchanged but just filling, say, your bag of chips with less food, hasn’t. Bysasha Rogelberg, Fortune, 12 Feb. 2024 Understandably shaken up after witnessing a murderous home invader hack up her mother, Lisa resists becoming part of the new family her dad, Dale (Joe Chrest), has formed by hastily marrying psych nurse Janet (Carla Gugino). David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter, 7 Feb. 2024 Living in a studio apartment has taught me a lot of space-saving hacks. Clara McMahon, Peoplemag, 29 Jan. 2024 This is the ultimate hack to those who just can't seem to master a more complicated napkin fold. Maggie Burch, Southern Living, 24 Jan. 2024 These tactics have always been available to, say, foreign governments, and past attacks—most notably the Russian hack of John Podesta’s email, in 2016—have wrought utter havoc. Jacob Stern, The Atlantic, 31 Jan. 2024 Exploring the full spectrum of American culture and character from sizzling Miami all the way to New York in a way that’s convenient, comfortable, and picturesque is a travel hack reserved only for the savviest trip planners. Skye Sherman, Travel + Leisure, 25 Jan. 2024
Adjective
This, instead, is Donny Blaze—a low-rent, semi-hack magician. Evan Romano, Men's Health, 8 Sep. 2022 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'hack.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

Etymology

Verb (1)

Middle English hacken, hakken, going back to Old English *haccian (Class II weak verb, attested in the prefixed forms ahaccian "to hack out, peck out [eyes]," tohaccian "to hack to pieces"), going back to West Germanic *hakkō- (whence also Old Frisian tohakia "to hack to pieces," Middle Dutch hacken, haken "to cut with repeated blows," Middle High German hacken), of uncertain origin

Note: This West Germanic verb is conventionally connected to the etymon of hook entry 1, which is manifested in a variety of vowel grades, on the assumption that hacking or chopping might be done with a hook-shaped implement.

Noun (1)

Middle English hak, hacke, noun derivative of hacken "to hack entry 1"

Noun (2)

short for hackney entry 1

Adjective

from attributive use of hack entry 3

Verb (2)

verbal derivative of hack entry 3

Verb (3)

verbal derivative of hack, noun, "board on which a hawk's food is placed, state of partial liberty under which a hawk is kept before training," of uncertain origin

Note: The noun has been taken as a derivative of hack entry 1, on the assumption that "hacked," i.e. chopped, food was placed on such a board; this appears to gain credence from a passage in a fifteenth-century manual of falconry (British Library MS. Harley 2340): "se hym euer to hackynge … and till he flyethe fro tre to tre, he woll come to hackynge; then he woll not come, but thu moste hacke and leue his mete opon a borde in his neste" (see A.E.H. Swaen, "The booke of Hawkyng after prince Edwarde Kyng of Englande and its relation to the Book of St Albans," Studia Neophilogica, vol. 16 [1943], p. 26).

Noun (3)

perhaps sense development of hack entry 3

First Known Use

Verb (1)

13th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1a

Noun (1)

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Noun (2)

1571, in the meaning defined at sense 2a(1)

Adjective

circa 1734, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Verb (2)

1846, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense 1

Verb (3)

1873, in the meaning defined above

Noun (3)

circa 1914, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of hack was in the 13th century

Dictionary Entries Near hack

Cite this Entry

“Hack.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hack. Accessed 20 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition

hack

1 of 5 verb
1
: to cut or sever with repeated irregular or unskillful blows
2
: to cough in a short dry manner
3
a
: to write computer programs for enjoyment
b
: to gain access to a computer illegally

hack

2 of 5 noun
1
2
: a short dry cough
3
a
: a creatively improvised solution to a computer problem
b
: an act of gaining or trying to gain illegal access to a computer or computer system
c
: a clever tip or technique for doing or improving something

hack

3 of 5 noun
1
a
: a horse that can be hired for use by the public
b
: a horse used in all kinds of work
c
: a worn-out horse
d
: a light saddle horse
2
b
c
: a driver of a taxicab
3
a
: a writer who works mainly for hire
b
: one who serves a cause merely for reward
political hacks

hack

4 of 5 adjective
1
: working for hire
a hack writer
2
: done by or characteristic of a hack
hack writing

hack

5 of 5 verb
1
: to ride or drive at an ordinary pace or over the roads rather than across country
2
: to operate a taxicab
Etymology

Verb

Old English -haccian "to cut with repeated blows"

Noun

a shortened form of hackney

Medical Definition

hack

1 of 2 intransitive verb
: to cough in a short dry manner

hack

2 of 2 noun
: a short dry cough

More from Merriam-Webster on hack

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