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 drugstore Ruth 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

Example Sentences

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

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 2 Dec. 2022.

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

Medical Definition

: to cough in a short dry manner

hack

2 of 2

noun

: a short dry cough

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