\ ˈrak How to pronounce rack (audio) \

Definition of rack

 (Entry 1 of 9)

1 : a framework, stand, or grating on or in which articles are placed
2 : an instrument of torture on which a body is stretched
3a(1) : a cause of anguish or pain
(2) : acute suffering
b : the action of straining or wrenching
4a : a bar with teeth on one face for gearing with a pinion or worm gear to transform rotary motion to linear motion or vice versa (as in an automobile steering mechanism)
b : a notched bar used as a ratchet to engage with a pawl, click, or detent
5 : a pair of antlers
6 : bed, sack
7 : a triangular frame used to set up the balls in a pool game also : the balls as set up
8 : a framework for holding fodder for livestock
on the rack
: under great emotional stress
racked; racking; racks

Definition of rack (Entry 2 of 9)

transitive verb

1 : to cause to suffer torture, pain, anguish, or ruin
2 : to place (balls, such as pool balls) in a rack
3a : to stretch or strain violently
b : to raise (rents) oppressively
c : to harass or oppress with high rents or extortions
4 : to torture on the rack
5 : to work or treat (material) on a rack
6 : to work by a rack and pinion or worm so as to extend or contract rack a camera
7 : to seize (ropes, such as parallel ropes of a tackle) together

intransitive verb

: to become forced out of shape or out of plumb

Definition of rack (Entry 3 of 9)

1 : the rib section of a lamb's forequarters used for chops or as a roast — see lamb illustration
2 : the neck and spine of a forequarter of veal, pork, or especially mutton

Definition of rack (Entry 4 of 9)

: destruction rack and ruin

Definition of rack (Entry 5 of 9)

: either of two gaits of a horse:
b : a fast showy 4-beat gait similar to the pace but in which the feet of the same side do not touch down at the same time
racked; racking; racks

Definition of rack (Entry 6 of 9)

intransitive verb

of a horse
: to go at a rack

Definition of rack (Entry 7 of 9)

: a wind-driven mass of high often broken clouds
racked; racking; racks

Definition of rack (Entry 8 of 9)

intransitive verb

: to fly or scud in high wind
racked; racking; racks

Definition of rack (Entry 9 of 9)

transitive verb

: to draw off (wine) from the lees

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Other Words from rack

Noun (1)

rackful \ ˈrak-​ˌfu̇l How to pronounce rack (audio) \ noun

Verb (1)

racker noun
rackingly \ ˈra-​kiŋ-​lē How to pronounce rack (audio) \ adverb

Choose the Right Synonym for rack

Verb (1)

afflict, try, torment, torture, rack mean to inflict on a person something that is hard to bear. afflict is a general term and applies to the causing of pain or suffering or of acute annoyance, embarrassment, or any distress. ills that afflict the elderly try suggests imposing something that strains the powers of endurance or of self-control. children often try their parents' patience torment suggests persecution or the repeated inflicting of suffering or annoyance. a horse tormented by flies torture adds the implication of causing unbearable pain or suffering. tortured by a sense of guilt rack stresses straining or wrenching. a body racked by pain

Frequently Asked Questions About rack

Do you rack or wrack your brain?

Wrack and rack are etymologically distinct, meaning they come from different words. Many usage guides will advise that you should use wrack for meanings such as "to utterly ruin," and rack for "to cause to suffer torture, pain, anguish, or ruin." If you follow this advice, the proper choice for what you do to your brain when thinking very hard is rack. However, wrack has long been used as a variant of rack, and numerous fine writers have avowedly wracked their brains or found something nerve-wracking.

Is it racked or wracked with pain?

Some guides feel that "racked with pain" is the preferable choice, although wrack is in many cases an acceptable variant. The verbs are often conflated despite their very different origins (the former from Middle Dutch rekken, meaning "to stretch," and the latter from the Middle English word for shipwreck, wrak).

"Do you rack up or wrack up debts?"

While there are a number of settings in which wrack is considered an acceptable variant of rack, the accumulation of debts is not one of them. In this context rack up typically means "to achieve, score; to accumulate."

First Known Use of rack

Noun (1)

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 8

Verb (1)

15th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 4

Noun (2)

1570, in the meaning defined at sense 2

Noun (3)

1592, in the meaning defined above

Noun (4)

1580, in the meaning defined above

Verb (2)

1530, in the meaning defined above

Noun (5)

14th century, in the meaning defined above

Verb (3)

1590, in the meaning defined above

Verb (4)

15th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for rack

Noun (1)

Middle English, probably from Middle Dutch rec framework; akin to Old English reccan to stretch, Greek oregein — more at right

Noun (2)

perhaps from rack entry 1

Noun (3)

alteration of wrack

Verb (2)

probably alteration of rock entry 1

Noun (5)

Middle English rak rain cloud, rapid movement

Verb (4)

Middle English rakken, from Old French (Norman & Picard dialect) reequier, probably from Late Latin reaedificare to rebuild, repair, improve, from Latin re- + aedificare to build — more at edify

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Learn More about rack

Time Traveler for rack

Time Traveler

The first known use of rack was in the 14th century

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Cite this Entry

“Rack.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/rack. Accessed 22 Jan. 2021.

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More Definitions for rack


\ ˈrak How to pronounce rack (audio) \

Kids Definition of rack

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a frame or stand for storing or displaying things a magazine rack a hat rack


racked; racking

Kids Definition of rack (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : to cause to suffer torture, pain, or sorrow He was racked by a cough.
2 : to force to think hard I racked my brain for an answer.

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