tack

1 of 4

verb

tacked; tacking; tacks

transitive verb

1
: attach
tack on some sequins for pizzazz
especially : to fasten or affix with tacks
tack a notice to a pole
tacking down a stairway carpet
2
: to join or add in a slight or hasty manner
usually used with on or onto
… the upbeat ending, tacked on to a book that cries out for a tragic one. Julian Symons
3
a
: to add as a supplement or something extra
usually used with on or onto
tacked fees onto the priceThe Marlins tacked on five runs in the bottom of the eighth … Buster Olney
b
: to add (a rider) to a parliamentary bill
provisions tacked to an appropriation bill
4
: to change the direction of (a sailing ship) when sailing close-hauled by turning the bow to the wind and shifting the sails so as to fall off on the other side at about the same angle as before

intransitive verb

1
a
: to tack a sailing ship
We tacked repeatedly as we sailed toward the harbor.
b
of a ship : to change to an opposite tack by turning the bow to the wind
a ship that tacks easily
c
: to follow a course against the wind by a series of tacks
Boredom was the chief enemy as the ships tacked to and fro. Nigel Calder
2
a
: to follow a zigzag course
tacked through the crowd
b
: to modify one's policy or attitude abruptly
With the coming of Ronald Reagan to power, Nixon tacked hard right—an old instinct. Sidney Blumenthal
tacker noun

tack

2 of 4

noun (1)

1
: a small short sharp-pointed nail usually having a broad flat head
2
a
: the direction of a ship with respect to the trim of her sails
starboard tack
b
: the run of a sailing ship on one tack
c
: a change when close-hauled from the starboard to the port tack or vice versa
d
: a zigzag movement on land
e
: a course or method of action
especially : one sharply divergent from that previously followed
3
: any of various usually temporary stitches
4
: the lower forward corner of a fore-and-aft sail
5
: a sticky or adhesive quality or condition

tack

3 of 4

noun (2)

: stable gear
especially : articles of harness (such as saddle and bridle) for use on a saddle horse

tack

4 of 4

noun (3)

Did you know?

Do you change tack or tact?

Although some believe the word tact is short for tactics in phrases like "change tact" or "try a different tact," the correct word in such contexts is tack.

Tack in "change tack" and "try a different tack" means "a course or method of action especially when sharply divergent from that previously followed.”

Tack developed this meaning from its nautical applications. In sailing, tack can refer to the direction that a ship or boat is sailing in as it moves at an angle to the direction of the wind; or to a change from one direction to another direction; or to the distance traveled while sailing in a particular direction.

Tack developed the "course or method of action" meaning near the end of the 17th century; within 100 or so years, the phrase "change tack" was being used with the figurative meaning it has today.

While there is also a long history of people using tact where tack belongs, the use is widely shunned by usage guides, which means you might want to avoid it.

Example Sentences

Verb She tacked a poster on the wall. A message was tacked to the board. We had to tack repeatedly as we sailed toward the harbor.

Word History

Etymology

Verb

Middle English takken, from tak

Noun (1)

Middle English tak fastener, rope tying down the windward corner of a sail, from Middle French (Norman dialect) taque; akin to Middle Dutch tac sharp point

Noun (2)

perhaps short for tackle

Noun (3)

origin unknown

First Known Use

Verb

14th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1

Noun (1)

1574, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Noun (2)

1924, in the meaning defined above

Noun (3)

1841, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of tack was in the 14th century

Dictionary Entries Near tack

Cite this Entry

“Tack.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/tack. Accessed 1 Dec. 2022.

Kids Definition

tack 1 of 3

verb

1
: to fasten or attach especially with tacks
2
: to join in a slight or hasty manner
3
: to add on in order to complete
4
a
: to change the direction of a sailing ship by shifting the sails
b
: to change from one tack to another
5
: to follow a zigzag course
tacker noun

tack

2 of 3

noun

1
: a small short sharp-pointed nail usually with a broad flat head
2
a
: the direction a ship is sailing as shown by the position the sails are set in
on the port tack
b
: a change of course from one tack to another
3
: a zigzag movement on land
4
: a course or method of action
try a new tack
5
: a slight or temporary sewing or fastening

tack

3 of 3

noun

: stable gear
especially : equipment (as a saddle and bridle) for use on a saddle horse

Legal Definition

: to combine (a use, possession, or period of time) with that of another especially in order to satisfy the statutory time period for acquiring title to or a prescriptive easement in the property of a third party
successive adverse users in privity with prior adverse users can tack successive adverse possessions of land Hall v. Kerlee, 461 S.E.2d 911 (1995)

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