crackers, Informal. wild; crazy: They went crackers over the new styles.

Origin of cracker

1400–50; late Middle English craker. See crack, -er1; (defs 4, 5) perhaps originally in sense “braggart,” applied to frontiersmen of the southern American colonies in the 1760s, though subsequently given other interpretations (cf. corn-cracker); for crackers “crazy,” cf. cracked, -ers

Usage note

The term cracker is used as a neutral nickname by inhabitants of Georgia and Florida; it is a positive term of self-reference. But when the nickname is used by outsiders, it is usually with disparaging intent and perceived as insulting by Georgians and Floridians. Cracker is always disparaging and offensive when used to refer to a poor white person in the South; the word in this sense often implies that the person is regarded as ignorant or uneducated. When used by black people, cracker can refer to a Southern white racist, not necessarily poor or rural. See also Cracker State.



verb (used without object)

to break without complete separation of parts; become fissured: The plate cracked when I dropped it, but it was still usable.
to break with a sudden, sharp sound: The branch cracked under the weight of the snow.
to make a sudden, sharp sound in or as if in breaking; snap: The whip cracked.
(of the voice) to break abruptly and discordantly, especially into an upper register, as because of weariness or emotion.
to fail; give way: His confidence cracked under the strain.
to succumb or break down, especially under severe psychological pressure, torture, or the like: They questioned him steadily for 24 hours before he finally cracked.
Chemistry. to decompose as a result of being subjected to heat.
Chiefly South Midland and Southern U.S. to brag; boast.
Chiefly Scot. to chat; gossip.

verb (used with object)

to cause to make a sudden sharp sound: The driver cracked the whip.
to break without complete separation of parts; break into fissures.
to break with a sudden, sharp sound: to crack walnuts.
to strike and thereby make a sharp noise: The boxer cracked his opponent on the jaw.
to induce or cause to be stricken with sorrow or emotion; affect deeply.
to utter or tell: to crack jokes.
to cause to make a cracking sound: to crack one's knuckles.
to damage, weaken, etc.: The new evidence against him cracked his composure.
to make mentally unsound.
to make (the voice) harsh or unmanageable.
to solve; decipher: to crack a murder case.
Informal. to break into (a safe, vault, etc.).
Chemistry. to subject to the process of cracking, as in the distillation of petroleum.
Informal. to open and drink (a bottle of wine, liquor, beer, etc.).


a break without complete separation of parts; fissure.
a slight opening, as between boards in a floor or wall, or between a door and its doorpost.
a sudden, sharp noise, as of something breaking.
the snap of or as of a whip.
a resounding blow: He received a terrific crack on the head when the branch fell.
Informal. a witty or cutting remark; wisecrack.
a break or change in the flow or tone of the voice.
Informal. opportunity; chance; try: Give him first crack at the new job.
a flaw or defect.
Also called rock. Slang. pellet-size pieces of highly purified cocaine, prepared with other ingredients for smoking, and known to be especially potent and addicting.
Masonry. check1(def 41).
a mental defect or deficiency.
a shot, as with a rifle: At the first crack, the deer fell.
a moment; instant: He was on his feet again in a crack.
Slang. a burglary, especially an instance of housebreaking.
Chiefly British. a person or thing that excels in some respect.
Slang: Vulgar. the vulva.
Chiefly Scot. conversation; chat.
British Dialect. boasting; braggadocio.
Archaic. a burglar.


first-rate; excellent: a crack shot.


with a cracking sound.

Verb Phrases

crack down, to take severe or stern measures, especially in enforcing obedience to laws or regulations: The police are starting to crack down on local drug dealers.
crack off, to cause (a piece of hot glass) to fall from a blowpipe or punty.
crack on, Nautical.
  1. (of a sailing vessel) to sail in high winds under sails that would normally be furled.
  2. (of a power vessel) to advance at full speed in heavy weather.
crack up, Informal.
  1. to suffer a mental or emotional breakdown.
  2. to crash, as in an automobile or airplane: He skidded into the telephone pole and cracked up.
  3. to wreck an automobile, airplane, or other vehicle.
  4. to laugh or to cause to laugh unrestrainedly: That story about the revolving door really cracked me up. Ed cracked up, too, when he heard it.

