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[stak] /stæk/
a more or less orderly pile or heap:
a precariously balanced stack of books; a neat stack of papers.
a large, usually conical, circular, or rectangular pile of hay, straw, or the like.
Often, stacks. a set of shelves for books or other materials ranged compactly one above the other, as in a library.
stacks, the area or part of a library in which the books and other holdings are stored or kept.
a number of chimneys or flues grouped together.
a vertical duct for conveying warm air from a leader to a register on an upper story of a building.
a vertical waste pipe or vent pipe serving a number of floors.
Informal. a great quantity or number.
Radio. an antenna consisting of a number of components connected in a substantially vertical series.
Computers. a linear list arranged so that the last item stored is the first item retrieved.
Military. a conical, free-standing group of three rifles placed on their butts and hooked together with stacking swivels.
Also called air stack, stackup. Aviation. a group of airplanes circling over an airport awaiting their turns to land.
an English measure for coal and wood, equal to 108 cubic feet (3 cu. m).
Geology. a column of rock isolated from a shore by the action of waves.
  1. a given quantity of chips that can be bought at one time, as in poker or other gambling games.
  2. the quantity of chips held by a player at a given point in a gambling game.
verb (used with object)
to pile, arrange, or place in a stack:
to stack hay; to stack rifles.
to cover or load with something in stacks or piles.
to arrange or select unfairly in order to force a desired result, especially to load (a jury, committee, etc.) with members having a biased viewpoint:
The lawyer charged that the jury had been stacked against his client.
to keep (a number of incoming airplanes) flying nearly circular patterns at various altitudes over an airport where crowded runways, a low ceiling, or other temporary conditions prevent immediate landings.
verb (used without object)
to be arranged in or form a stack:
These chairs stack easily.
Verb phrases
stack up,
  1. Aviation. to control the flight patterns of airplanes waiting to land at an airport so that each circles at a designated altitude.
  2. Informal. to compare; measure up (often followed by against):
    How does the movie stack up against the novel?
  3. Informal. to appear plausible or in keeping with the known facts:
    Your story just doesn't stack up.
blow one's stack, Slang. to lose one's temper or become uncontrollably angry, especially to display one's fury, as by shouting:
When he came in and saw the mess he blew his stack.
stack the deck,
  1. to arrange cards or a pack of cards so as to cheat:
    He stacked the deck and won every hand.
  2. to manipulate events, information, etc., especially unethically, in order to achieve an advantage or desired result.
Origin of stack
1250-1300; (noun) Middle English stak < Old Norse stakkr haystack; (v.) Middle English stakken, derivative of the v.
Related forms
stacker, noun
stackless, adjective
restack, verb (used with object)
unstack, adjective, verb Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for stack
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • We were both quite comfortably hidden behind the stack of north-looking chimneys.

    A Tatter of Scarlet S. R. Crockett
  • All you've got to do is to just be ca'm and stack it up—they'll stand the racket.

    Life On The Mississippi, Complete Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens)
  • Still the stack of arms remained untouched, nor was there any new demonstration among the Indians.

    Wyandotte James Fenimore Cooper
  • The old woman will show you a stack of quilts from floor to ceiling of her cabin.

    Quilts Marie D. Webster
  • The other, on top of the stack, wrapped apparently in gloomy meditation, was Sam'l Todd.

    Bob, Son of Battle Alfred Ollivant
British Dictionary definitions for stack


an ordered pile or heap
a large orderly pile of hay, straw, etc, for storage in the open air
(often pl) (library science) compactly spaced bookshelves, used to house collections of books in an area usually prohibited to library users
a number of aircraft circling an airport at different altitudes, awaiting their signal to land
a large amount: a stack of work
(military) a pile of rifles or muskets in the shape of a cone
(Brit) a measure of coal or wood equal to 108 cubic feet
a vertical pipe, such as the funnel of a ship or the soil pipe attached to the side of a building
a high column of rock, esp one isolated from the mainland by the erosive action of the sea
an area in a computer memory for temporary storage
verb (transitive)
to place in a stack; pile: to stack bricks on a lorry
to load or fill up with piles of something: to stack a lorry with bricks
to control (a number of aircraft waiting to land at an airport) so that each flies at a different altitude
stack the cards, to prearrange the order of a pack of cards secretly so that the deal will benefit someone
Derived Forms
stackable, adjective
stacker, noun
Word Origin
C13: from Old Norse stakkr haystack, of Germanic origin; related to Russian stog
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for stack

c.1300, "pile, heap, or group of things," from Old Norse stakkr "haystack" (cf. Danish stak, Swedish stack "heap, stack"), from Proto-Germanic *stakkoz, from PIE *stognos- (cf. Old Church Slavonic stogu "heap," Russian stog "haystack," Lithuanian stokas "pillar"), from root *steg- "pole, stick" (see stake (n.)). Meaning "set of shelves on which books are set out" is from 1879. Used of the chimneys of factories, locomotives, etc., since 1825.


early 14c., "to pile up grain," from stack (n.). Meaning "arrange unfairly" (in stack the deck) is first recorded 1825. Stack up "compare against" is 1903, from notion of piles of poker chips (1896). Related: Stacked; Stacking.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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stack in Science
An isolated, columnar mass or island of rock along a coastal cliff. Stacks are formed by the erosion of cliffs through wave action and are larger than chimneys.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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Slang definitions & phrases for stack


Related Terms

blow one's top

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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stack in Technology

(See below for synonyms) A data structure for storing items which are to be accessed in last-in first-out order.
The operations on a stack are to create a new stack, to "push" a new item onto the top of a stack and to "pop" the top item off. Error conditions are raised by attempts to pop an empty stack or to push an item onto a stack which has no room for further items (because of its implementation).
Most processors include support for stacks in their instruction set architectures. Perhaps the most common use of stacks is to store subroutine arguments and return addresses. This is usually supported at the machine code level either directly by "jump to subroutine" and "return from subroutine" instructions or by auto-increment and auto-decrement addressing modes, or both. These allow a contiguous area of memory to be set aside for use as a stack and use either a special-purpose register or a general purpose register, chosen by the user, as a stack pointer.
The use of a stack allows subroutines to be recursive since each call can have its own calling context, represented by a stack frame or activation record. There are many other uses. The programming language Forth uses a data stack in place of variables when possible.
Although a stack may be considered an object by users, implementations of the object and its access details differ. For example, a stack may be either ascending (top of stack is at highest address) or descending. It may also be "full" (the stack pointer points at the top of stack) or "empty" (the stack pointer points just past the top of stack, where the next element would be pushed). The full/empty terminology is used in the Acorn Risc Machine and possibly elsewhere.
In a list-based or functional language, a stack might be implemented as a linked list where a new stack is an empty list, push adds a new element to the head of the list and pop splits the list into its head (the popped element) and tail (the stack in its modified form).
At MIT, pdl used to be a more common synonym for stack, and this may still be true. Knuth ("The Art of Computer Programming", second edition, vol. 1, p. 236) says:
Many people who realised the importance of stacks and queues independently have given other names to these structures: stacks have been called push-down lists, reversion storages, cellars, dumps, nesting stores, piles, last-in first-out ("LIFO") lists, and even yo-yo lists!
[Jargon File]

The Free On-line Dictionary of Computing, © Denis Howe 2010
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Idioms and Phrases with stack
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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