verb (1)
\ ˈhak How to pronounce hack (audio) \
hacked; hacking; hacks

Definition of hack

 (Entry 1 of 7)

transitive verb

1a : 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
3a 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

1a : 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 drugstore— Ruth McKenney
4a : to write computer programs for enjoyment
b : to gain access to a computer illegally trying to hack into the network
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


noun (1)

Definition of hack (Entry 2 of 7)

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
6a : 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


noun (2)

Definition of hack (Entry 3 of 7)

b(1) : taxicab
(2) : cabdriver
2a(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
3a : 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



Definition of hack (Entry 4 of 7)

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


verb (2)
hacked; hacking; hacks

Definition of hack (Entry 5 of 7)

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


verb (3)
hacked; hacking; hacks

Definition of hack (Entry 6 of 7)

transitive verb

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


noun (3)

Definition of hack (Entry 7 of 7)

: a guard especially at a prison

Examples of hack in a Sentence

Adjective the abrupt revelation of an enemy masquerading as a friend is such a hack plot twist

First Known Use of hack

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)


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

History and Etymology for hack

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


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

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

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Cite this Entry

“Hack.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hack. Accessed 24 Sep. 2022.

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More Definitions for hack


\ ˈhak How to pronounce hack (audio) \
hacked; hacking

Kids Definition of hack

 (Entry 1 of 3)

1 : to cut with repeated chopping blows
2 : to cough in a short broken way
3 : to write computer programs for enjoyment
4 : to gain access to a computer illegally



Kids Definition of hack (Entry 2 of 3)

: a short broken cough



Kids Definition of hack (Entry 3 of 3)

1 : a horse let out for hire or used for varied work
2 : a person who works for pay at a routine writing job
3 : a person who does work that is not good or original and especially a writer who is not very good


intransitive verb
\ ˈhak How to pronounce hack (audio) \

Medical Definition of hack

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: to cough in a short dry manner



Medical Definition of hack (Entry 2 of 2)

: a short dry cough

More from Merriam-Webster on hack

Nglish: Translation of hack for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of hack for Arabic Speakers

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