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Definition hack

Etymology 1

From Middle English hacken, hakken, from Old English *haccian (“to hack”); attested in tōhaccian (“to hack to pieces”)}}, from Proto-Germanic *hakkōną (“to chop; hoe; hew”), from Proto-Indo-European *keg-, *keng- (“to be sharp; peg; hook; handle”).

Cognate with Saterland Frisian häkje (“to hack”), West Frisian hakje (“to hack”), Dutch hakken (“to chop up; hack”), German hacken (“to chop; hack; hoe”), Danish hakke (“to chop”), Swedish hacka (“to hack; chop”), French hacher (“to chop”).

The computer senses date back to at least 1955 when it initially referred to creative problem solving. By 1963, the negative connotations of “black hat” or malicious hacking had become associated with telephone hacking (cf. phreaking).

Verb

hack (third-person singular simple present hacks, present participle hacking, simple past and past participle hacked)

  1. (transitive) To chop or cut down in a rough manner. [circa 12th c.]
  2. (intransitive) To cough noisily. [19th c.]
  3. To withstand or put up with a difficult situation. [20th c.]
  4. (computing) To make a quick code change to patch a computer program, often one that, while being effective, is inelegant or makes the program harder to maintain.
  5. (computing) To accomplish a difficult programming task.
  6. (computing, slang, transitive) To work with something on an intimately technical level.
  7. (transitive, colloquial, by extension) To apply a trick, shortcut, skill, or novelty method to something to increase productivity, efficiency or ease.
  8. (transitive, slang, computing) To hack into; to gain unauthorized access to (a computer system, e.g., a website, or network) by manipulating code; to crack.
  9. (transitive, slang, computing) By extension, to gain unauthorised access to a computer or online account belonging to (a person or organisation).
  10. (ice hockey) To strike an opponent's leg with one's hockey stick.
  11. (ice hockey) To make a flailing attempt to hit the puck with a hockey stick.
  12. (baseball) To swing at a pitched ball.
  13. (soccer and rugby) To kick (a player) on the shins.
  14. To strike in a frantic movement.
  15. (transitive) To strike lightly as part of tapotement massage.
Noun

hack (plural hacks)

  1. A tool for chopping. [14th c.]
  2. A hacking blow. [19th c.]
  3. A gouge or notch made by such a blow.
  4. A dry cough.
  5. A hacking; a catch in speaking; a short, broken cough.
  6. (figuratively) A try, an attempt. [19th c.]
  7. (curling) The foothold traditionally cut into the ice from which the person who throws the rock pushes off for delivery.
  8. (obsolete) A mattock or a miner's pickaxe.
  9. (computing) An expedient, temporary solution, such as a small patch or change to code, meant to be replaced with a more elegant solution at a later date.
  10. (computing) An interesting technical achievement, particularly in computer programming.
  11. (colloquial) A trick, shortcut, skill, or novelty method to increase productivity, efficiency or ease.
  12. (computing, slang) An illegal attempt to gain access to a computer network.
  13. (computing, slang) A video game or any computer software that has been altered from its original state.
  14. (slang, military) Time check.
  15. (baseball) A swing of the bat at a pitched ball by the batter.
  16. A kick on the shins in football.
  17. (slang, naval) confinement of an officer to their stateroom as a punishment

Etymology 2

Variations of hatch, heck.

Noun

hack (plural hacks)

  1. (falconry) A board which the falcon's food is placed on; used by extension for the state of partial freedom in which they are kept before being trained.
  2. A food-rack for cattle.
  3. A rack used to dry something, such as bricks, fish, or cheese.
  4. A grating in a mill race.
Verb

hack (third-person singular simple present hacks, present participle hacking, simple past and past participle hacked)

  1. To lay (bricks) on a rack to dry.
  2. (falconry) To keep (young hawks) in a state of partial freedom, before they are trained.

Etymology 3

Abbreviation of hackney (“an ordinary horse”), probably from place name Hackney

Noun

hack (plural hacks)

  1. A horse for hire, especially one which is old and tired. [from 16th c.]
  2. A person, often a journalist, hired to do routine work. [from 17th c.]
  3. (derogatory) Someone who is available for hire; hireling, mercenary.
  4. (slang) A taxicab (hackney cab) driver.
  5. (now chiefly Canada, US, colloquial) A vehicle let for hire; originally, a hackney coach, now typically a taxicab. [from 17th c.]
  6. A hearse.
  7. (derogatory, authorship) An untalented writer.
  8. (derogatory) One who is professionally successful despite producing mediocre work. (Usually applied to persons in a creative field.)
  9. (derogatory) A talented writer-for-hire, paid to put others' thoughts into felicitous language.
  10. (politics) A political agitator. (slightly derogatory)
  11. (obsolete) A writer who hires himself out for any sort of literary work; an overworked man; a drudge.
  12. (obsolete) A procuress.
Verb

hack (third-person singular simple present hacks, present participle hacking, simple past and past participle hacked)

  1. (dated) To make common or cliched; to vulgarise.
  2. To ride a horse at a regular pace; to ride on a road (as opposed to riding cross-country etc.).
  3. (obsolete) To be exposed or offered or to common use for hire; to turn prostitute.
  4. (obsolete) To live the life of a drudge or hack.
  5. To use as a hack; to let out for hire.
  6. To use frequently and indiscriminately, so as to render trite and commonplace.

Etymology 4

From hackysack

Noun

hack (plural hacks)

  1. A small ball usually made of woven cotton or suede and filled with rice, sand or some other filler, for use in hackeysack.
Verb

hack (third-person singular simple present hacks, present participle hacking, simple past and past participle hacked)

  1. To play hackeysack.

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