Origin of crack

before 1000; Middle English crak(k)en (v.), crak (noun), Old English cracian to resound; akin to German krachen, Dutch kraken (v.), and German Krach, Dutch krak (noun)
Related formscrack·a·ble, adjectivecrack·less, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Related Words for cracker

cookie, biscuit, pretzel, bun, rusk, saltine, hardtack

Examples from the Web for cracker

Contemporary Examples of cracker

Historical Examples of cracker

British Dictionary definitions for cracker



a decorated cardboard tube that emits a bang when pulled apart, releasing a toy, a joke, or a paper hat
short for firecracker
a thin crisp biscuit, usually unsweetened
a person or thing that cracks
US another word for poor White offensive
British slang a thing or person of notable qualities or abilities
not worth a cracker Australian and NZ informal worthless; useless



to break or cause to break without complete separation of the partsthe vase was cracked but unbroken
to break or cause to break with a sudden sharp sound; snapto crack a nut
to make or cause to make a sudden sharp soundto crack a whip
to cause (the voice) to change tone or become harsh or (of the voice) to change tone, esp to a higher register; break
informal to fail or cause to fail
to yield or cause to yieldto crack under torture
(tr) to hit with a forceful or resounding blow
(tr) to break into or force opento crack a safe
(tr) to solve or decipher (a code, problem, etc)
(tr) informal to tell (a joke, etc)
to break (a molecule) into smaller molecules or radicals by the action of heat, as in the distillation of petroleum
(tr) to open (esp a bottle) for drinkinglet's crack another bottle
(intr) Scot and Northern English dialect to chat; gossip
(tr) informal to achieve (esp in the phrase crack it)
(tr) Australian informal to find or catchto crack a wave in surfing
crack a smile informal to break into a smile
crack hardy or crack hearty Australian and NZ informal to disguise one's discomfort, etc; put on a bold front
crack the whip informal to assert one's authority, esp to put people under pressure to work harder


a sudden sharp noise
a break or fracture without complete separation of the two partsa crack in the window
a narrow opening or fissure
informal a resounding blow
a physical or mental defect; flaw
a moment or specific instantthe crack of day
a broken or cracked tone of voice, as a boy's during puberty
(often foll by at) informal an attempt; opportunity to tryhe had a crack at the problem
slang a gibe; wisecrack; joke
slang a person that excels
Scot and Northern English dialect a talk; chat
slang a processed form of cocaine hydrochloride used as a stimulant. It is highly addictive
Also: craic informal, mainly Irish fun; informal entertainmentthe crack was great in here last night
obsolete, slang a burglar or burglary
crack of dawn
  1. the very instant that the sun rises
  2. very early in the morning
a fair crack of the whip informal a fair chance or opportunity
crack of doom doomsday; the end of the world; the Day of Judgment


(prenominal) slang first-class; excellenta crack shot

Word Origin for crack

Old English cracian; related to Old High German krahhōn, Dutch kraken, Sanskrit gárjati he roars
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

Word Origin and History for cracker

mid-15c., "hard wafer," but the specific application to a thin, crisp biscuit is 1739; agent noun from crack (v.). Cracker-barrel (adj.) "emblematic of down-home ways and views" is from 1877.


Southern U.S. derogatory term for "poor, white trash" (1766), probably from mid-15c. crack "to boast" (e.g. not what it's cracked up to be), originally a Scottish word. Cf. Latin crepare "to rattle, crack, creak," with a secondary figurative sense of "boast of, prattle, make ado about."

I should explain to your Lordship what is meant by crackers; a name they have got from being great boasters; they are a lawless set of rascalls on the frontiers of Virginia, Maryland, the Carolinas and Georgia, who often change their places of abode. [1766, G. Cochrane]

But DARE compares corn-cracker "poor white farmer" (1835, U.S. Midwest colloquial). Especially of Georgians by 1808, though often extended to residents of northern Florida. Another name in mid-19c. use was sand-hiller "poor white in Georgia or South Carolina."

Not very essentially different is the condition of a class of people living in the pine-barrens nearest the coast [of South Carolina], as described to me by a rice-planter. They seldom have any meat, he said, except they steal hogs, which belong to the planters, or their negroes, and their chief diet is rice and milk. "They are small, gaunt, and cadaverous, and their skin is just the color of the sand-hills they live on. They are quite incapable of applying themselves steadily to any labor, and their habits are very much like those of the old Indians." [Frederick Law Olmsted, "A Journey in the Seaboard Slave States," 1856]



Old English cracian "make a sharp noise," from Proto-Germanic *krakojan (cf. Middle Dutch craken, Dutch kraken, German krachen), probably imitative. Related: Cracked; cracking. To crack a smile is from 1840s; to crack the whip in the figurative sense is from 1940s.



"split, opening," 14c., from crack (v.). Meaning "try, attempt" first attested 1836, probably a hunting metaphor, from slang sense of "fire a gun." Meaning "rock cocaine" is first attested 1985. The superstition that it is bad luck to step on sidewalk cracks has been traced to c.1890. Adjectival meaning in "top-notch, superior" is slang from 1793 (e.g. a crack shot).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with cracker


In addition to the idioms beginning with crack

  • crack a book
  • crack a bottle
  • crack a joke
  • crack a smile
  • crack down
  • cracked up
  • crack of dawn
  • crack the whip
  • crack up

also see:

  • by jove (cracky)
  • fall between the cracks
  • get cracking
  • hard nut to crack
  • have a crack at
  • make a crack
  • not all it's cracked up to be
  • paper over (the cracks)
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.