\ ˈtak How to pronounce tack (audio) \
tacked; tacking; tacks

Definition of tack

 (Entry 1 of 4)

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
3a : 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

1a : 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
2a : 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


noun (1)

Definition of tack (Entry 2 of 4)

1 : a small short sharp-pointed nail usually having a broad flat head
2a : 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


noun (2)

Definition of tack (Entry 3 of 4)

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


noun (3)

Definition of tack (Entry 4 of 4)

Other Words from tack


tacker noun

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.

Examples of tack in a Sentence

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.

First Known Use of tack


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

History and Etymology for tack


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

Learn More About tack

Time Traveler for tack

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Dictionary Entries Near tack



tack and half tack

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Statistics for tack

Cite this Entry

“Tack.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/tack. Accessed 2 Jul. 2022.

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More Definitions for tack


\ ˈtak How to pronounce tack (audio) \

Kids Definition of tack

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a small nail with a sharp point and usually a broad flat head
2 : the direction a ship is sailing as shown by the position the sails are set in
3 : a course or method of action Since I wasn't getting any answers, I decided to try a different tack.
4 : a temporary stitch used in sewing


tacked; tacking

Kids Definition of tack (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : to fasten with tacks
2 : to attach or join loosely or quickly At the end of the report, she tacked on her own complaints.
3 : to change from one course to another in sailing
4 : to follow a zigzag course


transitive verb

Legal Definition of tack

: 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 landHall v. Kerlee, 461 S.E.2d 911 (1995)


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